Comments on the Rae Report and Post-Secondary Education
The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 31 Mar 2005, p. 307-317
Marsden, Dr. Lorna; Miner, Dr. Rick, Speaker
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Item Type
Dr. Lorna Marsden
York University's 50,000 students and the speaker's list of three requirements she believes would be needed to launch these students onto the next stages of their lives. The need for governments to pay much more attention to post-secondary educaiton and why. Ways in which Ontario has been letting its students down. Praise for Bob Rae's report. Waiting for the Ontario budget. The objective.
Dr. Rick Miner
A message of supply and demand - the increasing demand for skilled workers and the painfully inadequate supply of financial resources. Some telling rankings about Ontario. The spearker's focus on people. Consequences of underfunding. Skills shortages. Dollars needed.
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31 Mar 2005
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Full Text
Dr. Lorna Marsden
President and Vice-Chancellor, York University
Dr. Rick Miner
President, Seneca College
Chairman: Bart J. Mindszenthy
President, The Empire Club of Canada
Head Table Guests

Diana Conconi, Senior Vice-President, Fleishman-Hillard and Director, The Empire Club of Canada; Kimberly Jusek, Grade 12 Student, Riverdale Collegiate Institute; Rabbi Perry Cohen, Facilitator, Teacher and Author; David Cooke, Chair, Board of Governors, Seneca College; Marshall Cohen, Chair, Board of Governors, York University; Ian Clark, President, Council of Ontario Universities; David L. Lindsay, President, Association of Colleges of Applied Arts and Technology of Ontario and Director, The Empire Club of Canada; and Leslie Church, Rae Task Force Member and University of Toronto Faculty of Law Student.

Introduction by Bart Mindszenthy

Ladies and gentlemen, the Honourable Bob Rae last month delivered to the Premier of Ontario a report and recommendations regarding post-secondary education in the province.

Mr. Rae and his seven-person advisory panel received more than 800 submissions and more than 5,500 people in 15 communities were involved during the course of 10 weeks late last year. They were part of 21 roundtable dialogue meetings and 17 town hall meetings.

And in addition, Mr. Rae held sessions with Aboriginal leaders, those with disabilities, and financial aid administrators.

So clearly, the views of Ontarians were heard, and Mr. Rae and his team gave the issue and challenge of excellence in higher education a lot of thought.

The result is his report--an eminently readable, seemingly well-reasoned, albeit demanding and expensive roadmap to explore and act upon.

The first short but forcefully focusing paragraph of Bob Rae's introduction sets the stage… draws the line in the sand. He says: "Education matters. It matters for each of us as individuals. It matters for our society and our economy. Yet higher education has not been the public priority it should be. The picture that the public has of our colleges and universities is a relatively benign one. The result has been benign neglect.

"Higher education must be a high priority. This simple statement underlies all that follows."

Today, we have the pleasure of welcoming two people who are highly qualified to reflect and comment on the Rae Report and its implications--Dr. Marsden from the perspective of universities and Dr. Miner from the perspective of colleges.

Just think of it--Marsden and Miner. The ultimate M&M.

Each will address us for about 10 minutes. I am going to introduce them more formally now and ask Dr. Miner to follow Dr. Marsden, so that we will have an uninterrupted flow of shared thinking.

Dr. Lorna Marsden earned her bachelor of arts from the University of Toronto and her PhD from Princeton University. She joined the University of Toronto in 1972, where she lectured full-time in the Department of Sociology and carried out administrative duties until her appointment in 1984 to the Canadian Senate.

Dr. Marsden continued to teach part-time until 1992, when she resigned from the Senate to become the President and Vice-Chancellor of Wilfrid Laurier University. In 1997, she assumed her current position as President of York University.

Dr. Rick Miner earned his bachelor of arts in history from Gettysburg College, an MBA from the University of Utah and a doctorate in management from the University of Minnesota.

Dr. Miner assumed the presidency of Seneca College in 2001, after serving as the Vice-President, University of New Brunswick, St. John for seven years.

From 1978 to 1993, he served in various administrative positions at Saint Mary´s University in Nova Scotia, and also held faculty positions at other Canadian universities.

Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome to the podium of the Empire Club of Canada first Dr. Lorna Marsden followed by Dr. Rick Miner.

Lorna Marsden

Mr. President, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, thank you for inviting me to be part of today's discussion. It is a pleasure to be here with my colleague, Dr. Rick Miner, President of Seneca College. Rick and I share many common interests including students who are enrolled in our joint programs and a building on York's Keele campus. In all 18 Ontario universities, there are close links with the Colleges of Applied Arts and Technology, but at York we are pleased to have a 27-year history of shared students and programs with Seneca.

At present, York University has nearly 50,000 students. If you had asked me a year ago what I thought was needed to launch these incredibly gifted, optimistic, energetic students onto the next stages of their lives I would have listed three requirements:

o First, a better quality of education, including more access to highly qualified faculty, more research projects and other academic resources;

o Second, a much better system of financial support that recognizes that students are no longer only full-time students, single, fun-loving and with few responsibilities but is sensitive to the new demographic of students, their realities and particularly urban students;

o Third, a richer academic life outside the classroom including more international exposure, more community involvement and more campus life for commuting students.

Above all I would have urged governments--municipal, provincial and federal--to pay much, much more attention to post-secondary students and their education; to recognize the seed corn role that university graduates play in so many fields that are crucial to the future of our society: their command of cultural sensitivities based on the study of history, languages, politics, law; their creative work in engineering, design, scientific research of all kinds; their practice in debate, argument, evidence; the breadth of their experience with a wide variety of people, in formal organizations and in the voluntary sector. To think just how much we rely on university graduates to lead, to negotiate, to administer, to heal, to protect, to perform and to advance our society and our cultures in all their aspects.

It is not by accident that both applications and enrolments in universities have been growing in Ontario way beyond the spaces needed for the double cohort. Students and their families know that a university degree improves the quality, the length and the rewards of their lives.

And yet, in Ontario, we have been letting our students down badly. Among Canada's provinces, we are 10 out of 10 in per-capita funding of universities, and have been for some years. Our student grants have been replaced by loans. Highly talented faculty have fled to other jurisdictions with better research facilities, smaller class sizes and greater public interest in their work. Ontario universities--all 18 of them, from the northern institutions to the GTA, from the small residential universities to the huge commuter institutions, from the faculties of nursing, engineering, medicine and law to the faculties of education, arts, and fine arts--have deteriorated while the country and the province have been frozen in the headlights of debt and deficit reduction and health care.

So the appointment of former premier Bob Rae in 2004 by Minister Mary Anne Chambers was something of a miracle for us. Our government cared enough to have a highly experienced individual, sitting with a most distinguished panel look hard at what was happening--and to report in a short timeframe. Mr. Rae did this. He listened attentively. He argued vigorously. He vowed to be pragmatic and make recommendations that would bring change. He has--and we are very grateful.

The report is a good one and a good read. He makes a cogent case for better funding to keep up the strength of faculty and facilities for study. He is attentive to the needs of students under-represented in today's universities--Aboriginal students, francophone students, students with disabilities, first-generation students and northern and rural students. He makes an excellent detailed case for more and better funding for all students and for restoring the Ontario Student Opportunity Trust Fund--a plan of matching grants from those generous citizens who donate to scholarships and bursaries. He emphasizes the urgency of creating more graduate studies places because the double cohort will be looking for professional and graduate school places next year; because the research shows that graduate degrees have major benefits for our economy.

Now we are awaiting the budget of the Province of Ontario and a response from the Government of Canada. Will our governments give students hope for an education that makes them competitive in the North American and global economies?

Because that's the objective: to be able to help those with really good minds develop those minds to compete anywhere and in any field--from international aid and development to growing hedge funds on Bay Street and Wall Street; from global climate change science to the study of Mars; from stage lighting at La Scala to co-operative marketing in Iqualuit; from teaching in primary school to teaching at the Sorbonne. Our students are as bright as any in the world; they have the capacity to have the most amazing lives and careers. We must not slow them down.

The Rae Review is a good read. I commend it to you. We hope that the budget of Ontario and the responses of the Government of Canada will be as good a read. I urge you, I appeal to you, to listen to that upcoming budget with an ear to a long-term plan for post-secondary education, a reorientation of spending to invest in students, and a commitment to work with other levels of government to drive additional opportunities for the rising generations.

In 2009, York University will celebrate its 50th year. In that year, we hope--we believe--that the impact of the Rae Review will have been realized: that our faculty will be even stronger, that our interdisciplinary commitments will be realized for what they are--important to our students and the communities in which our graduates will work and live; that Ontario universities will once again be competitive not only across Canada but around the globe and that we will be setting a very high standard in the minds of the students we graduate, in the research we carry out and offer to the world, and in the contributions we make to every community in this province.

Rick Miner

Thank you very much Lorna and a special thank you to the Empire Club for allowing us to speak to you today on what I think, we both believe, is the most important public issue that will be decided in Ontario this decade.

It's always a pleasure to share the stage with Lorna Marsden. As Lorna indicated, our two institutions, Seneca and York, have had almost three decades of a high level of co-operation and in fact we have become the model for many other college and university partnerships across Ontario.

And like Lorna, I have come here today with a message of supply and demand--the increasing demand for skilled workers and the painfully inadequate supply of financial resources.

Ontario ranks first in Canada in terms of the demand for skilled labour; we rank dead last in terms of the resources that have been provided to colleges and universities.

Unfortunately, the gap is widening and it threatens the future prosperity of Ontario and its people. With 80 per cent of new jobs requiring a post-secondary education, and only 52 per cent of our youth having obtained those qualifications, we've got a problem.

It would be easy for me to stand here and quote a whole list of disturbing statistics like the ones you saw in Bob Rae's review. However, I have not come here to talk about numbers. I did not come here to talk about reports. I am not here to plead on behalf of institutions. My focus today is the same one our colleges focus on daily--and that is people.

It is the youth coming out of high school and the workers coming back to upgrade their skills and knowledge; it's they who will drive our economy, treat us when we are ill, build and repair our homes, solve our IT problems, and invent our new technologies.

Our future prosperity and the quality of our life depend on them. They are not numbers. They are not statistics. They are people.

Fortunately we have many of our students with us today, some of whom I would particularly like to acknowledge. For these students represent the tens of thousands of them that our association cares so passionately about. People like Karen Kejick. Karen attends Confederation College in Thunder Bay.

In more remote areas of the province, especially in our Aboriginal communities, opportunities for attaining post-secondary education are limited, but the skills shortage is just as acute in the North as it is in the South. Our colleges try to fill that gap.

Confederation would like to have even more students like Karen, but providing wider access comes at a price. The college had to suspend or cancel 10 programs last year to balance its budget. They had to trade one kind of access off for another. Because they just didn't have the resources to do both.

Underfunding means fewer Aboriginal students, fewer programs and less access for people who should have a chance. We make great efforts to provide access in Ontario regardless of people's age, location and background. But we need to do more.

Then there are students like Wendy Bromley-Cyr. Wendy is from Sudbury. Wendy has not allowed a hearing disability to prevent her from pursuing her goal of working in the social services field.

Every one of our colleges has special needs facilities to provide support to students like Wendy who face special challenges in reaching their education goals. Without the support provided by Cambrian College, Wendy would not have been able to pursue her dream.

There are thousands more students like Wendy, but we simply cannot accommodate them all. Cambrian had to put off hiring a full-time librarian for the ninth year in a row in order to have the money to support programs like the one Wendy used. A college without a full-time librarian? Those are the kinds of tough choices that inadequate funding forces us to make.

And it is not only special needs students that stretch our capabilities. About half of our students are already in the labour market and come to college for extra skills and knowledge. They are a tremendously diverse group of students with special needs, special challenges, special hopes and special dreams.

The other half of our student population comes straight from high school, looking for the tools they will need to succeed in the work force, and the personal satisfaction and growth that comes from a post-secondary education.

Many like Dean Sauer came seeking the kind of education that colleges know best--the practical and apprenticeship training that can be applied directly to finding and keeping a good job.

Most don't realize that we perform over 90 per cent of the apprenticeship training in Ontario, and produce 25,000 apprenticeships a year. No one else does more, and no one else does it better.

Dean learned that when he graduated from an apprenticeship program at Mohawk College and stepped into a great job at Stelco.

The President of Stelco, Courtney Pratt, knows that, too. As he said, "Like many companies, Stelco is looking to revitalize its work force at all levels as we face the loss of many skilled employees who will be retiring in the coming years. It is essential that our colleges and universities provide the educated and trained graduates that are required if Canadian businesses are to succeed in an increasingly competitive environment."

As the skills shortage grows worse in Ontario, people like Dean become even more valuable. Unfortunately, without adequate funding, people like Dean also become more and more scarce.

As Rae pointed out, the knowledge economy has created greater challenges for business and industry, including new pressures in areas such as the skilled trades. Ontario employers say it is increasingly difficult to find the people with the skills they need.

A 2004 survey by the Ontario Chamber of Commerce confirms this position. It found that more than half of the skilled workers will retire in the next 15 years. Forty-one per cent of the businesses reporting indicated they expected to face a skills shortage within five years.

This skills shortage is a direct threat to our economy; unless it is addressed, Ontario will simply not be prosperous. And, without enough skilled workers, we will have to wait longer and pay more for the services we want and need, including health care.

That's why Ontario desperately needs more students like Michael Garreau. When Michael graduates from George Brown College as a nurse, the waiting time for care will become a little bit shorter and the quality of care a bit higher.

Multiply Michael by 7,000 and think of the impact. Ontario's colleges produce 7,000 new health-care workers each year in a wide range of specialties, including nurses, paramedics and radiation technologists. In fact, we provide training in 70 per cent of health-care occupations.

Together, these four students represent 50,000 individuals of all ages, who graduate from our colleges annually. Karen, Wendy, Dean and Michael represent the human faces of our present and our future. They are the ones who find their opportunities limited because Ontario provides the lowest per-capita support for colleges anywhere in Canada. They and their colleagues are the ones who are being short-changed.

Yet it is all of us who will suffer if things do not improve. A weaker economy, with fewer opportunities and less wealth to provide for our public services. A heartbreaking waste of human talent given the relentless desire of these individuals to learn, work and contribute. Those are the consequences.

Bob Rae says that a minimum investment of $400 million a year is needed to fix the problem in the college system. That's the price for prosperity. Sounds like a bargain to me. I hope it sounds like a bargain to you.

Thank you very much for listening to me as we talk about the most critical public policy issue in this province in this decade.

Thank you very much.

The appreciation of the meeting was expressed by David L. Lindsay, President, Association of Colleges of Applied Arts and Technology of Ontario and Director, The Empire Club of Canada.

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Comments on the Rae Report and Post-Secondary Education

Dr. Lorna Marsden
York University's 50,000 students and the speaker's list of three requirements she believes would be needed to launch these students onto the next stages of their lives. The need for governments to pay much more attention to post-secondary educaiton and why. Ways in which Ontario has been letting its students down. Praise for Bob Rae's report. Waiting for the Ontario budget. The objective.
Dr. Rick Miner
A message of supply and demand - the increasing demand for skilled workers and the painfully inadequate supply of financial resources. Some telling rankings about Ontario. The spearker's focus on people. Consequences of underfunding. Skills shortages. Dollars needed.