Back to top

CAUT Bulletin Archives

May 1997

Canada & the Global Economy - The Views of the Parties

As the 21st century dawns, Canadian social and economic development will be key factors to tapping into the global economy. What should the next federal government do to ensure Canadians are prepared for the new century.


  1. Does your party see a special role for Canada’s universities in the global economy of the 21st century? If so, what should that role be?

  2. What federal initiatives would your party support to ensure that Canadians have the language skills and the knowledge of different cultures and economic systems required to compete in the global economy.

  3. Should the federal government assist universities in marketing their educational resources overseas in order to attract foreign students?

  4. Should the federal government provide targeted financial assistance so that more low income students from the poorest countries can study in Canada?


The Liberal government has identified the promotion of Canadian culture as one of the pillars of its foreign policy and international relations. Educational activities are a key component of our efforts to promote our culture abroad. For example, Canadian universities have been participants in Team Canada trade missions to Asia and Latin America.

The Liberal government has also established a network of educational centres to promote Canadian educational institutions to our trading partners. Centres have been opened in such countries as Mexico, China, and Indonesia. Canada’s universities recognize our government’s active role in promoting our educational sector. The Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada has commended the government for making the promotion of Canadian universities overseas, a foreign policy priority.

The Liberal government’s Youth Employment Strategy, launched last February, contains a number of international internship programs for young people. These programs demonstrate the government’s commitment to act as a catalyst for positive change in our increasingly global economy. International internships will help unemployed and under-employed youth acquire relevant experience in emerging and expanding Canadian industries with international markets.

New Democrats

1. The vitality and performance of the Canadian economy in the 21st century will be directly linked to the quality of the teaching and research that is provided by our post-secondary education, to the number of Canadians that have access to post-secondary education, and to the effectiveness of the links between universities, the private sector, and the community.

Canadian universities must receive the financial support necessary to maintain their ability to carry out world class research and offer access to that learning to as wide a portion of Canadians as possible. Universities are in a unique position to help Canadian enterprises and communities compete with the rest of the world, just they must help Canadian students and communities learn about the rest of the world.

2. Canada's NDP would support federal financial support for initiatives directed to improving Canadian students’ knowledge of foreign languages and cultures.

3. Yes.

4. Yes.

Progressive Conservatives

Our education system has to embrace the information age to prepare our young people to compete and win in the information economy. Canada has long been a world leader in telecommunications, so we have the expertise and experience required to help our schools and students connect with new technology and ideas.

What far too many Canadian communities lack is the information infrastructure — the actual, physical wiring — needed to connect our students to each other and the world through the information super-highway.

A Jean Charest government will lead the way in the creation of the information infrastructure that will wire Canada for success by:

providing a ten year free right-of-way on federal lands/highways and waiving the usual government and CRTC fees for the construction of new fibre-optic cables that will help connect our schools with the world;

working with all other levels of government to clear the barriers and remove the costs to building information infrastructure; and

establishing a Centre for Digital Convergence in partnership with the private sector. It will serve as a physical and virtual centre bringing together key players from the computing, content and telecommunications sectors.

Our students also need the knowledge and equipment to participate in this new world. While an increasing number of families now have home computers and many schools are providing them for students, we are still far short of universal access for our youth.

Students with computers and the skills to use them enjoy an enormous advantage. For example, Nova Scotia's Acadia University provides each student with a laptop computer for a fee and the entire campus is set up to involve students in exploring and mastering the latest information technologies.

A Jean Charest government will help provide all Canadian students with the computer equipment and knowledge they will need for success by:

offering loan guarantees for private sector firms to purchase and lease network computer systems to schools, providing a low-cost method for school boards to have modern computers in every single classroom;

offering similar loan guarantees to provide laptop computers to every university and college student who doesn't already have one; and

working with the provinces to develop a Canadian "On-Line University" that will offer access to higher learning through the Internet.

We believe that every student in Canada deserves that same advantage. Our objective is to have the most computer literate country in the world.

Reform Party

1. Canada's universities will remain one of the key centres of growth in the Canadian economy, as the emphasis on life-long learning grows throughout the 21st century. As well, the electronic transmission of large amounts of information over long distances will become increasingly easy, allowing universities to reach out to a larger share of the population. Universities will be able to specialize to a far greater degree, due to their ability to meet with larger bodies of geographically-dispersed students and to bring together widely dispersed researchers.

2. From a purely financial point of view, some share of the greater funding that Reform is proposing for post-secondary education could be used by universities to focus on training in these areas. As well, Canadians should be encouraged to take advantage of our very heterogeneous population, which includes a large number of recent immigrants and first-generation Canadians from precisely those parts of the globe (east and south Asia, Latin America) that have the greatest potential for economic growth in the first decades of the next century.

3. It is unlikely that any direct federal intervention in this regard would be welcomed by the provincial governments, which have direct control over the universities. The provinces will have to decide whether to use some part of the $4 billion in annual transfers for health care and post-education proposed by the Reform Party for the purpose of helping their own universities to market their educational resources overseas.

4. In the fiercely, competitive information-driven markets of the 21st century, Canada will be able to maintain its leadership position only if it places additional emphasis on educating its own population. Allocating assistance to students from other countries should be evaluated in this context.