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CAUT Bulletin Archives

May 2001

Feds Failing in Education, States New Poll

Nearly 70 per cent of Canadians think the federal Liberal government is not doing enough to support post-secondary education, a new poll commissioned by CAUT has found.

Overall, 22 per cent of respondents felt that Ottawa was doing a poor job in supporting Canada's universities and colleges, while 46 per cent rated the government's performance as only fair. By contrast, less than 2 per cent felt the federal government was doing an excellent job and only one in five felt it could be graded as good.

The March poll by Decima research also revealed strong public support for Ottawa to take a lead role in providing more funding to universities and colleges.

When asked who should provide the primary funding for post-secondary education, 45 per cent of Canadians identified the federal government while 27 per cent chose the provinces. Less than 4 per cent said local governments or corporations should provide most of the funds, and only 12 per cent felt individual students should bear the largest share of the cost.

"What's particularly interesting is that the high numbers of people pointing to the federal government to take on a greater share of the costs of education are strong right across the country," noted CAUT president Tom Booth. "Even in Quebec, 43 per cent look to Ottawa to be the biggest source of funding."

The poll also asked Canadians how the federal government could ensure students can afford a university or college education.

Thirty-four per cent of respondents said Ottawa should increase funding for universities and colleges, and 26 per cent said the federal government should provide grants to needy students.

Almost 13 per cent said the federal government should provide scholarships to the best students, and less than 12 per cent felt that students should either be given more tax breaks or have the amount of loans they can receive increased.

"Ironically, the two things the federal government hasn't done — increase core funding or bring in a national grants program — are the two options most favoured by Canadians to deal with the problems of accessibility," Booth noted. "Public opinion is way ahead of government policy on this mark."

Finally, the Decima survey asked Canadians if they would be in favour of Ottawa establishing national standards for post-secondary education, such as accessibility and not-for-profit administration, as it currently does for health care.

More than 75 per cent said they would be in favour of this, while only 19 per cent were opposed. Support ranged from 70.9 per cent in Quebec to 81.5 per cent in Atlantic Canada.

Booth said these latter results were particularly encouraging since CAUT has been lobbying Ottawa to enact a national post-secondary education act that would set national standards and renew federal funding for universities and colleges.

"The poll underlines what many of us have felt over the past while — that public opinion is squarely on our side," he said.

The Decima poll results are based on a telephone survey of 2,000 adults across the country and are considered accurate within ± 2.2 per cent, 19 times out of 20.