Wednesday, April 05, 2006

More on Rae's "Learning Agenda"

PUBLICATION: Cape Breton Post
DATE: 2006.04.04
PAGE: A1
BYLINE: wes stewart

Education: At top of Bob Rae 's agenda

Bob Rae 's talk Monday on the need for a national policy on learning to a large supportive audience at Cape Breton University had all the earmarks of a campaign speech.

He advocates a social commitment where children are well fed and housed, nurtured, where there is adequate child care where necessary.

"If we build people who have the brain and capacity to innovate and change and if we give them the opportunity to do that then we will succeed because the investment will come.

"If we don't get this right in this generation, if we don't get at this in a serious way in terms of learning opportunities for those kids, what kind of a future are we providing for them," Rae said.

Governments need to invest in higher education and ensure each and every student can afford to go to school.

The former Ontario NDP premier recently completed a review of Ontario's post-secondary school system. Last year he was appointed a special adviser to the Canadian minister of public safety on the Air India bombing.

He said he will have to make up his mind soon on whether he will make a bid for the leadership of the federal Liberal party.

CBU president John Harker, who has known Rae for 25 years, said Rae's interest in education and its role in nation building is refreshing and compelling.

"I am pleased to learn he has been called to look at the way we value and must invest in post-secondary education."

Canada has enjoyed years of economic growth and development that helped get its public finances in order.

"How are people fairing in this economy which has done well and how can we keep it going," Rae asked.

Globalization has resulted in a dramatically shifting and changing world where the focus of economic growth will shift and change over people's lifetime.

"Canadians can't stop the world and try to get off, our economy, our economic lives, how we make our way in the world depends on our ability to connect to this world," said Rae.

"We have to find our way as a country to give education and learning the priority they deserve. If we don't do that it will have a dramatic effect on wealth creation and the prosperity agenda that is so important for Canadians and the social justice agenda."

Education is about improving the country's capacity to become a truly innovative economy which is at the heart of what it is going to take to succeed in the world today.

He said Canadians need to make this economy the most innovative, the most open to change, investment and prosperity.

One recipe to do that is to cut taxes and deregulate as advocated by the new government in Ottawa but that is not the answer.

The most successful economies in the world of a certain size and kind have not simply embraced this right wing theory, they've looked at public investments in infrastructure, learning, innovation and in supporting families to allow the economy to do even better.

"You need sufficient taxes in order to provide the public with the goods and services they need and in fact will only really come from significant public investment."

That investment has yet to be made in education, he said.

Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board member Dr. Andrew Lynk said he grew up in the 1990s in Ontario when Rae was premier and recalls the government's fiscal difficulties.

Mi'kmaq elder Albert Marshall said education must be viewed objectively and wondered if the "purpose of an education is to transform us to be the best consumers, exploiters of our natural resources.

"Unfortunately I think that is the path that we have taken," he said.

wstewart@cbpost.com

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