Quebec at the crossroads
Massive new investments in the provinces university network are urgently needed if Quebecers are to join the much-heralded knowledge economy, say McGill University officials appearing in Quebec City today. Luc Vinet (vice-principal, academic), Morty Yalovsky (vice-principal, administration and finance), Ginette Lamontagne (executive director, governmental and institutional affairs) and Andrew Tischler (president, Students Society of McGill University) are speaking to the Education Commission this afternoon at 4 pm on behalf of the University. In their brief, McGills senior administration calls for equitable funding of the Quebec system and for McGill itself and points out that McGills 178-year-old heritage is being squandered. "McGill is borrowing from its human capital, by not paying adequate salaries. It is borrowing from its real estate, by not maintaining its buildings. And it is borrowing from its financial capital, by not paying back the accumulated deficit," says the brief.
Over the past four years, the drop in operating revenues for universities in the Quebec network has been 10% while universities in the other provinces have seen an average increase of 12% in operating revenues. McGills particular situation is especially crucial: figures show that McGill is currently underfunded by $19 million within the Quebec system, which in turn is $650-million underfunded by comparison to the rest of Canada. McGill has done everything possible, say the administrators, to reduce academic and support staff, increase faculty-student ratios, eliminate duplication and postpone repairs and renovations to its buildings. For example, academic salaries, according to a 1998 study by the Groupe-Conseil AON, are well below the average market rate for faculty in Canadas ten major research-intensive universities. To bring them up to the average would require approximately $9 million a year over the next four years, and at least $15 million a year if McGill is to compete with the top two or three other leading Canadian universities in attracting professors.
In addition to calling for equitable funding, McGill is urging the Minister of Education "to think outside the box," by examining funding alternatives that would allow the government to leverage its limited funds. At least three suggestions are proposed:
Matching certain private sector donations to universities, similar to what has been introduced in other provinces;
Extending tax credits beyond current incentives for research support to include incentives to support educational programs;
Allowing a full write-off of the accrued value of stock donated to any Quebec university.