Despite acknowledgement by the Honourable Labi Kousoulis, Minister of Labour and Advanced Education, that Cape Breton University and Acadia University were the only universities in the province that were adversely impacted by provincial funding changes made during the 2008-2011 period, CBU continues to receive no retroactive consideration from the Provincial Government to address these deficiencies. The impact of these events on CBU and Acadia have been substantial with a current annual operating funding loss for Cape Breton University of approximately $5.9 million.
In late July 2017, the Public Accounts Committee reported that Acadia University has received $24.5 million in incremental operating grants and loan forgiveness from the Province of Nova Scotia from 2011-2017. Provincial officials have said this action was in acknowledgement of the funding loss incurred by Acadia in 2008-2011 period.
“I want to be clear that our issue is not with Acadia University. For anyone familiar with the business model of the university sector the fact that Acadia needed help should come as no surprise given their loss of approximately $6.5 million in annual financial support from the Province. We applaud the Government for acting to address this funding loss by Acadia. Our issue is one of fairness to our university and the communities of Cape Breton Island. Having recognized CBU was similarly disadvantaged, we would expect that our region would be treated fairly in relation to provincial investment in its institution. Failing that, our University continues to operate from a disadvantage compared to the other universities in the province. What message does that send to our campus community and to Cape Bretoners,” says Robert Sampson, Chair, Cape Breton University Board of Governors.
“We’ve met with the Minister and have demonstrated our efforts to address our financial stability. We’ve had to make many tough decisions over the years, from building closures and staffing cuts, to deferring both infrastructure maintenance and staffing investments needed to support growing programs. All while addressing extremely challenging local demographics through the successful recruitment of international students to study, live, and contribute to our community. Historically our University has primarily served the local community, but in a need for institutional survival, we have pivoted into a globally competitive institution that is still very mindful of the important educational and community-hub role it continues to play in the Cape Breton region. Rather than supporting our efforts this Government seems intent upon penalizing the institution,” adds Dr. Dale Keefe, President & Vice-Chancellor, Cape Breton University.
Although the Government has indicated it will be providing CBU with an increase to its 2017-18 operating grant in the upcoming provincial budget, preliminary indications as to the dollar value of the adjustment lacks any level of fairness to our institution. It falls far short of both the acknowledged shortfall of the 2008-2011 period and the treatment afforded the other institution that was negatively impacted.
“We have met with the Minister in recent weeks, clearly articulated our position, and offered suggestions as to how the government may rectify this situation. We have received nothing but an indication that the suggestions we have tabled will be reviewed by government. Given that these same suggestions have been rebuffed by government officials since the spring of 2014, CBU takes no comfort from the promise of further review. It is time for demonstrable action from the Government toward achieving a level of fairness for our institution and our community,” says Sampson.