UCP defund U of C by $105M, give back $8.4M

The Alberta government recently announced over $8M for a University of Calgary vet programme, but that comes after they cut over $100M in operational funding for the U of C.

Last week, the Alberta government announced funding for the faculty of veterinary medicine at the University of Calgary.

The faculty will receive an average of $2.8 million per year over the next 3 years, for a total of $8.4 million. The new funding will allow the faculty to increase enrolment by up to 50 more seats.

Between 1963 and 2017, Alberta students interested in veterinary medicine had to travel next door to the Western College of Veterinary Medicine in Saskatoon.

The provincial government had a decades-old funding agreement with that college that required them to pay $8 million a year to the college, but the Alberta NDP never renewed that agreement in 2017.

Instead, they announced a plan in October 2017 to transition funding to the U of C’s programme beginning in 2020. That transition was to be complete by 2023.

The NDP’s plan was to allocate $4.7 million per year starting in 2020, which would allow the programme to increase enrollment by 20 seats per year.

It’s not clear from the UCP’s announcement whether this $2.8 million per year is in addition to the NDP’s annual commitment of $4.7 million.

Let’s assume it is new, additional funding. That’s a good thing, right?

Well, sure, for that faculty. But there’s something you should know about the relationship between the U of C and the UCP government.

For example, as part of the UCP’s first provincial budget, passed in late 2019, the government cut the U of C’s Campus Alberta Grant by $32.9 million. That was a 6.9% cut and was large enough to equal the total budget of 1 larger faculty or 3 smaller faculties. That cut resulted in 250 people losing their jobs at the U of C and the university eliminating, slowing, or deferring over 200 initiatives and projects.

Just 5 months later, the U of C discovered that during the UCP’s second budget, they’d be losing an additional $26.7 million from the Campus Alberta Grant during the 2020–2021 budget year. This was 6% of their operating budget.

Last year, the UCP government cut another $25 million from the U of C’s operating budget—another 6%—for the 2021–2022 fiscal year.

Finally, earlier this year, the university lost another 5.2% of its operating budget, and the UCP government cut operational funding by $20.7 million.

After 4 consecutive cuts since late 2019, the U of C has lost 22% of of its operational funding.

To put it another way, for every $5 the university had received during the 2018–2019 budget year from the government for operational funding, $1 of it is now gone.

If you add up the dollar amounts, the U of C has lost a combined $105.3 million because of those 4 budget cuts.

So while it’s great that the U of C’s faculty of veterinary medicine is going to get $8.4 million over the next 3 years, that amounts to 7.98% of the funding that the UCP took away from the university.

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By Kim Siever

Kim Siever is an independent queer journalist based in Lethbridge, Alberta. He writes daily news articles, focusing on politics and labour.

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