Montreal, February 17, 2004 On behalf of its some 7,000 members, the Board of Trade of Metropolitan Montreal today unveils its brief to the Parliamentary Commission on university quality, accessibility and funding.
For the Board of Trade, there's no question that a world class university network is a key element of Montreal's economic competitiveness. The all too real under-funding that our universities must contend with is a grave concern that merits immediate, creative solutions. Our institutions of higher learning must be given the financial means and the necessary latitude to attract and retain the best professors, researchers and students, stated Benoit Labonté, president of the Board of Trade of Metropolitan Montreal.
In its brief, the Board of Trade recommends that the Québec government choose a global approach whereby everyone who benefits from the university system is asked to contribute, namely, the government, businesses and students.
For the Board of Trade, all the players concerned must play an active role so that a new sustainable financing structure truly adapted to today's reality can be set up. In this regard, we are asking the government to make a relatively small contribution by covering half the annual operating deficit of universities, estimated by CREPUQ at $375.3 million. The additional $187 million per year represents 0.36% of the government's total budget and 1.7% of the government's total education budget of $11 billion. This would be a good way to give credence to the promise Premier Charest made in his inaugural speech on June 4: our universities will become enthusiastic about the future, continued Mr. Labonté.
Moreover, although there's no doubt that the government must contribute more, it is also critical for businesses to do their share to boost university funding. The business community can make a real difference by playing a greater leadership role in education, training and research. Over the past few years, the private sector has often been one of the most generous investors, injecting money into the City's universities through foundations. In addition to continuing this practice, the Board of Trade believes the business community could increase the reach of its action. For example, another option worth examining is the set-up of new mechanisms whereby the private sector partners with students to defray the higher cost of tuition.
Lastly, while a costly venture for students, higher education is a remarkably profitable and proven investment that will serve them well throughout their careers. As such, the Board of Trade supports the idea that they should pay higher tuition fees, but not to such an extent that it would provide a barrier to less privileged students, added Mr. Labonté.
At a time when wealth is created through the mastery and creative application of knowledgewhether in the fields of IT, aerospace or biotechnologytraining a qualified workforce is of utmost importance. In this context, higher education is an especially powerful lever to step up Montreal's economic development, and by extension, that of Quebec as a whole. We must therefore give our universities the means to offer a top quality education and to carry out leading-edge R&D activities, concluded Benoit Labonté. The Board of Trade of Metropolitan Montreal has some 7,000 members. Its primary mission is to represent the interests of the business community of the Greater Montreal region and, as a contributing and responsible player, to promote the economic development of the urban area. Encompassing three specialized services (Info entreprises, the Electronic Commerce Institute and World Trade Centre Montréal) that serve merchants and businesses of all sizes throughout Quebec and Canada, the Board of Trade is Quebec's leading private economic development organization.
Coordinator, Media relations
Board of Trade of Metropolitan Montreal
Tel.: (514) 871-4000, ext. 4015
Hyperlink to brief: http://www.ccmm.qc.ca/Brief_universities