Ida Chong cabinet appointment sparks call to merge postsecondary ministries

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      A lobbyist for post-secondary staff and faculty says the B.C. government should merge the two ministries responsible for higher education now that one minister is in charge.

      Cindy Oliver, president of the Federation of Post-Secondary Educators of B.C., argued it is inefficient and confusing to split up responsibility for college and university affairs.

      “Just for the interim at least, put them back together since you have one minister looking after them,” she told the Straight today (November 23) by phone. “At least you’ll have the same people talking to the same people.”

      In late October, a major provincial cabinet shuffle saw authority over college and university matters transferred from the former Ministry of Advanced Education and Labour Market Development to two new ministries: the Ministry of Science and Universities, and the Regional Economic and Skills Development Ministry, a portfolio focused on the college level.

      Following a minor cabinet shuffle yesterday, Vancouver Island MLA Ida Chong now oversees both of the new ministries.

      Already minister of science and universities, Chong was appointed regional economic and skills development minister, replacing Vancouver MLA Moira Stilwell.

      Stilwell resigned from cabinet to enter the B.C. Liberal Party leadership race.

      “Now with”¦minister Stilwell stepping down we’re left to wonder again, what’s going on?” Oliver said. “It’s actually creating a very unstable situation in our system.”

      “We certainly don’t understand why they’d want to separate colleges out from universities,” she said. “We’ve always functioned as a system in post-secondary education, so we’re very concerned about that.”

      Oliver argued the time is right for one ministry alone to handle college and university affairs.

      “They split the ministry and all of sudden now they’re saying one minister could look over both,” Oliver said. “So what was the point of splitting them in the first place?”

      “If there’s an issue in post-secondary education that needs to be addressed at many levels, whether it’s at college or a special-purpose teaching university or a research university, they’re now in different ministries,” she added.

      Chong, who is facing threat of recall in her Oak Bay-Gordon Head riding, defended the decision to separate the post-secondary responsibilities, saying government ministries can work well together when required.

      “The change was made really to better reflect the dual nature that advanced education has had in the past,” she told the Straight by phone. “We have skills training and we have research and degree granting.”

      She continued: “The idea was to ensure that one ministry of regional economic and skills development will allow the government to better position what is really a great college system to help students develop the skills that they need to find the jobs they want in the industries that need them.”

      “The sciences and universities mandate was to allow us to bring focus to our major universities who are, I believe, world leaders in terms of knowledge development, and then to continue to develop that reputation with jobs and research investment that go along with it.”

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      Ken Lawson

      Nov 23, 2010 at 4:00pm

      Why is Ida Chong appointed we are trying to get rid of her, on recall, who makes these stupid appointments, the Liberals are going to be destroyed forever over their appointments, Im cancelling my LiberalBC membership and move over to the BC Conservatives, what idiots are running this government.

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      glen p robbins

      Nov 23, 2010 at 7:03pm

      No lobbyists -- ban 'em - don't write about them - nothing.

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      @move over to the BC Conservatives

      Nov 23, 2010 at 8:00pm

      You may want to reconsider -many BC Liberals have the exact same plan.

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