LETHBRIDGE: Provincial Conservative candidate Doug Horner made a pre-campaign stop in Lethbridge Tuesday, his first visit as a declared candidate. He spoke at Lethbridge College about how he plans to make education more accessible.
"If we're going to have a next generation economy, if we're going to be able to change some of the challenges that Alberta faces, we are going to have to invest in research and development and education," he told Country 95 News after his question and answer session with college students and staff.
When Horner was Advanced Education Minister his government froze funding increases for post secondary institutions. When members of the crowd asked him about his involvement with the move, he blamed the province's economic slow-down. When times are better, he said, the money will come back.
College president Tracy Edwards said funding for post secondary schools needs to be more sustainable and in turn less dependent on fluctuations of the cost of fuel.
"Last year and this year our funding has been flat, so we're working hard to serve students with fewer resources," said Edwards.
A University of Lethbridge spokesperson was less diplomatic. Communications Officer Bob Cooney baldly stated the freeze on funding increases at post secondary schools - coupled with increasing demands on school resources - has left the university $9 million short of their projected budget during the last two years.
One student at the Lethbridge College event said the financial strain is translating to fewer chances for students to return to school or finish their degrees.
"I can think of one or two just this semester who dropped out," said mature student Kirk Boehmer. "One person was a semester away from the completion of his diploma and when he applied for student loans, they rejected him."
Though Horner was coy about releasing details of his platform before the campaign race has officially begun, he disclosed two relatively low cost options for improving the situation for post secondary students - tax incentives and a government-supported digital book database.
--photos by Country 95 news: PC leadership candidate Doug Horner talked to a crowd of 60 on Tuesday about advanced education issues at Lethbridge College.