Candidates square off on education issues

By Ruth Davenport

Three provincial party candidates were grilled by parents, educators and a smattering of university students at the Calgary Public Library last week.

Lyle Oberg, the current minister of education, Garth Mundle of the New Democrats and Brendan Dunphy of the Liberal party fielded questions Feb. 22 on subjects ranging from elementary school board under funding to adult literacy.

Questions asked by representatives of the University of Calgary Students’ Union addressed increasing tuition costs, student loans, government under funding and the recent controversial decision to grant accreditation to the DeVry Institute of Technology.

Former United Church of Canada minister Mundle, candidate for Calgary Currie, won the debate, judging by the audience’s response. Mundle promised a 30 per cent
reduction in tuition for post-secondary institutions, increases in per-student funding for the K-12 system and promised to re-examine the DeVry decision.

"I’ve had lots of experience with private universities and I have seen the results of granting degree-granting power to private universities that operate for profit," said Mundle. "I am absolutely opposed to that."

Oberg gave a positive reply to a request for student representation on the private colleges accreditation board and promised to investigate the issue if re-elected as Member of the Legislative Assembly. He also responded positively to a inquiry regarding per-student funding and agreed that Alberta’s current ranking against the country as a whole was poor. He indicated a commitment to improving this, citing a recent injection of $25 million into universities’ base operating grants.

Academic commissioner Barb Wright, who attended the forum as an observer, commended Oberg for having a solid platform.

"I may not have liked the solutions that Dr. Oberg offered, but at least he had solutions to offer," mused Wright. "The other candidates complained about the policies of the PC government, but didn’t offer any viable alternatives."

Vice-president External Duncan Wojtaszek agreed somewhat.

"Dr. Oberg definitely demonstrated his experience and superior knowledge," he said. "However, it was sad to see he offered no real changes to previous PC policies. Students can expect more of the same from this government after the election."
Election day is March 12, 2001.