Journal Letter from Bucknell (English & Film Studies): If “socialist” Norway can do it, why can’t capitalist Alberta?

This letter by English & Film Studies’ Brad Bucknell appeared in the Edmonton Journal yesterday.

Rethink plan for universities

Thomas Lukaszuk might want to give deep thought to his enthusiastic, and perhaps confused, image of future public education in Alberta.

The minister of enterprise and advanced education might remember that relations between researchers and industry and business can be fraught with ethical and economic problems. 

These are clear enough regarding the tobacco industry and its long suppression of research that showed clear connections between cancer and cigarettes. 

And who can forget how the close association between business and university nearly cost Dr. Nancy Olivieri her career at the University of Toronto in the late 1990s when she raised questions about the effectiveness of drugs made by Apotex Pharmaceutical Co.? She was fortunate to be vindicated. 

Businesses exist to make money for investors, not to help public education. When businesses do appear public minded, they usually do so for tax purposes or for good public relations. 

The Alberta government might have negotiated higher royalty rates with oil companies. If “socialist” Norway can do it and create a massive trust fund for its future, why can’t hard-nosed, capitalist Alberta? 

Our government does not need to continue subsidizing business by giving over its educational institutions.

Brad Bucknell, Edmonton

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One Response to Journal Letter from Bucknell (English & Film Studies): If “socialist” Norway can do it, why can’t capitalist Alberta?

  1. Good points Brad, particularly your comment about the difficulties that arise when the relationship between researchers, industry and business is blurred. The University of Calgary is rushing headlong down this path. It recently announced a plan to hire more than 30 assistant professors, postdoctoral students and research chairs to create a “confederation of scholars” who will collaorate on energy research (unconventional hydrocarbons, hydraulic fracturing, low-carbon energy and the cumulative effects of energy-related processes. The ethical issues this creates are obvious.
    On a related note, while other PSIs are slashing staff and programs, Minister Lukasuk just sponsored an order-in-council allowing the U of C to borrow $60 million to fund the expansion of the Schulich School of Engineering.
    Gives you a pretty good idea of what really counts in higher education here in Alberta.

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