For those of you who read the Dalhousie Gazette, Canada’s oldest student newspaper, you may have seen Kaley Kennedy’s most recent article. In the November 20, 2008 edition, on page 3, the University of Kings College Student Union President and vocal activist for the Halifax Coalition Against Poverty wrote an article slamming Charles Cirtwill and the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies, a group she claims to be an expert on. The fact is, she isn’t.

Now, there’s no arguing that it’s within her rights to write an article that states that the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies has a view other than her own. That’s how democracy and freedom is supposed to work. The problem here is how she did it. Ms. Kennedy evidently felt it was unnecessary to attend the presentation she was critiquing, so she sent a photographer who snapped a few pictures before leaving the room. She felt that without even attending the presentation, she could write her slanderous article.

Ms. Kennedy made multiple factual misrepresentations in her article, and they touched on issues that were covered in the presentation. This should not be a surprise, as Kennedy has a record of being an activist forHCAP — the Halifax Coalition Against Poverty, a group known for its ruthless activism and a group which has been evicted from nearly every presentation that it has attended. In 2008, the group was removed from the Annual General Meeting of the Progressive Conservative Party of Nova Scotia after shouting and disrupting keynote speeches. This incident was not the only one of the sort. The group has become famous in Halifax for going to meetings merely to protest. Not to suggest anything, not to listen to responses to their questions, merely to attack anyone who does not conform to their views.

Ms. Kennedy claims that Cirtwill advocates higher tuition fees, reductions in government funding in post–secondary education, increases in student debt and education only accessible to the rich. This is simply not true. Had Ms. Kennedy taken the time to attend the presentation, she would have heard the truth.

Cirtwill did make mention of a model that involves higher tuition fees, caused by government deregulation of the price of tuition He explained to those present that the value of a post–secondary education is misrepresented by the artificial limit on demand that the current government subsidy creates. He explained that in New Zealand and the United Kingdom, when the change was made to end the regulation of tuition fees, participation of minority groups and the poor in post–secondary education increased much faster than that of the “privileged” class. Why? Because the government provided the same amount of subsidy it did before, but instead of paying everyone $1000 (example amount) they gave nothing to the children of people like Conrad Black, Belinda Stronach, Paul Martin, Pierre Trudeau, Ted Rogers, Izzy Asper, Brian Mulroney, Danny Williams and other affluent people. They don’t need the subsidy. Instead, the money was focused increasingly on those who truly need it. So, while the sticker price of a post–secondary education goes up, the cost to the poorest of students actually goes down. What an evil proposition. Making education affordable for the people that Kennedy claims to support.

Kennedy tried to link the increase in tuition fees to a decrease in student enrolment. A member of HCAP who came to the question and answer session after the presentation asked this same question and the response was clear. Cirtwill showed in his presentation that the decline in enrolment is caused by a decline in the number of university aged students in Canada. Shocking, isn’t it, that you can’t educate people that don’t exist? What’s the real issue here? Maybe this could open up the abortion debate. Cirtwill touched on that too, speaking of the abortion debate in Ireland and its effect on the economy and post–secondary education.

Cirtwill proposed an educational model where Nova Scotia uses its 17 post–secondary institutions to educate the world to be competitive in a global marketplace. This is in contrast to the policy of New Brunswick to educate New Brunswickans for the New Brunswick marketplace. He proposed an increase in distance education and more flexibility so that students could switch to a model of education where they get to spend more time at home (wherever that may be) and less time in the city where the institution is based. In combination with greater scheduling flexibility, students could balance full–time jobs and an education, and potentially reduce the time to get a degree by a few months.

Look at Germany, for instance. Students now spend 13 years getting their K–12 education (same as here), and only 6 semesters at university. If we better prepare students before they go to university, we could theoretically cut the time it takes to get a degree from four years to two or three, by having students study year round and reducing the number of semesters required.

The greatest cost in getting education is not tuition. It’s not housing. It’s deferred income. If we can get students through school and into the market place quicker, they will start earning more money quicker and pay more taxes, a net benefit to both themselves and the government, as educated people earn more than $500,000 more than the average person with no post–secondary education in their lifetimes.

Kaley Kennedy missed the facts. The presentation advocated streamlined delivery of education, and a fundamental shift in the way we view post secondary education. This mattered not for Ms. Kennedy, as she chose instead to continue pushing the agenda that has been soundly proven wrong time and time again by the think tanks of the world. Had she attended the presentation, she would have seen this evidence presented in a clear manner.

Cirtwill’s views will help us all emerge from our current situation. We need to work together to help those that need it most, so that those who cannot afford their education in the short term are on a similar playing field to those who can. It’s in our best interest to get educated people into the marketplace, pushing us forward and paying taxes, so that the system does not implode on itself when the population base dies off. We’re on a wild ride here, and it’s not going to end soon. We’re becoming old, top–heavy and conceited. Bailing out the poor at the expense of the rich doesn’t solve the problem. We need to work together and take the time to view the solutions that are brought forward by leading thinkers around the world. They have spoken, and Cirtwill voiced their views beautifully on November 24th.