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Alberta

As a Polytechnic RDC looking to offer degree programs in arts, science, business administration and education

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More higher learning opportunities in central Alberta

Red Deer College is poised to become Alberta’s newest polytechnic, ensuring residents have access to a wide variety of learning options close to home now and in the future.

Becoming a polytechnic enables Red Deer College to better align programming with local student, business and industry needs – including high-quality degrees, apprenticeship education and diploma programs.

Alberta’s government worked in partnership with Red Deer College and student leaders to determine the most flexible and best-fit model for central Alberta, with a goal of ensuring students have access to the education they need and employers in the region have access to the talent they need.

“I am thrilled that Red Deer College will become central Alberta’s polytechnic institution, best positioning it to provide residents with the wide range of educational options they need to build rewarding careers – right in their community. Ensuring all Albertans have access to opportunities to build their skills for in-demand local jobs empowers people to achieve success close to home, helps strengthen and grow communities, as well as attracting investment to the province.”

Demetrios Nicolaides, Minister of Advanced Education

Red Deer College and the students, faculty and staff on campus play a key role in the community and local economy. The college began operations in 1964, and since then has expanded its offerings to include more than 100 programs across a range of credentials. With strong connections to business, innovation, health care, non-profits and many other organizations, Red Deer College and its students have an important role in the culture and vibrancy of the central Alberta region. The partnerships, work-integrated learning and collaboration already in place will continue to be enhanced through the polytechnic model.

“We are very supportive of the polytechnic designation because this model will allow us to build on our strengths to become an ever more innovative institution that will best serve our students, partners, industry and community members. Becoming a polytechnic achieves all of the goals we have had for many years, and it allows us to consider exciting new possibilities for the future.”

Guy Pelletier, chair, Red Deer College Board of Governors

“The breadth of programs and credentials we will offer as a polytechnic institution are exactly what this region needs. By offering students applied and work-integrated learning across all programs – from trades to our own degrees – we will assist graduates to achieve their goals and be highly employable within the ever-changing needs of the labour market. This is the ideal future for our institution.”

Peter Nunoda, president, Red Deer College

“Red Deer is ready for a polytechnic. Students of central Alberta want to learn and live close to their support systems. We need to stop the brain drain and focus on what really matters most – making sure our population is well-educated and remains in this region.”

Savannah Snow, president, Students’ Association of Red Deer College

Red Deer is Alberta’s third largest city and a key social and economic hub for central Alberta. By shifting Red Deer College to a polytechnic and supporting expanded programming to include new degree and apprenticeship opportunities, we are ensuring students have the skills they need to build rewarding careers and employers have the talented workforce they need to grow the economy.

“Red Deer city council, our community and our region remain dedicated to supporting Red Deer College, students and staff who work every day to ensure RDC remains a key competitive post-secondary institution. We need to be a competitive contender in keeping and attracting new population to our city, and one of the most promising means of doing so is through the development of a skilled labour force, offering a broader spectrum of career options locally, and attracting a population who will stay and strengthen our local economy through their future contributions in various sectors.”

Tara Veer, mayor, City of Red Deer

These changes also align with the goals of the Alberta 2030: Building Skills for Jobs strategy, and were considered as part of consultations to form the strategy.

An official new name for the institution has not yet been chosen but is expected to be announced in the coming months. Alberta’s government will continue to work with Red Deer College to ensure a successful path to polytechnic status.

Quick facts

  • Polytechnic status in Alberta enables institutions to offer apprenticeship education along with degree, diploma and certificate programs.
  • Red Deer College is currently approved to offer three degree programs, including the recently approved bachelor of science in biological sciences degree.
  • The institution has also put forward four degree program proposals to Advanced Education for program approval review. These include:
    • bachelor of arts (psychology)
    • bachelor of science (psychology)
    • bachelor of business administration
    • bachelor of education
  • The Alberta 2030: Building Skills for Jobs strategy is a transformational vision and direction for Alberta’s higher education system, which will develop a highly skilled and competitive workforce, strengthen innovation and commercialization of research and forge stronger relationships between employers and post-secondary institutions.

Alberta

‘Made-in-Canada system’ keeps egg supply stable. But is it also keeping prices high?

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Canada’s egg industry appears to be quietly sidestepping widespread shortages and wildly spiking prices affecting other countries, and some say supply management is to thank. 

The system, which controls the supply, import and farm price of eggs, poultry and dairy, is often criticized as benefitting Canadian farmers at the expense of consumers. Critics blame supply management whenever prices of eggs and milk in Canada surpass those south of the border.

But as disease, climate change and geopolitical unrest threaten global food supplies, supporters say the upside of supply management is increasingly apparent. 

“We have a made-in-Canada system that has never been more critical to food security in Canada,” said University of Waterloo history professor Bruce Muirhead, a former research chair for Egg Farmers of Canada. 

“It’s keeping family farms alive and eggs on store shelves at a time when we’re seeing shortages around the world.”

Canada isn’t immune to the conditions affecting egg prices and supply in other countries. 

Avian influenza, or bird flu, labour shortages, supply chain issues and soaring feed, fuel and packaging costs have all affected egg production and processing costs in Canada over the past year. 

Statistics Canada said egg prices climbed 16.5 per cent year over year in December, making a dozen eggs that cost about $3.25 last year now $3.75.

While it’s a significant increase, it’s a fraction of the spiralling costs recorded in other countries. 

In the United States, for example, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said egg prices were up 59.9 per cent in December compared with a year earlier. 

In states like Arizona, California, Nevada and Florida, the cost of a carton of eggs exceeded US$6 a dozen or about $8 Canadian in recent weeks. Stores in some regions have even rationed eggs to avoid empty shelves amid supply chain issues and possible shortages. 

The situation in the U.S. has prompted accusations of alleged price collusion among the nation’s top egg producers, while some news reports have suggested shoppers are travelling to border towns in Mexico or Canada to buy more affordable eggs.

In the United Kingdom, major supermarkets Tesco, Asda and Lidl have also set limits on how many eggs customers can buy, while some egg farmers say they can no longer break even. Egg prices in December were up 28.9 per cent year over year, the U.K.’s Office for National Statistics reported.  

New Zealand is also experiencing a nationwide egg shortage, leaving some store shelves bare and even prompting some consumers to rush out to buy their own backyard chickens. Statistics New Zealand said in an email the country’s egg prices increased 28.8 per cent in December 2022 compared with December 2021.

But critics say prices in Canada haven’t soared as drastically as in other countries for the simple reason that prices were already high to begin with. 

“When prices are already among the highest in the world, it’s no surprise that our prices didn’t spike quite as much,” said Krystle Wittevrongel, a senior policy analyst with the Montreal Economic Institute. 

“It’s easy to maintain more price stability when we have huge, excessively high prices to begin with.” 

Provincial egg marketing boards have indicated that prices in Canada are starting to come down. 

Egg Farmers of Ontario, for example, dropped the price farmers receive for a dozen eggs by 14 cents as of Jan. 29. It’s unclear whether processors and retailers will pass along those savings to consumers, though egg prices in some stores appear to have lowered by a few cents in recent days. 

While egg marketing boards set farm prices, processors set the wholesale price of eggs and grocers set the retail price consumers pay.

“We don’t set the retail price at all,” Egg Farmers of Canada CEO Tim Lambert said. “We get paid based on our costs of production. We’re seeing grain prices ease up right now, and so our barn gate price is decreasing.”

Meanwhile, egg supply in Canada has remained steady even as shortages continue to plague other countries. 

“We have definitely faced challenges,” Lambert said. “But our system has been really robust at keeping eggs on the shelves. If there are shortages, they’re local and temporary.”

One of the strengths of Canada’s egg industry is the greater number of smaller farms across the country, he said. 

The average egg farm in Canada has about 25,000 laying hens. In contrast, the average farm in the U.S. has about two million birds, Lambert said. 

“It’s a highly concentrated big business in the U.S.,” Lambert said. 

Cal-Maine Foods, the largest producer and distributor of shell eggs in the U.S., is traded on the Nasdaq with a total flock of about 42 million layers. Its share price has soared 45 per cent over the past year. 

Experts say the challenge with a highly consolidated industry is that disease outbreak can have a larger effect on supply. For example, if the country’s laying hens are concentrated into a handful of larger barns — rather than a larger number of smaller barns — the impact of having to euthanize a flock during a bird flu outbreak is also bigger. 

“In Canada, production is pretty well distributed across the across the country,” said Université Laval professor Maurice Doyon, an Egg Industry Economic Research Chair. “Just mathematically the risk is lower, because we don’t have that huge concentration.”

In the United States, about 44.5 million laying hens were affected by avian influenza, representing about 14 per cent of production, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada spokesperson Samantha Seary said. 

In Canada, about 1.6 million laying hens were affected by bird flu, or about six per cent of Canadian production, she said. 

Canada’s egg industry is also better positioned to withstand other issues from supply chain problems to climate change, Doyon said. 

“Supply management ensures a healthy enough margin that farmers in Canada can take care of the health of the hens and the environment because they have the means to do it,” he said. 

Still, while supply management may create a sustainable egg industry, critics say it comes at too high a cost.

They say the advantages don’t outweigh the downsides of higher prices for consumers over the long run. 

“Canada’s stuck on this protectionist, archaic system that benefits a small group of entrenched interests,” Wittevrongel said. “It seems like we’re in a better position now when in reality our prices are so much higher at any other time of year.”

But lots of items are more expensive in Canada than in the United States — and the overwhelming majority are not supply managed, Doyon said.

“Let’s look at bread or a can of soup or even a new car. These are more expensive in Canada than in the United States, but they’re not under supply management,” he said. 

Even among supply managed goods within Canada, items like eggs, milk and butter are generally much cheaper in bigger cities like Toronto than in other regions such as the Maritimes, Doyon said. 

For example, a dozen Sobeys Compliments white large eggs cost $3.75 in Toronto, according to the chain’s Voilà online grocery website. The exact same container of eggs in Halifax costs $4.85.

The price difference between Toronto and Halifax underscores the regional differences that exist even within the same country under the same system. 

“I’m not saying that supply management has no impact. But you just cannot attribute the entire difference in price between say Canada and the United States to supply management.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 3, 2023.

Brett Bundale, The Canadian Press

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Alberta

‘Risky gamble:’ NDP urges Alberta government to end fixation with pulling out of CPP

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By Dean Bennett in Edmonton

Alberta’s Opposition leader says Premier Danielle Smith’s government needs to end its fixation with pulling the province out of the Canada Pension Plan.

NDP Leader Rachel Notley says her party would not pursue an Alberta Pension Plan, which the United Conservative government has been studying for almost three years without resolution.

Notley says the idea does not make economic sense and is opposed by a majority of Albertans, adding the government needs to release its long-promised report into the pros and cons of Alberta going it alone on pensions.

“We are very concerned that this UCP government is sitting on a self-interested report that they are hiding from Albertans because they don’t want this to be an election issue, but they still plan to go ahead with it should they get elected,” Notley told reporters Thursday.

“If this UCP government is continuing to toy with this risky gamble to undermine the security of Albertans’ pensions, then they have an obligation to come clean on that.”

Alberta voters head to the polls May 29.

Smith’s office said work continues on a third-party analysis of an Alberta pension plan.

“While the initial analysis looks favourable, the Office of the Chief Actuary of Canada recently tabled updated asset figures for the CPP, and the third-party expert authoring the report requires additional time to update its findings,” spokeswoman Becca Polak said in a statement.

“When the expert informs us the final report is ready, it will be released publicly thereafter.”

Polak stressed the report would only be the first step and Albertans would have the final say.

“The government of Alberta will not replace the CPP with an Alberta Pension Plan unless Albertans first vote to do so in a provincewide referendum,” she said. “It’s Albertans’ pension — it must be Albertans’ choice.”

The report stems from a May 2020 Fair Deal panel report urging Alberta explore the idea as a way to help assert itself more within Confederation.

The panel reported that given Alberta’s young population, a separate pension plan could be a multibillion-dollar net benefit. The panel recommended the idea be explored even though 42 per cent of the respondents in its survey thought it was a good idea.

In response, then-premier Jason Kenney ordered a review into the feasibility of such a plan. In March 2021, Kenney said work on the report was almost done and his government was just weeks away from announcing next steps.

Smith, taking over from Kenney in October, asked Toews to continue with the pension report. In December she said she hoped a referendum might be possible with the May election, but has since said that likely won’t happen.

She has said Albertans are over-contributers to CPP and need to explore an alternative that could leave more money in the hands of Alberta seniors.

The Alberta pension plan is among a suite of measures being explored by Smith’s government as a way to carve out more independence for Alberta within Confederation.

The province is also researching its own provincial police force to replace the RCMP and tax revenue collecting agency.

In December, the Alberta Chambers of Commerce conducted a survey that suggested a majority of business owners believe leaving CPP for an Alberta plan would disadvantage them over the next three to five years.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 2, 2023

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