Canada Alberta universities, colleges told to tighten their belts

17:10  12 december  2017
17:10  12 december  2017 Source:   Edmonton Journal

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Post-secondary institutions and school boards have been given until the end of the week to submit plans for discretionary spending cuts to the Alberta government, but have not been told by how much or in what specific areas to cut.

Advanced Education Minister Marlin Schmidt said Monday he didn’t feel giving higher academic institutions in Alberta two weeks in the run up to Christmas to develop the plan is unfair. The plans are to be submitted by Dec. 15.

“We have capable people at universities who are able to turn around things in a quick time and we expect they will be able to do that,” he said.

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All Alberta public agencies, boards and commissions with their “own employees and budgets” have been asked to create a “discretionary spending restraint plan” that includes savings that are not included in their current budgets.

Those additional savings must also be achieved in future years.

A letter sent to universities and colleges Dec. 1 gives examples of what government departments are currently doing to reduce expenses and asks institutions to consider them as examples.

Among those are “hiring restraint, deferring non-essential grants and limiting travel, hosting, advertising, working sessions and conferences that do not directly impact the provision of services and programs to Albertans.”

Government gave public bodies two weeks to submit plans to “identify the total savings in dollars and as a percentage of your overall budget by fiscal year, net of any cost pressures in other areas, and identify where savings will be achieved and how the spending reductions will be implemented.”

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Schmidt would not be drawn into a discussion on where universities could make those cuts or how much the government expects to save by this plan. He also dismissed concerns that universities might try to use the plan as an excuse to make cuts to services or programming.

“We’ve made it very clear from the very beginning that they have to put students first and that we will certainly work with them to make sure the cost-control measures that they do put in place really minimize the impact on students,” he said.

Treasury spokesman Mike Brown said the move was to help “find savings, control costs and spending growth and reduce the deficit by limiting discretionary spending.”

The letter also goes on to say that government plans to continue its freeze on compensation of non-bargaining staff “at current levels, without grid movement, until Sept. 20, 2019.”

With files from Emma Graney

jgraney@postmedia.com

twitter.com/jurisgraney

Alberta worker dead, others sick after suspected carbon monoxide leak .
One worker has died and at least three others are in hospital after a suspected carbon monoxide leak at a business west of Edmonton Tuesday morning. Alberta Occupational Health and Safety investigators were notified of the leak shortly before 8 a.m. MT Tuesday, said Alberta Labour spokesperson Trent Bancarz.  Four workers were taken to hospital, where one of them later died, Bancarz said. OHS officers were en route to investigate, he said.  Bancarz said the company is located in the Acheson industrial area of Parkland County.

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