Vet austerity Farm lobby, grad fear Pallister will cut funds for veterinary training in Saskatchewan
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This article was published 15/01/2019 (1607 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
As the country grapples with a veterinarian shortage, the province is considering decreasing its contribution to a Saskatchewan-based veterinary school that trains 15 Manitoba students each year.
Douglas Freeman, dean of the Western College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Saskatchewan, said the school has been in discussions with government officials in Manitoba, British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan for about two years, focusing on a new funding arrangement; the current agreement expires after the 2019-20 academic year.
Since 1963, the four western provinces have each contributed millions to WCVM, guaranteeing some students from their regions are accepted into the competitive veterinary program.
Manitoba contributes $6 million annually, but is considering clawing back funding that will reduce its numbers, Freeman said.
“Manitoba has said that they are considering whether or not to decrease funding to the college, and that translates into fewer seats allotted to students from Manitoba, but it actually impacts the entire operations of the college,” he said.
“(Manitoba) is in an austerity budget period right now. They are… cutting costs in a lot of areas and so they’re looking very carefully at this agreement.”
“Manitoba has said that they are considering whether or not to decrease funding to the college, and that translates into fewer seats allotted to students from Manitoba, but it actually impacts the entire operations of the college.” –Douglas Freeman
The college suffered a major financial blow in 2017 when Alberta announced it would be pulling its $8 million in 2020, redirecting its money to the veterinary program at the University of Calgary.
Freeman acknowledged Manitoba officials’ dissasatisfaction with the province’s retention rates for vets, though Education Minister Kelvin Goertzen wouldn’t comment on that assertion.
“I would say that’s not just Manitoba’s issue, but Saskatchewan and other jurisdictions, as well,” Freeman said.
“The return rate is one measure of return on investment, but it’s really a snapshot in time and it shouldn’t be the measure for return on investment. If you just look at new graduates returning to Manitoba, it’s roughly 70 per cent or more, which actually, in many circles, would not be considered bad at all.”
Goertzen said no decisions have been made yet.
“We will continue to work closely with our colleagues in Saskatchewan to foster a positive relationship, which serves the best interest of our respective citizens,” he said in a prepared statement.
Dr. Keri Hudson-Reykdal, an Ashern veterinarian and graduate of the program in 2000, said it’s up to the province to motivate veterinarians to stay in Manitoba.
“(The province’s) plan, instead of looking for ways to encourage vets to come back, they just want to cut funding because they think that that’s somehow going to make it better,” she said.
“I don’t understand.”
There are about 380 veterinarians practising in Manitoba, but that number is insufficient, she said, pointing to 10 job vacancies in Winnipeg alone. Freeman also mentioned vacancies across Canada.
“We need the Western College of Veterinary Medicine. We can’t form our own vet college. That would never be something that Manitoba could ever afford to do,” Hudson-Reykdal said.
“We need to get more vet students coming out because there is a shortage and we’re seeing it on a day-to-day basis.”–Keri Hudson-Reykdal
“So we need to keep funding the vet college as we have been, or I would say we need to fund it more. We need to get more vet students coming out because there is a shortage and we’re seeing it on a day-to-day basis.”
Keystone Agricultural Producers president Bill Campbell said he’d like to see more vets offering improving access for farmers throughout the province.
He believes the province should be investing in the profession.
“I think the government has an obligation to ensure that higher education is committed to and that we have our local youth be educated and maybe possibly have some sort of back-to-(Manitoba) incentives,” he said.
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