Nova Scotia

Cape Breton University slams provincial budget

The university administration says an additional $1 million for CBU in yesterday's provincial budget fails to address a long-standing funding imbalance.

Additional $1M for CBU doesn't address long-standing funding imbalance, says administration

Cape Breton University says the institution, and the island, are being shortchanged. (CBC)

Cape Breton University says the institution — and the island — are being shortchanged in the provincial budget released Tuesday.

The university administration says an additional $1 million for the school fails to address a long-standing funding imbalance.

"For Cape Breton University to get a fair treatment, and for the Cape Breton community to have a fair treatment, we think it should be on the order of about a $3-million annual increase," said Dale Keefe, president and vice-chancellor of CBU.

Change in funding formula

Keefe said the funding shortfall dates to 2008-2011, when the provincial government changed the funding formula for universities in Nova Scotia.

Cape Breton University and Acadia University in Wolfville, N.S., both lost substantial funding, Keefe said. CBU lost about $5.9 million a year. Acadia has since received about $24.5 million to help offset the losses.

Acadia has received about $24.5 million to help offset losses. (Robert Short/CBC)

Keefe says the $1 million in yesterday's budget is welcome, but does not go far enough.

"We're going to continue to press government to ensure that they are fully aware that it's on the order of about $3 million a year to get fairer treatment for Cape Breton University," he said.

Minister surprised

At Province House, the minister of Labour and Advanced Education seemed surprised by CBU's reaction. Labi Kousoulis said officials from the university met with the previous minister in the spring and "the ask was less than the million a year that they received in today's budget."

"In the department, we looked at their finances, and the million would actually ensure that they didn't have any negative cash flow in the upcoming few years until the next MOU (Memorandum of Agreement) is in place."

Labi Kousoulis, the minister of Labour and Advanced Education. seemed surprised by CBU's reaction to the budget. (CBC)

Keefe said the university has an operating deficit this year of about $750,000.

There is also an accumulated deficit, and there are spending priorities, including program expansions, Keefe said. The university has cut "substantial" programs and jobs over the years, he added.

The school has not yet decided where the extra $1 million will be allocated.

Other Cape Breton institutions

Meanwhile, it's not clear yet how the provincial budget will affect other institutions in Cape Breton.

The operations manager of the eastern zone of the Nova Scotia Health Authority, which includes Cape Breton, says extra resources for such programs as mental health services and doctor recruitment are welcome.

"Our teams, in the coming days, months, will be planning around the additional funding resources that the government has seen fit to support us with," said Mary Lou O'Neill.

Budget documents refer to plans for a dialysis unit for Glace Bay, which was first announced in the spring.

The province says it will also work with the Dalhousie medical school on a clerkship program for third-year medical students that will allow the school to place four medical students in Cape Breton in September 2018.

The budget also sets aside $192,000 for more youth mental health supports in Cape Breton, including hiring two guidance counsellors and one social worker for the Cape Breton–Victoria Regional School Board.

A board official says the board is not ready to comment on the positions until it adopts its own budget for 2017-2018.