'Thanks, province. It's nice to hear from you again.'
Birthdays are great on Facebook. It’s that one day a year when every friend you never talk to takes time from their day to write you a sincere, heartfelt, “HBD, hope it’s a good one” on your wall.
It’s that one chance all those thoughtful friends of yours take the opportunity to let you know they’re still there. Sure, they might only know you from that trip to Mexico in ’07 or that one history tutorial in second year, but it’s worth it for them to let you know they’re still there.
Besides, what if they need you for something soon? What if they need a place to couch surf or need a reference letter?
Or, what if they need to get elected to the Provincial Legislature in October?
Two weeks ago, the Government of Ontario announced a $45.5-million investment in the capital costs of a new liberal arts building at McMaster. Surely, the timing of this generous investment has nothing to do with the election upcoming October on Oct. 6. Right, Ontario Liberal Party?
Firstly, credit is due to both the government for ponying up the cash and the student groups who lobbied for this to happen. This is a nice show of priority in education for the McGuinty Liberals and a great accomplishment for the student advocates who played no small role in making this deal happen.
But to simply say this is a nice job done by all and call it a day is just a little bit conspicuous. It’d be like saying your pal Dan is a true friend because he writes “have a good one” on your wall once a year.
Does the government care about the students of McMaster University? Of course; after all, they helped vote in a pair of Liberal MPs in the Hamilton area in 2007. But there’s just something about an upcoming election that’s making them feel extra friendly these days.
This isn’t to say the investment by the government isn’t generous. They would truly like to see the University’s facilities advance and develop. Similarly, it’s not as if when ol’ Dan says Happy Birthday, he’s secretly hoping your cake gets stepped on and none of your friends show up to the party.
But let’s be clear about what this investment means: it’s a $45.5-million capital investment (to be spent on construction and development) for a project that’s expected to cost $65-million. Again, it’s a great investment, but giving 70 cents on the dollar for this project doesn’t mean they’re sending this building down from the heavens.
McMaster is lucky, too; the government can’t be expected to give away free buildings here and there and everywhere just as election season is coming.
Except that they have.
This announcement is part of a $600-million government splurge on universities and colleges that Dalton McGuinty and his pals have been dolling out as of late, that of course has nothing to do with the upcoming election.
With the Liberals’ popularity hovering somewhere near that of Atilla the Hun, they need to bring some young blood to the polls this fall. And as one Hamilton MPP told the Hamilton Spectator, this is the “election gift wagon.” Just like a Facebook birthday, election season makes your old friends extra friendly again.
You might hear a caveat about this particular investment: it’s for a liberal arts building, a hugely unpopular thing for a government to invest in when most constituents see it as training for future unemployed welfare-suckers (the humanities jokes from Welcome Week apparently stick with some people).
But consider some of the other investments being handed out: $72.6-million for Laurier’s business and math building; $60-million for Sheridan’s Institute of Technology; $56.4-million for Ryerson’s health sciences programs; $52.5-million for science at UTM; $50-million for engineering and science at York.
All those science and engineering programs got a birthday phone call, while it would seem Mac’s humanities and social sciences get the lowly ‘happy birthday’ Facebook post.
It’s easy to get caught up in the joy and accomplishment of a huge announcement like this. But even when you ignore the obvious questions (Where does the rest of the money come from?) and the serious limitations for current students (construction won’t even begin until 2013), you have to ask, is this about advocacy and investment, or is it about just about buying some more votes?
I’d tell you the answer, but I have to go wish some people a happy birthday.