Québec City, February 7, 2003—A special meeting of provincial and territorial education Ministers, which dealt with the delivery of quality educational services in regions with low population density, was held today at the Château Frontenac in Québec City. Ministers from across Canada responded to Québec Education Minister Sylvain Simard’s invitation to attend this meeting, which they considered crucial for the future of their respective education systems.
“My fellow provincial and territorial education Ministers responded enthusiastically to our invitation. They each made invaluable contributions to these talks, and I am delighted with the results of our meeting. These discussions gave rise to interesting ideas for meeting the many and diverse challenges of providing educational services in regions with a rapidly declining population or in remote regions with low population density,” said Education Minister Sylvain Simard.
During this meeting, Ministers responsible for education highlighted promising initiatives to promote student success, address the decline in the student population in certain regions and maintain access to quality educational services. The Ministers also agreed that providing quality education to small populations scattered over vast geographical areas presents unique challenges for the territories and Northern jurisdictions. The Ministers further suggest that in order to see results in Aboriginal achievement, an adjustment to the funding mechanism for these jurisdictions may be required.
Nowadays, most industrial societies must deal with a falling birth rate, the exodus of young people in many areas and an aging population. This situation leads to a decrease in the student population, which will inevitably have serious repercussions on education systems and, consequently, on the ability to maintain quality educational services and on the costs related to these efforts. This also has a major impact on economic development, since many positions are fast becoming difficult to fill in a number of sectors due to a lack of qualified young people. Today’s meeting provided an opportunity to take stock of the situation, to identify new challenges and to emphasize the leadership that the provinces and territories are showing in this area. The Ministers also decided to share possible solutions for dealing with this trend, which is likely to intensify in the years to come.
At the end of the day, the Ministers recognized the benefit of meeting and agreed to continue sharing best practices on specific issues which advance education in their jurisdictions. They also agreed to write again to the federal government to ask them to honour their previous commitments and provide additional funding to supplement provincial and territorial investments in priority areas such as broadband transmission.
Furthermore, the Ministers noted the recent interest by federal Finance Minister John Manley in education and emphasized the best role for the federal government is to support provincial and territorial action and their movement forward on difficult issues by funding access to quality education.
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Office of the Minister of State
for Education and Employment