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Aurora College money restored
Part of $4.8M budget add-on package

Kirsten Fenn
Northern News Services
Monday, March 6, 2017

The future of social work and teacher education programs at Aurora College is still uncertain despite a government promise not to cut the college's budget next year.

While the government will hold off on $669,000 in reductions to the two college programs, that won't change anything for students hoping to get into the program next school year - including seven students currently in a one-year, qualifying access program for the teacher education and social work programs.

"While we believe these (reductions) were appropriate decisions, given the cost of delivery and program outcomes," said Finance Minister Robert C. McLeod.

"We also recognize that a more fundamental review of Aurora College is an important and necessary step."

The government will defer reductions to the programs until a fundamental review of the college is completed, he said.

No indication was given about how long the review will take.

In the meantime, there will be no new intake of students, McLeod said.

"I don't think there was any change made, quite frankly," Frame Lake MLA Kevin O'Reilly told News/North.

He said the announcement simply echoes Education, Culture and Employment Minister Alfred Moses' previous statements that no new students can start the

programs in next academic year.

Testart told News/North he's still concerned for the access students.

Friday's decision is "a stay of execution for the time being," Testart added.

In addition to the college funding, McLeod has promised to allocate another $4.8 million for home care, youth in crisis, an anti-poverty fund, freight costs associated with the fishing industry, the mineral incentive program and a community access road program.

Despite snubbing access students, the additional budget dollars are a win for the majority of regular MLAs who have been pushing cabinet to accept their requests to increase the budget since before it was announced Feb. 1.

After deferring all but one department during their budget review, MLAs went back to them on Friday, speedily approving the remainder.

Just two members - O'Reilly and Nahendeh MLA Shane Thompson - opposed a motion to conclude the budget review.

O'Reilly said the budget cuts programs and services in order to fund infrastructure, something he can't support.

Thompson is worried about the elimination of jobs in his riding and cuts he said will hurt small businesses.

He's also concerned there isn't a solid plan for how to use the new money allocated for things such as homecare.

The budget is expected to officially be passed early next week, once an appropriation bill is introduced, according to Testart.

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