The ties that bond
The University has made improved relations with all three levels of government a priority. The need to do so has never been greater.
One of the major benefits of Queen’s having moved to a Principal/Provost model of administration is that, while Provost and Vice-Principal Academic Bob Silverman focuses on the University’s day-to-day operations, I am now able to devote more time to the critical area of external relations – both with government and in the wider community.
Telling our story articulately, regularly, and forcefully to federal, provincial, and local governments has never been more important than it is today.
Government is no longer the largest source of operating revenue for the University: The percentage of our budget that we receive from the province has declined proportionally over the past few decades (from 74 per cent in 1992 to less than half that today). Given limited resources everywhere, there is fierce competition for capital projects and targeted program funding across the post-secondary-education sector.
Queen’s continues to benefit from government support for many initiatives that align with our values and niche, including the new School of Medicine building (please see p. 20 for more details). This magnificent complex has been made possible through the Canada-Ontario Knowledge Infrastructure Program. Also in the Faculty of Health Sciences, the Department of Family Medicine is expanding its community-based residency program to include satellite facilities in Oshawa, Belleville, and Peterborough thanks to a $6.6-million funding initiative by the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care.
Support for the $63-million Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts – the University’s exciting new concert hall, “black box” theatre, screening room, and rehearsal space on the Kingston waterfront, construction of which is due to begin this spring – has come from all three levels of government, as well as generous donations, including $22-million from Drs. Alfred and Isabel Bader.
However, as important as it is, funding is not the only reason for Queen’s to cultivate stronger external ties.
Government relations are about reasserting ourselves in national public policy debates and restoring our presence on Parliament Hill, at Queen’s Park, and at City Hall. Historically, the University can claim to have educated some of Canada’s most influential policy makers. Today we are proud to have a wealth of government ties at Queen’s, where one can find former federal and provincial deputy ministers and senior officials, Cabinet ministers, and other key players in the political process. In addition, many alumni have had and continue to have very successful careers at all levels of government.
As I see it, an important part of my role as Principal is to broaden and deepen the University’s already strong connections. I plan to continue to increase Queen’s profile in Ottawa, Toronto, and right here at City Hall in Kingston.
On that note, in November, I made the difficult decision to delay the return of Homecoming for another three years. I am not convinced (nor are the City’s police chief and new mayor, alumnus Mark Gerretsen, Artsci’06) that the cycle of dangerous street parties on Aberdeen Street has yet been broken, despite some progress over the last two years.
To a great extent, “Aberdeen” has defined Queen’s-Kingston relations for the past several years and we need to establish stronger and broader relationships with the City – both the corporation and the community. (I discussed this at Queen’s Community Breakfast in November: www.queensu.ca/principal/speech/breakfast.html).
For example, Queen’s and the Royal Military College of Canada recently launched a plan to create the Canadian Institute for Military and Veteran Health Research, the first of its kind in Canada (the only NATO nation without a strong research program in this area). This Kingston-based network will harness our national research capacity to ensure Canada’s 750,000 active and retired military personnel and their families have the physical and mental health supports they need. I was recently in Ottawa talking with government officials about this exciting initiative.
In today’s economic climate, nurturing and expanding external relations is not only beneficial, it’s a necessity – and the need to do so will figure prominently as we continue to develop an academic plan over the coming months, setting our path and priorities for the future.