Hon. Leela Aheer
Minister of Culture, Multiculturalism and Status of Women
Office of the Minister of Culture, Multiculturalism and Status of Women
227 Legislature Building
10800 – 97 Avenue
March 15, 2021
RE: Economic Opportunity and Campus Saint-Jean
Dear Minister Aheer,
I write to you today as a candidate for the Conservative Party of Canada’s nomination in Edmonton Strathcona, and as an Edmonton resident concerned about the future of Campus Saint-Jean at the University of Alberta.
As has been well-documented in the media, Campus Saint-Jean is in the midst of a funding crisis, requiring more than $20-million for campus renovations, in addition to ongoing operational needs. With post-secondary education funding cuts by the Province impacting the University of Alberta in a material way, and Federal operational funding for Campus Saint-Jean having been frozen since the early 2000s, the situation is dire. The need for additional funds from the Province, both to match the Federal government’s $8-million infrastructure commitment and to support the ongoing operations of this vital institution, is clear.
Further to that point, a renewed commitment by the Province to financially support Campus Saint-Jean is very much in line with your government’s stated priorities to spawn economic growth, create jobs, and deliver prosperity in Alberta. In speaking with local business leaders as a nomination candidate and bilingual private sector businessperson, I consistently hear about the momentous impacts that Campus Saint-Jean graduates are having in our economy. They are regarded as thinkers and doers who bring unique perspectives and problem-solving abilities to the challenges we face as a country.
With a thriving Campus Saint-Jean, Edmonton Strathcona – and, by extension, Alberta – would be positioned incredibly well to achieve the economic goals your government has set. A flourishing base of bilingual graduates with those aforementioned unique perspectives and problem-solving abilities will help to make Edmonton a national leader in the attraction of private sector capital investment, which is one of the key priorities of my campaign. As a concrete example of this potential, consider the Federal Start-Up Visa program; if Francophone entrepreneurs around the world see the government commit to developing a base of bilingual talent in Alberta, we will have opened another avenue for job and wealth creation in the province. Combined with your government's work to reduce taxes and red tape, this should make Alberta, rather than Quebec or Ontario, the first choice for Francophone investment in Canada.
Timing for a renewed commitment to francophone entrepreneurs has never been better. Capital is flowing into the energy transition sector today in significant amounts, which I see in my work running a national capital markets advisory firm. Entrepreneurs in the fields of hydrogen, lithium, helium, and other sources of energy leveraging off our oil & gas sector knowledge base and skills are investing in companies that are targeting Alberta today. Your government’s focus on attracting these entrepreneurs through Innovate Alberta is already showing results. A strong commitment to a vibrant francophone base would do much to open up our province for investment that might otherwise go elsewhere in Canada, or in Europe.
If I am fortunate enough to be elected as the next Member of Parliament for Edmonton Strathcona, my plan is to push the Federal Government to increase funding to Campus Saint-Jean. However, addressing this funding challenge needs to be a joint effort. With March being Alberta Francophonie Month, my hope is that you and your colleagues will consider the cultural importance of Campus Saint-Jean in Edmonton, along with the tremendous economic potential it presents for our province. That potential can only be unlocked with adequate, sustainable funding.