Alberta boosts funding to Calgary veterinarian program, cuts ties with WCVM

CALGARY — The Alberta government is bumping up funding for more spaces at the University of Calgary's veterinary medicine program.

Advanced Education Minister Marlin Schmidt says the province will reallocate $4.7 million per year to the Calgary program beginning in 2020.

However, the move is accompanied by a decision to withdraw more than $8 million in annual funding to the Western College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon.

The dean of WCVM, Douglas Freeman, says he is "deeply disappointed" with the move, saying it severs a 54-year-old partnership that began in 1963 when the Saskatoon institution was jointly established by the four western provinces.

Freeman says losing that large chunk of funding beginning in 2020 will "certainly have an impact" on the WCVM's programs and services.

Alberta hopes to add 80 additional positions to the Calgary program by 2023, bringing its capacity to more than 200 veterinary students.

"The University of Calgary's veterinary program has grown into a world-renowned institution, and with this new funding we will now have the capacity to train all of our students right here in Alberta," Schmidt said in a news release.

"The partnership with the other provinces worked for many years, but by focusing our support on one Alberta-based program, we will achieve provincial cost savings and increase access. This will make life better for students, families, and communities."

Dru Marshall, academic vice-president at the University of Calgary, said the government investment cements the province's support for the Alberta livestock industry.

Freeman, meanwhile, said the WCVM will soldier on without Alberta's participation.

"One province's decision doesn't erase all that we have built and accomplished together in the past five decades," he said. "The WCVM will continue to be Western Canada's veterinary college, providing quality veterinary education, research and clinical expertise to the region. We will not let the loss of support from one partner jeopardize our college's value to all western Canadians."

 

The Canadian Press