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The 2016 budget contains a secret weapon to power growth. We call it College.

By tradition, the finance minister buys a new pair of shoes on budget day. Thanks to one key aspect of the 2016 budget, Finance Minister Bill Morneau should have donned running shoes, because good things could start happening fast.

Specifically, the government’s $2-billion investment in post-secondary infrastructure to support students and scientists with modern labs, green technologies and enhanced capacity for commercialization.

Today, over 60% of existing college and institute infrastructure requires replacement or major maintenance. This means many colleges and institutes can’t grow, resulting in waitlists for programs in high-demand fields such as trades, healthcare and engineering technologies. Fix the college infrastructure, and we can open the doors to more eager students to train for important jobs vital to Canada’s future.

So well done Minister Morneau. Let’s tie those laces tight and get going, because there is nothing more important to this nation than jobs, and there is nothing more important to this nation’s jobs than Canadian colleges.

It may have been a while since you stepped on a college campus. I highly recommend you do so, if only to raise your spirits. They won’t be hard to find – just follow the herds of enthusiastic students with the glint of a bright future in their eyes.

Colleges and institutes reach over 3,000 communities across the land and act as the launching pad for anyone and everyone looking to get a job. That’s over 135 colleges creating the work-ready grads ready to roll-up their sleeves and get the job done. And that job? Growing Canada. Jobs bring income, which leads to spending and taxes, the twin turbo chargers that power growth in this nation.

A few key facts will show you how nothing powers the Canadian economy like Canadian colleges. Those 135 colleges and institutes in Canada are educating over 1,500,000 people right now. High school grads, new Canadians, employees who want to upgrade, indigenous students – all eager to make a difference. They are training in fields vital to Canada’s future, like health care, engineering, justice, community services, education and business. In fact, colleges and institutes offer thousands of certificate and diploma programs along with over 500 bachelors programs, over 30 masters programs and nearly 600 post-graduate programs of specialization.

Let’s put the numbers aside for a moment and make it personal. Think about your job and the value it brings to your life. The income of course, but also the self-esteem, the clear path forward, the promising future. We need more people with jobs like that. A lot more. And the 2 billion dollar infrastructure fund will give Canadian colleges the opportunity to provide them.

For example, at Olds College we will put funds to work expanding our evolutionary GREENhouse project, the most environmentally sustainable greenhouse in Canada. Power and heat will be produced by a 10 MW natural-gas generator that captures CO2 and reuses it within the greenhouse to boost crop growth by up to 15%. In short, we can produce more food using fewer resources and saving over 36,000 tonnes of GHG emissions per year compared to the average greenhouse in Alberta.

The story will be the same for every single college, for they will be able to bring more students into the vital programs that build a strong future for Canadians. So let’s invest in our colleges and institutes, and let’s grow Canada.

H.J. (Tom) Thompson
President, Olds College

Denise Amyot
President and CEO
Colleges and Institutes Canada