Dear Party Leaders:
With the federal election campaign now officially underway, our country’s future prosperity is top of mind for me as it is for millions of Canadians. In a rapidly changing world and in the face of global and national crises, Canadians look to you for the leadership and policies that help deliver a strong, sustainable and inclusive economy and society.
As president of the University of British Columbia, I am particularly focused on the critical role the federal government plays in enabling Canada’s research universities to deliver on our important mandates. At UBC, we pursue excellence in research, learning and engagement to foster global citizenship and advance a sustainable and just society. This pursuit of excellence has and will have a profound and lasting impact on the lives of Canadians.
UBC endeavours to deliver on our vision by empowering students at all stages of life with the skills they need to succeed; by enabling UBC students and faculty to push the boundaries of knowledge; by supporting efforts to translate research into new and better technologies and methodologies to benefit Canadians; and by meaningfully engaging with communities in BC and across the country to learn from and with them. From the quantum materials revolution to new treatments for chronic diseases, from zero-emissions infrastructure to agricultural innovation and food security, our institution and our community are addressing some of Canada’s greatest challenges and contributing to nearly every area of the economy, public discourse and policy-making. And, at UBC, we are particularly dedicated to ensuring our research and teaching mission advances reconciliation with Indigenous peoples. I trust you and your colleagues recognize these contributions as you further develop and share your vision for the country.
More than ever, Canada’s prosperity relies on its highly skilled, innovative and adaptive people. UBC is committed to enriching the student experience by further building on our extensive work-integrated, experiential and technology-enabled learning as well as a focus on outcomes and competencies. We recognize that to unlock our collective potential and build a more inclusive society, we need to address the social and financial barriers confronting many who seek post-secondary education. UBC has implemented a financial aid policy that states no eligible student will be prevented from studying at the university for financial reasons alone, and the federal government offers and has made many improvements to student loan and grant programs. But there is more to do to make higher education more accessible for students from all backgrounds. I encourage you to engage with post-secondary institutions and students to work together to continue to remove barriers to higher education.
University research, both fundamental and applied, is an important engine of our economy and source of Canadian innovation. Research in Canada contributes to advancements in a wide range of fields, but also to our collective wisdom and understanding of ourselves and the world around us. As the 2017 Fundamental Science Review makes clear, there is much to do to strengthen Canada’s research ecosystem. This landmark study was widely supported by Canada’s research community, and its recommendations will remain relevant for years to come. Canadians understand the benefits that research brings, and they support greater government investment in research. I encourage you to adopt the remaining recommendations of the Fundamental Science Review and commit to further propelling Canada as a global leader in research and innovation.
All facets of UBC’s mission—teaching and research excellence, deep community engagement, global citizenship—benefit from greater connection to the people and communities around us. While UBC’s Vancouver campus is a bustling academic, economic and employment hub (the third largest employment hub in BC), access from the wider region is frustrated by traffic congestion. As such, many of our 55,000 students and 15,000 faculty and staff endure long commutes as they travel from neighbouring municipalities across Metro Vancouver. This poor connection also greatly hinders our ability to make new partnerships with communities, industry and governments. Congestion will only get worse as the region continues to grow, with a million more people expected by 2040, including significant growth at the UBC campus in both family housing and student residents.
UBC has been working closely with local, regional and Indigenous partners to realize a proposed extension of the Broadway Subway beyond the currently planned terminus at Arbutus Street to the UBC Vancouver campus. Not only would such an extension alleviate traffic congestion, it would better connect the surrounding communities to UBC, foster stronger linkages within the local innovation ecosystem, further encourage uptake of a more sustainable form of transportation, and improve housing affordability in the region by opening up housing options along the line. It is my sincere hope that this project is understood and supported as one of regional, provincial and national importance and I look forward to working with the government to advance this important transit connection.
In the great tradition of universities, UBC embraces its responsibilities as a public institution. We work to foster discourse within and beyond our community on the important questions of our time, to promote the power of ideas and knowledge and the importance of civic engagement, and to stand up for the values of a free and democratic society. We take seriously our national and local responsibilities, such as our commitments to reconciliation and inclusion. UBC strives to lead by example in addressing global challenges such as climate change—UBC has achieved a 34 per cent reduction in GHG emissions from a 2007 baseline, and our campuses serve as living labs for sustainability research and teaching, equipping learners to become responsible global citizens and agents for change.
Like so many Canadians, I am proud of our universities and what they have accomplished for Canada, and I’m particularly proud of the role UBC and the UBC community play in BC and Canada’s prosperity. I hope that you will keep in mind the critical role our institutions play in Canadian society, only some of which I have touched upon in this letter, and work with us to build on these strong foundations.
Santa J. Ono
President and Vice-Chancellor