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 January 7, 2000 Volume 7, Number 8


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Commerce students test real-world skills in budget contest

Saskatchewan Finance Minister Eric Cline heard budget ideas from some of the province’s best student financial minds when 220 Commerce undergraduate students converged on the Park Town Hotel Dec. 3 to compete for their four alternative provincial budgets.

The Commerce 303 (Government Policy) students – complete with rival "premiers" and "finance ministers" presented their budgets to about 100 invited guests form the Saskatoon business, health, education, social services and other sectors.

Commerce Profs. John Brennan and Jack Vicq chaired the event as "Speakers of the House".

As part of their class’ ‘real-world’ approach to learning this past fall, the students heard from guest speakers, conducted research, and divided into seven government ‘departments’ for closer study – including the Premier’s Office, Finance, Agriculture, Education, Social Services, Economic Development, and Health.

Then, at the end of their semester, the students formed into four groups, each preparing a budget for presentation at the Dec. 3 event. Two budgets were presented in each of two parallel budget competitions, and students then spent an hour actively lobbying their guest "voters" for passage of their budget. A winner was decided in each competition, by secret ballot.

Brennan said this approach to the Commerce class gives students an exciting opportunity to merge theory and practice, developing a greater sense of relevance and reality in their learning.

He said that, during the course, the students go from knowing very little about the workings of government, to gaining a thorough understanding of existing government programs.

"They critique these programs and then develop their own economic and social programs," Brennan said.

The students see the processes that guide the development of government policy, and hone their research, teamwork, communication, and public speaking skills, he added.

Brennan and Vicq, who is Chair of the Saskatchewan Tax Review Commission, team-teach the class – and lectures, textbooks and assigned readings are replaced by guest speakers and a list of suggested readings and Internet websites.

Guest speakers bring first-hand experience and a real-world perspective to the class. This year’s guest speakers included Saskatchewan Finance Dept. Assistant Deputy Minister Kirk McGregor, Prof. Larry Haiven, who leads an Alternative Budget of Choice, Fred Smith of Matrix Financial, Scotiabank Director of Aboriginal Programs Angela Bellegard, and Saskatoon and District Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Kent Smith-Windsor.

Commerce 303 students lobby their guests at the alternative provincial budget event Dec. 3, vying for votes for the best alternative budget.

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