The B.C. government is doubling the number of subsidized training places at a Saskatchewan veterinarian college to help reduce the shortage of veterinarians in the province.
B.C.’s 20 subsidized seats at the Western College of Veterinary Medicine in Saskatoon are being increased to 40 seats, with $10.68 million dedicated in the current budget, Advanced Education Minister Anne Kang announced Monday.
Agriculture Minister Lana Popham said the 40 seats is the maximum number of subsidized spaces the college will allow for B.C., with the next group of students beginning their studies in August. Kang said international recruitment efforts are also continuing.
The new support includes $1.2 million to the college, allowing it to waive $55,000 in tuition fees for each of the 24 B.C. students that were previously admitted to the program without the provincial subsidy.
In late February, B.C. Liberal agriculture critic Ian Paton told the legislature about a petition started by an Oliver resident whose daughter is attending Western College of Veterinary Medicine. Those who don’t qualify for one of 20 subsidized seats are paying $68,000 a year to study there, and the government is relying on recruitment from outside Canada as the ministry predicts need for 500 veterinarians by 2024, Paton said.
“The veterinarian shortage is actually a global challenge, and other countries do not want to lose their vets,” he said.
The Canadian Veterinary Medical Association has been working on the shortage since a workforce research study in 2020. This year it called on the federal government to change immigration requirements for foreign veterinarians and veterinary technicians to help clinics find staff.