The provincial government has announced that it is permanently doubling the number of seats it subsidizes at the University of Saskatchewan’s Western College of Veterinary Medicine (WCVM) through a multi-million dollar investment.

The investment, which is a part of the province’s ‘StrongerBC Future Ready’ plan to increase postsecondary education and skills training opportunities, will double the seats at the Saskatchewan college’s veterinary program from 20 to 40. The province said the initial investment of $21.8 million is a part of multiple initiatives to address B.C.’s need for more veterinarians.

“Veterinarians play a critical role in supporting the agricultural sector, people, and the health and welfare of animals across B.C.,” said Selina Robinson, Minister of Post-Secondary Education and Future Skills. 

“Last year, we doubled the number of B.C. students funded to study veterinary medicine and today we are committing to continue this funding so more people receive quality training, and our pets and farm animals can get the health care they need.”

 B.C. recently added veterinarians and registered veterinary technologists to the list of priority occupations under its Provincial Nominee Program (PNP), which recruits foreign workers who look to establish permanent residency in Canada. It has also been a part of an agreement with Manitoba and Saskatchewan that subsidizes seats at WCVM for a number of years, helping to ensure that Western Canada has a steady supply of veterinarians with both animal health and public health knowledge. Approximately 88 people begin the school’s four-year doctor of veterinary medicine program per year.

Diploma programs at Douglas College and Thompson Rivers University in B.C. give opportunities for students to become registered veterinary technologists without leaving the province. With these programs, along with the new investment into WCVM, the province said it is taking steps towards closing the gap left in B.C.’s animal healthcare system. Officials with uSask said that the investment addresses not only B.C. shortages, but those across Western Canada.

“The Government of B.C.’s decision to maintain increased funding of the WCVM is a critical step toward addressing the shortage of veterinary professionals in B.C. and across Western Canada,” said Dr. Gillian Muir, dean of the Western College of Veterinary Medicine. 

“This commitment also allows B.C. and the WCVM to work together to target priorities for British Columbians, including training more veterinarians who want to practise in rural communities and attracting more Indigenous students to the profession.”

The B.C. Cattlemen’s Association also applauded the funding, describing it as a ‘critical first step’ in addressing animal care issues in the province.