Province Says “It’s Not Time Yet” for Barrie

Dear members of the University community / Boozhoo / Aanii / Kwe kwe,

Last night, Barrie Mayor Jeff Lehman, Laurentian Board Chair Michael Atkins, Board Vice Chair Jennifer Witty, colleagues and I had a conference call with the Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities (TCU), the Hon. Reza Moridi. During this conversation initiated by the Minister, we were informed under embargo that Laurentian’s proposal for a stand-alone campus in Barrie, as part of the Major Capacity Expansion (MCE) process, will not be approved for funding at this time.

The University was seeking $45 million from the Province after it balances the provincial budget in 2017-2018. The City and the University had pledged $14 million and $25 million respectively.

This morning, the government announced the approval of a new campus of York University in Markham. None of the 12 other proposals short-listed by TCU in November were approved. In addition, the province also has advised that there would be a secondary process to plan a future Halton or Peel university campus. Details of this have not been shared, but this development is also extremely disappointing.

So what does today’s announcement mean?

We are continuing business as usual for our students, faculty and staff in Barrie. Laurentian has been delivering programs in Barrie since 2001, and plans to continue to do so. This mandate and associated institutional metrics are part of the Strategic Mandate Agreement mutually agreed to by the University and TCU last year. We will engage in the coming months with TCU, the City of Barrie, industry and community partners, the university community and Georgian College to determine how to continue to best serve community and student needs.

Barrie remains the largest census metropolitan area in Canada without a university campus and its participation rate in university studies is well below the provincial average. Laurentian remains committed to wanting to address that gap. Together, we will continue to work towards what’s best for our students, the communities we serve and Laurentian University.

This is obviously a major disappointment for the University, as we had been advocating for this proposal since the Spring 2010 at the request of students, faculty, staff, alumni, City Councillors, City staff, community and industry leaders. This initiative was included in Laurentian’s 10-year capital plan which all Ontario colleges and universities had to submit to the Province in June 2010.

We have left no stone unturned since then to advocate for a Barrie campus, which constituted one of the 40 desired outcomes identified in our 2012-2017 Strategic Plan. Government had repeatedly told us since 2010 that our proposal was very compelling, and that saying no to Laurentian in Barrie was not an option.

In the 2011 election, the Ontario Liberal Party committed to build three new undergraduate campuses to help more students get a great education close to home. Currently, 88% of university registrants from Simcoe County leave the region to pursue their studies. The MCE process was launched to increase postsecondary education capacity where student demand is strong but at the same time, where access to post-secondary education is limited. We are disappointed that the provincial government did not support at this time a stand-alone university campus in Barrie, a City expected to grow by 35% by 2041.

We benefited from exceptional support from Mayor Lehman, who went out of his way to exclusively champion our proposal with Cabinet ministers, industry leaders and the Premier’s Office. His December 2014 inaugural address was another reminder of his passion for this transformative initiative. The unanimous support from City Councillors was always a source of pride. City staff provided proactive support throughout this journey.

Exciting plans were developed with partners such as IBM, KINSA, Cogeco, Cisco and the Ontario Police College, among others. We will continue to build on this work to enhance our programming in Barrie and in Sudbury.

Our students, faculty and staff in Barrie showed much patience. Student leaders always provided positive leadership.

Over 70 community and industry leaders took the time to sign letters of support in the past year, including Mayor Lehman, former Mayors Janice Laking and Rob Hamilton, former MP Patrick Brown and former MPP Rod Jackson.

I want to acknowledge all these supporters and partners for their exceptional contribution. I also want to thank all colleagues, students and Governors who worked tirelessly towards this important effort over the past five years.

The government’s announcement does not have a financial impact on the University for 2015-2016, although expenditures which had been capitalized for the Barrie campus project will trigger a loss of approximately $2 million to be included in our 2014-2015 financial statements. We will recommend to the Board of Governors next month a balanced budget for 2015-2016 and a balanced six-year forecast, with increased investments in research, graduate studies, technology and capital renewal. This is consistent with the advice received from the university community during budget consultations held in April and will help accelerate the implementation of the University’s 2012-2017 Strategic Plan, 2012-2017 Strategic Research Plan, 2015-2018 Academic Plan, Graduate Expansion Plan and Flexible Learning Strategy.

I look forward to seeing many of you today and tomorrow at our all-employee symposium for Sudbury and Barrie faculty and staff, Connections 2015!

If you have any questions regarding Laurentian in Barrie, please contact Craig Fowler, Associate Vice-President, Administration and External Relations at 705-794-6803 or

As always, I welcome comments on the blog or any other matter: you can reach me at, or you can join the 9,200 people who follow me on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn. For more information about our Barrie MCE proposal, please visit

Merci, Thank You, Miigwech.

Canada’s Happiest City – and Canada’s Soaring University!

Dear members of the University community / Boozhoo / Aanii / Kwe kwe,

Since my last blog post, “Setting the Bar High,” I am pleased to see that Greater Sudbury is ranked as the happiest city in Canada according to a recent Statistics Canada study. We have the highest proportion of citizens rating a 9 or 10 out of 10 on life satisfaction out of Canada’s 33 census metropolitan areas (CMAs).

For those of us who live in Greater Sudbury, this is not really surprising.  Greater Sudbury is a city with an extraordinary quality of life.  But even if we all knew this, it is nice to see that now people across Canada are in on the secret!

As for Barrie, it ranks 30th out of Canada’s 33 CMAs. As our Associate Vice-President, Craig Fowler, pointed out on social media, our proposed campus in Barrie – once approved by government – should definitely improve the life satisfaction of Barrie’s residents!

I am also “happy” to report that Laurentian University has achieved top rank in several areas recently. Before I begin the long list of recent accomplishments, there are a few updates to provide.

Budget Consultations
Seventeen budget consultations have taken place in Sudbury and Barrie from April 7th to April 30th . I want to thank the hundreds of colleagues and student leaders who took part in this important annual exercise. These consultations are an excellent opportunity for colleagues from the Executive Team and I to reflect on the past few years, share revenue and expenditure assumptions for the next six years, offer perspectives on how we are proposing to resource the University’s strategic directions and share data on University operations. More importantly, it allows participants to question the assumptions and the information presented, and to offer their advice as to areas where the University needs to increase investments. The recommended 2015-2016 Budget and updated multi-year plan will be presented to Senate on June 16th and to the Board of Governors on June 19th.

Celebrating the Faculty of Arts
Congratulations to Dean Dawes and the Faculty of Arts on their successful event “Celebrating the Arts” which featured 690 books written or edited by Laurentian University faculty members, poetry readings by various faculty members as well as musical performances by members of our Department of Music. At last count, the Faculty of Arts had produced 1026 books.

Connections 2015 All Employee Symposium
As you know, Connections 2015, the All-Employee Symposium is being held in the Fraser Auditorium May 20 and 21. All faculty and staff from both our Sudbury and Barrie locations are encouraged to participate.  Please not that registration is required for all sessions, keynote presentations, activities, lunches, as well as opening and closing segments.

This is an excellent opportunity to come together over the course of two days for a series of networking opportunities, professional development sessions and light-hearted entertainment and activities. I’m looking forward to seeing everyone there.

Department Tours
On May 14th I will conclude my tour of 35 academic departments and schools initiated 12 months ago.  I am happy to have learned first-hand about the successes, aspirations and challenges of colleagues.  On May 4th I began my tour of administrative departments starting with Athletics and Campus Recreation, with 12 more sessions already scheduled by mid-June.

Have Your Say Employee Engagement Survey
The 2015 Have Your Say survey is here.  As a valued Laurentian employee, what you have to say really matters. This is the time to reflect on where we are as an organization, identify what you think is going well and areas that we can improve upon in order to achieve organizational excellence together.  The survey began on May 4th and will close on May 22nd.  This will be the third biennial survey since the launch of the Have Your Say survey in 2011. Results from the last survey in 2013 survey showed an increase across all 20 key indicators of employee engagement.

While achieving organizational excellence is a long-term process, we have seen many positive changes come from the feedback received including:

  • Soapboxes were established in order to share information and accomplishments with colleagues, giving us the opportunity to connect with people across many departments in a social setting;
  • We now have a calendar of events and activities available through LUNET and which we did not have previously;
  • The number of annual budget consultation sessions has been increased, with more sessions dedicated to all staff;
  • The Administrative Leadership Group has been expanded to include more front-line managers. The University’s broader Leadership Group now includes administration, academic department chairs and school directors to give participants a broader perspective;
  • Professional development and training has been a greater priority:
    • The equivalent of 1% of staff salaries is now set aside annually for professional development and training;
    • Workshops and training sessions, coordinated through Human Resources and Organizational Development, have been added for faculty and staff;
    • This year alone, 261 live sessions were held and 17 online for a total of 11,752 hours of training!
  • “Rendez-Vous” has become an anticipated annual event to recognize long-term service and honour retirees;
  • On May 20th and 21st we will be holding a Laurentian All Employee Symposium;
  • Upgrades to physical space through the Sudbury Campus Modernization continue for improved an improved teaching environment;
  • A number of term staff positions have been converted to permanent positions;
  • More faculty and staff positions have been added in Barrie to better meet student needs;
  • New offices have been secured for faculty and staff in Barrie.

I think you can see from the examples above, it’s worth Having Your Say!  An email will be sent to you on May 4th from Metrics@Work with a link to a confidential anonymous survey. Please take a few minutes to complete the survey.  Your input directly shapes our environment and helps identify areas of focus.

Laurentian #1
For the fourth consecutive year, Laurentian graduates have attained the highest post-graduation employment rates in Ontario at 92.6% after 6 months.  Laurentian has over 52,000 alumni and we look forward to adding another 2,100 following convocation ceremonies this spring, kicking off in Barrie on May 27th.

After the Junior Design team won the Ontario Engineering Competition (OEC) in February and the Senior Design team came in second, both teams qualified to represent Ontario at the 2015 Canadian Engineering Competition (CEC).  These amazing teams from the Bharti School of Engineering won in Newfoundland on March 5-8th. This is the first time that Junior and Senior Design teams both win at the national level!

The Vale Living With Lakes Centre (VLWLC) has been honoured with two prestigious awards from the Ontario Association of Architects.  The Centre has been selected for both the OAA Design Excellence Award for 2015, as well as the OAA’s Sustainable Design Excellence Award for 2015. This innovative building is ranked as one of Canada’s greenest buildings.

On April 8th, The Prix Champlain 2015 awards ceremony was held at the Salon international du livre de Québec. Dr. Thierry Bissonnette, Associate Professor in the Department of French Studies, received the renowned award in the creative/fiction category under his pen name – Thierry Dimanche – for his book entitled Le milieu de partout, published by Prise de parole.

Congratulations to Dr. François Caron, Full Professor in the School of Environment, who was honoured with the Teaching Excellence Award for 2015.  The annual award recognizes exceptional teaching performance and nominations must be supported by students, peers, alumni and other members of the university community.

Congratulations to Voyageurs wrestler, Regina Martinez, who is on her way to Havana, Cuba in early May to represent Canada at the Pan-Am Junior Championships.  Martinez will be trading in the blue and gold for the red and white, wrestling in the 44kg weight class from May 6-8th.

A big round of applause goes out to rower Emily Jago and hockey player Vincent Llorca, Laurentian University’s Female and Male Athletes of the Year.  I would like to also acknowledge recipients of the newly created Male and Female Rookie of the Year recognition awarded to swimmers Matthew Schouten and Riley Konrad.  Drew Bursey and Jillian Mayhew were each recognized with the Investors Group Community Service Award for their outstanding volunteer work in the community.  Please take a minute to read more about these incredible Voyageurs by clicking here. Thank you to all our Voyageur athletes who trained hard this year to represent Laurentian University.

In closing, I would like to remind everyone that an Open House is scheduled for May 12th at 1pm in the Lower Fraser Auditorium for a Sudbury Campus Modernization update.  Soapbox will take place following the presentation at 3pm.

As always, I welcome comments on the blog or any other matter: you can reach me at, or you can join the 9,000 people who follow me on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn.

Merci, Thank You, Miigwech.