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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
As always, I welcome comments on the blog or any other matter: you can reach me at email@example.com, 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 www.itstimebarrie.ca.
Merci, Thank You, Miigwech.