Last night in a major announcement, the Ford government announced they would be cancelling funding for three new university campuses in the GTA. The $252-million project was previously approved by the Liberal Wynne government back in 2015.
Minister of Training, Colleges, and Universities, Merrilee Fullerton explained the decision, saying the government is no longer in a position to fund the campuses. Therefore, the plans for the York University/Seneca College campus in Markham, the Wilfred Laurier University/Conestoga College in Milton and the Ryerson University/Sheridan College campus in Brampton have all been scrapped.
While the decision is set to save the government $308 million in funding, it has many repercussions for the people of Ontario.
The campuses, which were set to open in 2021 and 2022, were going to serve a total of 8,000 students. Future postsecondary prospects who were hopeful on attending college and university in Ontario just gotten that taken away from them.
Along with postsecondary education, future jobs have also been ripped away from the Ontario people.
In 2013, when proposals for the project were in the works, the government cited one of their priorities as creating jobs. Now that the campuses have been scrapped, so have thousands of construction jobs and faculty jobs among the others it takes to build and run school campuses.
Our economy also won't benefit from this decision. In a Conference Board of Canada report, it was stated that for every dollar spent on postsecondary education, $1.36 is created for the economy. They also found that mid-sized postsecondary campuses, as these three were meant to be, generate around $2.5 billion to the economy each. That's $7.5 billion the economy is missing out on.
On top of all that, money invested as well as hard work and resources have been totally put to waste. Parts of the project were already well underway when everyone received the news last night.
In a joint statement by officials at York and Seneca, it was revealed that extensive work had begun since being promised $127-million from the Liberals. They've been developing campus programs, partnerships, and building designs. The design and development phase has already been completed and construction was set to begin later this fall.
NDP leader, Andrea Horwath has called the decision "callous". “Scrapping these campuses now is shameful and will undercut the futures of thousands of students. It is not only a waste of the time and money already invested, but a waste of the valuable opportunity we have to expand Ontario’s capacity for research, innovation and excellence in a number of fields,” she said in a statement Tuesday.
While the government won't be funding these campuses, officials at both York/Seneca and Wilfred Laurier/Conestoga say they are going to continue exploring all options they have to keep postsecondary education growing in the GTA.