Ontario Government Broke Promise To Fund Post Secondary Campuses: NDP

Critics accused the Ontario government on Tuesday of breaking its promises by cancelling funding for three Toronto-area post-secondary campuses, noting some Progressive Conservatives previously expressed support for the projects.

The Opposition New Democrats said Progressive Conservative legislators have praised the projects in Markham, Milton and Brampton, and at least one vowed to champion them if elected this spring.

Designed by Diamond Schmitt Architects, the new Markham Campus for York University is one of several campuses to lose funding. Image via York University.
Designed by Diamond Schmitt Architects, the new Markham Campus for York University is one of several campuses to lose funding. Image via York University.

A local news report shows Tory legislator Parm Gill said in April that a Progressive Conservative government would do everything it could to make the campus in Milton, Ont., a reality.

Another Tory legislator, Billy Pang, said in the legislature this summer that the planned Markham campus would benefit residents in the area.

“PC candidates spent the last campaign promising that these campuses would go ahead,” NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said in the legislature. “Why did the government break their word to the parents and students in these communities who were promised a university?”

“Quite frankly, I reject the premise of the question,” replied Merrilee Fullerton, the minister of training, colleges and universities. “The Liberals shattered the trust of Ontarians. Our focus is on restoring trust and accountability in Ontario’s finances, and that is what we will do.”

The province announced the move Monday, saying it is not in a position to fund the campuses because of its $15 billion deficit. The previous Liberal government had pledged to spend more than $300 million on the projects.

York University and Seneca College are partners in the project in Markham, Wilfrid Laurier University and Conestoga College formed a partnership in Milton, and the Brampton campus is a partnership between Ryerson University and Sheridan College.

Linda Franklin, president and CEO of Colleges Ontario, said the organization understands the province faces serious fiscal challenges.

“The minister has said the government is open to discussions about the projects that don’t involve provincial funding. We will follow up with the minister to learn more,” she said in a statement.

The Ontario chapter of the Canadian Federation of Students, meanwhile, said cancelling the campuses would hurt students in those communities.

“These new campuses would have made it easier for students in Markham, Milton and Brampton to attend college or university in their communities by reducing the costs of housing and transportation,” said the group’s chairperson, Nour Alideeb.

“Ontario already has the highest tuition fees in the country, particularly in this part of the province. These new campuses were an investment in our future and in our communities — it’s disappointing that this government can’t see that.”

Former Progressive Conservative leader Patrick Brown, now mayor-elect of Brampton, called the government’s decision “very disappointing” and urged legislators representing Markham, Milton and Brampton to stand up for their communities.

“The previously funded satellite campus was the bare minimum the province could do to provide help and opportunities to young people in Brampton. Cancelling the bare minimum investment into post-secondary education is very disappointing,” he said in a statement.

“I believe Brampton deserves a full university, not just a small satellite campus. This is a step backwards towards what the City of Brampton deserves.”