Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo and Conestoga College in Kitchener have received provincial approval for a new campus in Milton, Ont.
The move comes after the province cancelled plans to build a campus in 2018, which at the time came as a surprise to university and college administrators, as well as the mayor of Milton.
The idea for the campus was first proposed in spring 2018 and approved by the previous Liberal government. In the fall of 2018, the newly elected Progressive Conservative government said it faced a $15-billion deficit, so “the ministry is no longer in the position” to fund the Laurier-Conestoga campus, as well as two other satellite campuses.
On Thursday, the government announced its approval of the campus, which will offer programs in science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics (STEAM).
In making the announcement, Premier Doug Ford said it was “vital” to proceed with the campus to help students learn in “high-demand fields” and areas “aligned with the hiring needs of this region.”
Ford added the announcement was thanks to his government’s use of MZOs, or ministerial zoning orders. Some MZOs have been controversial in the province, including one in Cambridge for a warehouse and one in Pickering for an Amazon warehouse.
“I keep talking about these MZOs — here’s another great example … to accelerate planning and development,” Ford said. “We use this important tool in close consultation with the municipalities to get on with building critical projects just like this one.”
In a release, Minister of Colleges and Universities Ross Romano said the province “is committed to growing our province’s post-secondary education sector in a fiscally responsible way.”
However, Kitchener Centre MPP Laura Mae Lindo, also the NDP critic for colleges and universities, said that in 2018, Ford “didn’t want to spend the money on students.”
“He still doesn’t,” she said in a release. “Thursday’s announcement doesn’t come with a penny for getting this campus built. An entire generation of students from the Milton area have been denied a chance to continue their education close to home, thanks to Doug Ford’s cuts and years of delays.”
Open in 2024
Milton Mayor Gord Krantz said the announcement shows the town is “a place of possibilities.”The campus will go on a 41-hectare plot of land, which includes a mix of developable land an undeveloped Greenbelt land, that was donated to the university by the town.
Deborah MacLatchy, Laurier’s president and vice-chancellor, said the school was “extremely excited” by the news.
“We’re really grateful that the Ontario government has seen its way to support our campus in Milton,” MacLatchy told CBC Kitchener-Waterloo.
MacLatchy said the province will provide grant money for the campus pegged to the number of students enrolled. The first class will number “in the hundreds” but will grow over time, she said.
The campus is expected to open in 2024 and to scale up to serve 2,500 students by 2034.