A few weeks ago, the province of Ontario announced that two cities–Brampton and Milton–will be the lucky recipients of brand new post-secondary spaces and although the news is exciting, Brampton is concerned about making the necessary preparations.
“We got exciting news that we’re getting a university and we have a university panel that has been working hard with one mandate that, in my view, is now a little bit disconnected from the announcement,” Coun. Elaine Moore said at a recent meeting. “As a councillor, I’m not clear on the work the university panel has been doing. What is their mandate and what should it be moving forward given the announcement that was made last week?”
On Oct. 26, the province announced it’s allotting up to $180 million for the creation of two new academic sites in Brampton and Milton–two of the fastest growing communities in Ontario–as part of its plan to create academic sites focused on science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics.
While the news isn’t exactly coming as a huge surprise (Brampton has been in the running for a new academic institution for some time), council was caught off guard. Initially, it appeared that Brampton and Milton would have to duke it out for one institution.
That’s no longer the case.
In light of the news that an academic institution is coming, councillors are wondering a few key things:
- What university will erect a campus in their neck of the woods?
- Where will the institution be located?
- How much funding will the city be responsible for?
- How will the $180 million be split?
As far as the first question goes, the government will put out a call for proposals in January 2017 and Ontario universities will respond in turn.
As for where the institution will be located, some councillors aren’t sure if there’s a process in place to determine an ideal site.
“The most critical point is to identify the site that can be made available and I don’t know what process will make that happen,” said Coun. John Sprovieri. “Whether it’s premature and we have to wait until a partner comes along and see what they require. Or is there a work plan already in place through the taskforce that’ll bring a recommendation to council?”
In terms of funding, councillors are scrambling to understand what financial responsibilities they’ll be tasked with. Some are also concerned that the $180 million will be split 50/50.
“We have ahead of us some intense conversations with potential university partners and the announcement of $180 million on the table for two universities sounds like a lot of money,” says Coun. Moore. “Folks in the community are speculating that that means $90 mil for us and $90 mil for Milton. That’s not good enough for me. Given our population, our needs outrank those of a much smaller municipality. We need someone at the table to ensure we get the lion’s share of that $180 million and it’s not a 50/50 split.”
Jaipaul Massey-Singh, vice-chair of the university panel, also said he was surprised by the announcement and that the panel is regrouping to address the new reality.
“I suppose at this point, we can share that the concerns raised are [regarding] relevant issues and were discussed at the university panel conversation. We recognize that circumstances have changed after the announcement of the province. There’s a reexamination of the responsibilities the city will have to take on are part of the discussion. We have faith that issues will be addressed in an appropriate way.”
Mayor Linda Jeffrey added that the panel doesn’t have enough information to come back to council with recommendations on how to proceed. That said, she reassured council that they’re unlikely to have to split funding equally with Milton.
“I don’t think we’ll get the same funding as Milton. It needs to be 60/40 or 70/30 split. I plan to drive a hard bargain.”