Plans to build a childcare centre at Grenfell Campus in Corner Brook have been axed by the provincial government, as its faculty association says the Liberals have clawed back the $1.2 million previously allocated to build it.
"We were quite shocked, to be honest. Because we thought this money was put aside, and we thought it would be protected, essentially," said the association's Sonya Corbin Dwyer, who teaches psychology at Grenfell.
"We never dreamt that this was something that could happen."
Corbin Dwyer said building the centre was agreed on during the last round of collective bargaining between the university and its union in 2014, and an architecture firm had completed a study for where it should be built on campus.
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She said the province was asked to green light the centre last June, but stalled, despite Memorial University committing the funds to build it.
In the latest budget, the province took that money away from university coffers, Corbin Dwyer said, under the pretext it wasn't being used.
"But that wasn't anybody's fault except government, because we were waiting for the approval," she told CBC Radio's Corner Brook Morning Show.
'An equity issue'
Memorial University in St. John's has had an on campus childcare centre for years, and Corbin Dwyer said it was "an equity issue" to have similar access in Corner Brook.
"We think that that's a really important benefit that we have for our members," she said, adding the Grenfell Campus centre was designed for faculty, staff and student use.
"Faculty when they come, new faculty, they ask what are the options here in Corner Brook for childcare? There's wait lists at many, probably all childcare centres, so that's why we feel we need one."
Corbin Dwyer said it's also become an issue for students, who have trouble finding a licensed daycare in the city, a requirement in order to access childcare funding.
Centre by next summer?
Administration at Grenfell Campus declined an interview with CBC on the centre, but Corbin Dwyer said the university is committed to some sort of facility.
We never dreamt that this was something that could happen. - Sonya Corbin Dwyer
"The ball really is in their court to find funding to go ahead with a child care centre, because this is a commitment that they have made to the faculty association," she said.
The centre had originally been scheduled to open in December 2015, but now Corbin Dwyer said the date has been pushed to June 2017.
"All we can do is continue with this to try to push the issue forward. So right now we're sort of exploring other options: is there other space that can now be renovated, instead of a new build?"