Laurentian University's dream of Barrie campus not in cards, minister says

Despite any plans Laurentian University has to keep lobbying, the minister responsible for Ontario's universities says there are no plans to build a new campus in Barrie.

'We are not going to build a university campus in Barrie,' minister says

Sudbury's Laurentian University has long hoped to build a new campus three hours south in Barrie.

Despite any plans Laurentian University has to keep lobbying, the Minister responsible for Ontario's universities says there are no plans to build a new campus in Barrie.

Laurentian had high hopes that its plan to expand by building a stand alone university campus in Barrie, three hours south of Sudbury, would be selected when the government requested pitches for potential new campus sites.

Instead, the province announced Wednesday it has selected a plan by York University, in partnership with Seneca College, to build a new campus in Markham, just north of Toronto.

Reza Moridi, the minister of training, colleges and universities, says the province does not plan to put a new university campus in Barrie. (Anthony Reinhart/Communitech)

Following the decision, Laurentian University President Dominic Giroux questioned the decision to build another university campus so close to Toronto, which is already home to nearly a dozen campuses.

Markham is also only about 20 km from an existing York campus, Giroux added.

"That is the equivalent of Laurentian University opening a campus in Val Caron," Giroux said.

But on CBC Radio's Morning North with host Markus Schwabe, the minister responsible for universities said the decision to put the new campus in Markham was made by a panel of deputy minister tasked with evaluating the pitches universities put forward.

Bad news for Laurentian University who's been lobbying hard to open a campus in Barrie. The Minister of Training Colleges and Universities Reza Moridi was our guest this morning. He says there are no plans to establish a university campus in Barrie.

Their decision was based on criteria that included the future demand for post-secondary access in the area, the affordability of the plan for the government and students, as well as economic and academic considerations, Minister Reza Moridi said.

"One of the critera was meeting the demand, and the demand is there. [In Barrie] there is no expectation that the demand will be there in the future," he said.

"We are not going to build a university campus in Barrie. That wasn't included in the recommendations of the independent review panel."

Laurentian University president Dominic Giroux questions the government's decision to put another university campus so close to Toronto. (Roger Corriveau/CBC)

Laurentian was holding out some hope that there would be other new university campuses chosen as part of the process. During the provincial election in 2011, the Liberal government indicated it planned to add three new campuses in Ontario, Giroux said.

"The government committed to three campuses. It has not fulfilled its commitment. The focus was on underserved communities and in my view the one campus approved so far is not an underserved community," Giroux said.

Minister Moridi said Laurentian University officials will get a chance to meet with ministry staff to get a better explanation of the decision on the Barrie campus proposal.

Laurentian already offers degrees in Barrie through a partnership with Georgian College, but the Sudbury university wanted to build a separate campus in that city's downtown.

Barrie city council has already committed $14 million to Laurentian, should the campus go ahead.