Ford government halts expansion of 3 university satellite campuses in GTA

Premier Doug Ford's government is putting the brakes on the development of three satellite post-secondary campuses across the Greater Toronto Area due to funding restraints.

Ontario's $15B deficit has led to the cancellation of projects in Brampton, Markham and Milton

The provincial government has announced the cancellation of three satellite campuses across the Greater Toronto Area, a move post-secondary educators are calling 'unexpected' and 'deeply disappointing.' (Shutterstock)

Premier Doug Ford's government is putting the brakes on the development of three satellite post-secondary campuses across the Greater Toronto Area due to funding restraints.

The province isn't in a position to fund satellite projects in Brampton, Markham and Milton because of Ontario's $15-billion deficit, Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities Merrilee Fullerton said in a news release Tuesday. 

Ford has criticized his predecessor, Kathleen Wynne, for understating their deficits by billions and has attributed the gap to poor Liberal accounting practices. 

As a result, Finance Minister Vic Fidelli warned the province would have to make sacrifices as it grapples with the fiscal situation.

Projects scrapped in Brampton, Markham, Milton

The Liberals had pledged more than $300 million for the projects in 2014.

On Tuesday, Wynne tweeted the reversal of the Liberals' plan will "hurt young people and economic growth in the GTA."

The projects that have been scrapped are:

Rhonda Lenton, president and vice-chancellor of York University, and David Agnew, president of Seneca College, called the move "unexpected," noting their project in Markham had been in the works since 2015 and construction was slated to begin later this fall.  

"Given our combined view of the importance of this campus for the economic future of the Region and for the students who are seeking access to new higher education options close to home, we are committed to working with all involved to determine if there is a path forward," Lenton and Agnew said in a joint statement issued Tuesday evening.

"We thank all our partners for their commitment and contributions, and for their unwavering support to bring this project home for York Region."

Meanwhile, the city of Brampton expressed its disappointment on Twitter, vowing to "advocate for a solution to this issue."

It claimed Ryerson University and Sheridan College's joint satellite campus, slated for Brampton, offered residents "transformational benefits" and "economic opportunities."

Officials at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo echoed this sentiment, explaining that it appreciates the financial challenges the province faces but remains "deeply disappointed." 

"The site of Laurier's proposed Milton campus is strategically located mid-way along the Toronto-Waterloo Innovation Corridor, a perfect location for contributing to the tremendous economic potential associated with this partnership and which would benefit the entire province," the university said in a statement. 

Wilfrid Laurier University and Conestoga College said their joint satellite campus in Milton would be ready to start accepting students in September 2019. (CBC)

The Waterloo-based university has been working to build an extension of its campus in the neighbouring town of Milton for a decade. And this isn't the first road block its faced. 

In 2015, the province rejected a bid to build the campus. Then in April, the province pledged $90 million for the project.

Laurier anticipated the site would be ready to start accepting students in September 2019. 

"The university looks forward to continuing its work with the Town of Milton and area partners to explore all options for keeping the dream of post-secondary education alive in this vibrant community," the statement read. 

With files from The Canadian Press