Laurier, Conestoga opening new campuses in Milton, Ont.
KITCHENER -- Wilfrid Laurier University and Conestoga College are opening new campuses in Milton, Ont., as part of what's being called an "education village."
Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced the province’s plan to support the development of the new post-secondary campuses along with a long-term care facility on Thursday.
"This will create much needed accommodations for 6,700 students," Ford said at press conference.
Both Laurier and Conestoga have been trying to open a new campus outside of the region for some time.
"About a month or so ago, we knew we were through the final hurdles of government approval," said Laurier's president Deborah MacLatchy.
The development includes 103 acres donated by the City of Milton, which includes 33 acres of developable land to offer courses in science, technology, engineering, arts and math.
“(These are) all areas that align with the hiring needs of this region, which made it vital that we proceed with no delay,” Ford said.
About 70 acres of undevelopable greenbelt land will be utilized for hands-on learning in the field of planetary and sustainability studies.
The plan also includes a new long-term care home.
The Schlegel Villages long-term care home is scheduled to open in late 2023 and the government expects it to provide 192 new long-term care spaces in Milton.
"In this long-term care facility, what we're going to have, we're going to embed in there, training facilities that will train hundreds of PSWs, RPNs, nurses," said Conestoga College president John Tibbits.
The village will also include room for a potential hospice site, residential housing and an additional mix of commercial and retail uses.
According to Laurier president McLatchy, the province did promise "operating funding" grant money based on enrolment once the campus opens, but money to build the structures is coming from elsewhere.
She said the funding includes "public and private partnerships, fundraising and other activities that will allow us to build the infrastructure."
In 2018, the Liberal government approved $90 million to help build the new campus. When the Conservatives took over only a few months later, the funding was cancelled, citing a deficit.
"Given everything that's happened at Laurentian, there's been a ripple effect with the cuts and the lack of public funding going to our public post-secondary institutions," said Kitchener Centre MPP Laura Mae Lindo, the NDP critic for colleges and universities.
To fast-track the project, the Ford government will implement a Minister’s Zoning Order (MZO).
MZOs allow the government to fast-track land developments and immediately authorize development, regardless of local rules for land-use planning decisions.
The first building at the education village is expected to open in 2024.
"The hope was really always to keep Laurier as a thriving, multi-campus university," MacLatchy said.