By: Laura Steiner
When Deb Matthews was health minister she announced the Milton District Hospital expansion in 2011. The town had been fighting for it since 2009, and Matthews joked that Milton should change its name to persistence. The six years between announcement and opening serve as a demonstration that when Milton is determined to do something then well, it gets done sooner or later. The announcement of the University’s cancellation while disappointing is as Mayor Krantz says only a bump in the road.
The Town of Milton has been building toward the university for 10 years, beginning with a memorandum of understanding (MOU), and a land deal between them and a local developer. In 2016 Matthews, then the Minister of Training, Colleges, and Universities announced it was seeking expressions of interest to build a campus in Milton and Brampton. Wilfrid Laurier University (WLU) applied, and was successful. In January, the Town began its planning exercise with a public workshop. In April, $90 million in funding was announced in a high-profile pre-election event at the Milton Education Village. Last month, Council approved a conceptual land-use plan for the area.
The idea of a knowledge-based economy is part of the economic strategy. Milton is considered the geographic centre of the Waterloo innovation corridor, which has been granted a portion of $950 million in supercluster funding earlier this year by the federal government. The superclusters will bring 13, 500 well-paying jobs, and add $13.5 billion to the economy over the next 10 years. The Milton Education Village Innovation Centre houses more than 10 businesses in residence. They have partnered with Halton Region to offer Business startup and consulting services, and Haltech to offer similar services to tech startups. It’s probable a potential Laurier campus in Milton would play a starring role in the corridor.
There is some sense in the government’s reasoning. The Progressive Conservatives (PC)’s say they inherited a $12 billion deficit. The Financial Accountability Office says the government will likely lose $3 billion/ year in revenue because of the cap and trade cancellation. Potentially, that’s a $15 billion deficit; a number that shouldn’t be ignored. The lost revenue will have to be made up in some way. When asked about it in April PC MPP Gill promised that his party “will take action and get this done for Milton.” His statement last week doesn’t say no, but instead says the government is open to discussion on how it could proceed without the $90 million funding.
Milton stands at the edge of reinventing itself, a process which pausing the campus throws into question. It’s a disappointing decision from the Ford government, but Milton will persist as it always does.