Province Looks to Halton For Next Higher Education Expansion, Takes Pass on Downtown Hamilton

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The Province didn’t choose a McMaster University proposal for a new downtown satellite undergraduate campus as part of its Major Capacity Expansion Policy Framework. The Province announced the next round of provincial expansion funding will be directed to projects in Halton and Peel regions.

The Province looked for proposals which will expand both the capacity and access to post-secondary education in underserviced areas.

McMaster University proposed an initial expansion of 1,000 students in a downtown satellite campus which would include a new residence building.

City Council voted in September to commit two-to-four acres of land for the proposal. The City owned parking lots on the block of James/Vine/MacNab/Cannon is widely talked about as the location.

Only one proposal received provincial approval: York University will build a new campus in Markham in partnership with Seneca College.

The prospect of a McMaster Downtown undergraduate campus is less hopeful for the next round of funded expansion. The Province is issuing a second round of call for proposals for expansion projects “to principally serve Peel and Halton regions”.

As a former national higher education reporter, I read this as the nearly decade-old Milton campus proposal of Wilfrid Laurier University which the Town of Milton is heavily invested in.

(As an aside, I’m disappointed to see the University of Ottawa proposal for a francophone campus in Woodstock didn’t make the cut. It had great potential to build a great liberal arts campus and spur greater economic development for Woodstock.)

McMaster’s Growing Downtown Presence

McMaster University’s President Patrick Deane continues to show a commitment to expansion projects in Downtown Hamilton, and the University – which is facing intense budget pressures – has opened the new Health campus at Bay and King, recently moved its continuing education programs into a new Jackson Square campus, and is opening a small business incubator in the heart of the James Street North arts district.

Dr. Deane’s experience as Provost at two downtown universities prior to McMaster give him credibility when speaking about a desire to improve McMaster’s footprint in the Downtown Core. Both Queen’s and University of Winnipeg are directly connected to their downtowns.

During Deane’s time at Winnipeg, the University President Lloyd Axworthy (of Chretien cabinet fame nationally) engaged in an ambitious campaign of urban renewal.

(Axworthy’s focus on renewing the west side of Winnipeg’s downtown lead me to write that he was acting more as a “Minister of Urban Renewal then University President” in some of my Maclean’s columns)

Deane’s seen firsthand the significant positive impact a university can have in an urban core.

I fully expect Deane to take every opportunity to continuing expanding McMaster’s footprint in the downtown.

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