Ryerson University pulling out of downtown campus plan
Photos by Mansoor Tanweer/Ryerson University/Map from City of Brampton

Ryerson University pulling out of downtown campus plan

Brampton won’t be getting a full-fledged Ryerson University campus after all. The much anticipated satellite campus, which was slated to be built near the Brampton GO station, is off, unless the city can find a new university partner, The Pointer has learned.

Johanna VanderMaas, Ryerson’s manager of public affairs, said in an email that the cancellation followed last October’s decision by the PC government to pull the $90 million committed by the previous Liberal government for the downtown project. This means Brampton, Canada’s largest city without a stand-alone university campus, might keep that designation for the foreseeable future.

“As you know, the provincial government decided to not proceed with the planned expansion in Brampton — there will not be a branch of Ryerson opening in Brampton,” VanderMaas wrote.

However, the accompanying Cybersecurity Catalyst and Centre for Innovation projects are still moving along, she said. Ryerson’s Chang School of Continuing Education, part of the cybersecurity offering, also began a few other courses in the West Tower of Brampton City Hall as of this week, launching the small continuing education program on Monday, Jan. 21.

Location where the Ryerson University campus was to be built.

Mayor Patrick Brown was perplexed when told about the revelation that Ryerson will not be partnering in the downtown campus that was to be built next to the GO train station. “That may be a typo or a miscommunication. Our indication from Ryerson is that they have full intentions to be part of our efforts to be in Brampton to have post-secondary education,” he told The Pointer.
Asked to clarify her statement, VanderMaas responded that “There was a plan for a Ryerson building near the GO Train station, which was cancelled when the government announced the cancellation of funding for the campus expansion.”

Brown insisted that “Ryerson is committed to Brampton. (President of Ryerson) Mohamed Lachemi has made that very clear…. Obviously it may change shape or form, but both the city and Ryerson are committed to having a university in Brampton.”

His confusion was shared by some members of city staff during informal conversation, with one city worker calling the news worrisome.

And it indeed flies in the face of what both Ryerson and the city have been telling the public. During a Nov. 2, 2018, special city council meeting, Glenn Craney appeared before the executive in his capacity as Ryerson’s vice provost to reassure councillors and the public that the university was looking into continuing to pursue its portion of the project, despite the loss of $90 million pulled by the province.

Rendering of the now scrapped downtown Ryerson University campus.

“The next big thing is the academic presence of the (campus) building and how we move forward with that,” Craney told city council in November. “They [the province] left the door open to continue to come back with an additional proposal, and what we’re planning to do here over the coming weeks and months is to reset and continue to work with our partners in Brampton, to work with our partners in Sheridan [College] and work with the province around creating a solid proposal that can bring this forward. We can’t offer timelines, but we can try to do this at some point in the future, and that is our commitment as we look to move forward.”  

The previous city council committed to providing $150 million to the combined project, $100 million for a centre for innovation and $50 million for the Ryerson campus. “So of course the Ryerson campus component has to be reviewed with Ryerson as next steps with the province,” former CAO Harry Schlange said at the November meeting. The remarks made by Schlange and Craney suggested that neither side was giving up on the idea of a downtown campus.

Work does continue for the launch of the CyberSecure Catalyst, according to VanderMaas. “The Catalyst will be a hub for collaboration and excellence in cybersecurity teaching and certification; incubation and acceleration; applied research and development; and public education and policy development,” she wrote.

Meanwhile, Ryerson is promising to remain involved, at least peripherally, in the planned Centre for Innovation pilot, which is meant to “enhance entrepreneurship, attract new investment, spark innovation and create new businesses in Brampton.” VanderMaas wrote that Ryerson would support the development of the centre “through ongoing mentorship and advice. Clients of the Centre for Innovation will also have access supports from Ryerson’s innovation ecosystem.”

That’s all a far cry from the original promise of a full-fledged, bricks-and-mortar campus in the heart of downtown.

The revelation is the latest indignity Brampton has suffered over the question of Ryerson’s expansion into the city. Last October, the day after the municipal election, the Doug Ford government announced it would withdraw the $90 million the previous government, under Kathleen Wynne, had pledged toward building the campus.

The Ford government blamed what it deemed to be a $15 billion deficit for the decision to renege on funding for the Brampton campus project and two others in the GTA.  

(Questions sent to Brampton’s two PC MPPs, Amarjot Sandhu and Prabmeet Sarkaria, regarding the comment from Ryerson did not garner a response by the publication deadline.)

The official Opposition at Queen’s Park put forth a motion to restore the funding within weeks of the cancellation, but the majority PCs voted down the NDP bill, leaving the future of the campus uncertain.

Planning for the university satellite in Brampton fell into disarray, and the November special council meeting was called to find some clarity on what was happening with the project.

Christine Szustaczek, a spokesperson for Sheridan College, which was to be a partner with the City of Brampton and Ryerson University in bringing a campus to the downtown, said “Sheridan has not been in discussions with Ryerson since the late fall about the joint venture.”

She added, in a response to The Pointer Wednesday, “We are also actively working with the City of Brampton to find space in the city’s downtown core for the delivery of our Continuing and Professional Studies programs.”

One big question hangs in the air. What will happen to the $50 million the city committed if the campus really won’t be happening?

Councillor Rowena Santos said, “that’s why we put a committee together to deal with the new, evolving situation, given the lack of funding from the provincial government right now.” A terms of reference document is coming forward at the next committee of council meeting on Jan. 30, she said. “That $150 million that was earmarked for these big projects in the downtown is going to (be a) part of that terms of reference.”

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Twitter: @mansoortanweer

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