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Premier won't commit to funding to keep Laurentian Barrie open

Premier Kathleen Wynne says Laurentian University must ensure "a smooth transition" to enable students to obtain their degrees after the Barrie campus closes
A small group of Laurentian University students and supporters protested outside Barrie city hall, hoping to catch the attention of Premier Kathleen Wynne. Robin MacLennan/

Premier Kathleen Wynne says Laurentian University must ensure "a smooth transition" to enable students to obtain their degrees after the Barrie campus closes.

However, she would not commit to transitional funding to keep the Barrie campus open until 2019.

"Dominic Giroux, who I know very well, would not want to abandon students," Wynne said, in response to a direct question about interim funding for Laurentian.

Giroux, Laurentian University president, was in Barrie in February to answer students' questions about the planned closure. While students enrolled in the social work program will be able to graduate in Barrie, general arts and management programs will be closed this year. Students will have the option of transferring to the Sudbury campus with free lodging and meal programs, or they will need to find another way to complete their degree programs.

A handful of students protested outside Barrie city hall Friday morning, while the Premier was inside announcing funding for road and bridge infrastructure projects.

The city of Barrie will receive $675,000 for improvements to a one-kilometre stretch of Bayfield street from Livingstone Street to the city limits.

"We are protesting the province, and specifically  Kathlen Wynne and we are still asking for transitional funding," said Laurentian University student union vice president James Westman.

"We think it's the least they can do for Barrie students after we were abandoned for a stand alone campus."

While he holds Laurentian responsible for the ultimate decision to close, Westman said the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities made it difficult for them to stay in Barrie when the plan for standalone campus was rejected.

"The province is responsible for making it difficult to stay, but ultimately the Laurentian board of governors is responsible, too. They made the decision to leave before students get to finish their degrees."

When asked about Laurentian, Wynne said she understands that Barrie was disappointed when the city was not chosen for a free-standing university campus.

"There were 50 communities looking for enhancements," she said, suggesting that partners including Laurentian, Lakehead University work with the Ministry to ensure students can complete their education.

"I don't know what the ultimate solution would be," she said. "I fully expect that they (Laurentian) had thought about what the transition would look like when they made this decision."




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Robin MacLennan

About the Author: Robin MacLennan

Robin MacLennan has been a reporter, photographer and editor for the daily media in Barrie, across Simcoe County and Toronto for many years. She is a proud member of the Barrie community.
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