by SUSAN MANN
The Ontario government has put on hold the work of two facilitators named to help the communities associated with the University of Guelph’s Kemptville and Alfred campuses formulate plans to keep the agricultural education facilities operating.
But the government isn’t saying why the facilitators can’t start their work until after the election.
In March, the University of Guelph announced it was closing the Kemptville and Alfred campuses by 2015. The Ontario government announced in April it was giving the university $2 million to keep the apprenticeship and skills training programs at Kemptville going for the 2014/15 academic year while the agriculture diploma students finish up the second year of their two-year program. Many of those apprenticeship and skills training programs weren’t slated to continue for the 2014/15 academic year.
Susan Murray, Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food spokesman, said by email May 6 “a commitment has been made to provide two facilitators to work with the local communities. This process is on hold during the current election period.”
Murray didn’t provide any other details and didn’t answer repeated requests for more information.
Neil Currie, Ontario Federation of Agriculture general manager, says “my understanding is they (the government) appointed facilitators and they (the facilitators) are not allowed to work during the election. I don’t know why.”
Brian Carré, CAO with North Grenville and chair of the Kemptville College Renewal Task Force, says he knew earlier this week the facilitators can’t start their work until after the election. “Basically the way the election legislation is set up no new dollars can be spent during the election. When they (the government) appointed these individuals, their timing was such that the legislation kicked up.”
Carré says they’re very disappointed the Kemptville facilitator can’t start work yet, especially since the task force requested on March 25 that a facilitator be appointed. “We were told at the time by the minister (Brad Duguid, Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities) that would be addressed within the next few days. So here we are.”
But the fact that the facilitator can’t start yet hasn’t stopped the task force from continuing its work. “Yesterday we released a request for ‘expressions of interest’ for service providers who have an interest in taking on the task of providing educational and research services at the Kemptville campus,” he says, noting those expressions of interest are due by May 28. ‘We continue to do our work and as soon as we are able to we will be at the government’s door with the solution.”
With the election on, the task force doesn’t currently have the opportunity to “dialogue directly with the government,” he adds. “We don’t have a facilitator that can access information for us but it doesn’t mean that we can’t forge ahead, which is what we’ve doing.”
Lyle Vanclief, former federal agriculture minister, was named facilitator for Kemptville, while Marc Godbout, a former Liberal MP for the riding of Ottawa—Orléans, was named facilitator for Alfred.
If the Liberals don’t win the provincial election, Carré says either the facilitators will be reconfirmed, or new ones will be appointed or “a completely different approach” will be taken.
There is, however, no uncertainty about the $2 million allocated to Kemptville for its operations next year. Carré explains the money was redirected from an existing budget and is not associated with the 2014 budget that failed to reach second and third reading last week in provincial legislature.
So far, the Kemptville task force has talked to three groups before issuing the call for expressions of interest and it has received one email. Some of the responses are from other educational institutions; some are from partnerships, but Carré says he can’t name the groups at this time. Some of those groups putting in submissions are from other countries. BF
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