(TORONTO) – OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas is looking for answers in the wake of an Ottawa Citizen report on Algonquin College’s campus in Jazan, Saudi Arabia. The college lost almost $1.5 million in the last school year – even more than had been expected.
“I wrote Kathleen Wynne about Jazan nine months ago,” said Thomas. “I questioned Algonquin’s decision to syphon off scarce tax dollars to pay for a college in Saudi Arabia – a notorious abuser of human rights. I asked why Ontarians were working to send affluent Saudi students to school instead of Ontario residents. I never heard back.”
Ontario’s colleges are key to driving Ontario’s new economy but remain chronically underfunded, Thomas continued. “They’re forced to seek other sources of revenue. But bake sales won’t keep the lights on, so Algonquin bet on building a school in a risky part of the world. This government allowed Algonquin to roll the dice in Saudi Arabia, and the college has suffered a huge loss – a tab that Ontario taxpayers will have to cover.”
Jack Wilson, Vice-President of OPSEU Local 415 and a professor at Algonquin College, was horrified to learn that the college was setting up shop in Saudi Arabia. “Without outside sourcing, we’d be faced with a crippling financial situation,” said Wilson. “But investing in Saudi Arabia is completely unacceptable. We’ve no business doing business with a country that has no regard for human rights.
Thomas echoed Wilson’s thoughts. “Ontarians want colleges to be funded from their taxes, not the proceeds of business deals with repressive regimes that violate basic human rights. Colleges must be allowed to do what they are supposed to do: creating a highly skilled and competitive workforce that attracts investment and good-paying jobs.
“I urge Kathleen Wynne and her Liberal colleagues to scrap the endless privatization boondoggles and bring financial stability to the institutions and workers who deliver our valuable public services.”
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