TORONTO – Premier Kathleen Wynne appears to be backpedalling on claims the government was unaware the Saudi campuses of Ontario colleges would be restricted to male students and faculty. At a news conference on Tuesday, Wynne said she had been “clear” that in the initial discussions, Algonquin College’s campus in Jazan would offer programs for women, but that “it didn’t work out.”
The Premier’s latest version of the facts seems to contradict Training, Colleges and Universities Minister Reza Moridi, who said the province’s responsibility was to approve financial plans for Saudi campuses, but it was up to the colleges to determine who was admitted.
“We see there is a gap in the process between the parts that are left for the boards of governors at the colleges to approve and the other parts that are on the government’s side to approve,” he said. “We want to talk with the sector to make sure that gap is eliminated.”
OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas called out the Liberals for the fiasco. “Either there was talk of a campus for women but there was no follow-up. Or the makeup of the college was not discussed and no one thought to ask the question. Or maybe no one cared, as long as the college made money. In any case, there was a disgraceful lack of responsibility and accountability from the government on this issue.”
Thomas went on to zero in on what he considers the crux of the matter: the government’s chronic underfunding of community colleges.
“Instead of falling all over themselves to cover up yet another botched stab at making the market do the government’s job, why don’t the Liberals own up to their obligation to provide adequate, stable, long‑term funding to our colleges? The community college system was created to prepare Ontario citizens for the specialized, in-demand jobs that bring investment and prosperity to our province. Let the colleges do what they excel at, and leave speculation to Bay Street.”
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Warren (Smokey) Thomas