Tory MPP Continues to Push the Liberals to Intervene in Ag Campus Closures

Mar 17, 2014

By Amanda Brodhagen,

The closure of Kemptville and Alfred agricultural colleges has become a hot topic in the Ontario Legislature.

Progressive Conservative MPP Steve Clark rose in the legislature on Monday to ask for unanimous consent to reverse the decision to close the colleges, but the answer from the Liberal benches was a resounding no.

Kemptville College is located in Clark’s riding of Leeds-Grenville, so he’s been vocal on the subject since the University of Guelph broke the news last week.

“I hope that we can continue to put pressure on the government to put the brakes on this decision,” Clark said in an interview.

Clark said he is concerned with Premier Kathleen Wynne’s final comments in the legislature, when she called the University of Guelph an “autonomous body,” implying that this was solely the university’s decision to close the campuses not the Province.

“We all know that Guelph is unique because there’s a number of funding partners including the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food,” he said adding that the Ministry gives about 13 per cent or 90 million toward the university’s entire budget.

Not only is Clark disappointed that the government of the day hasn’t intervened in the closures, but he’s also upset with how the university has handled the situation.

“I disagree with the university president,” he said. “I think that they could have done a better job engaging the local community.”

Clark’s point couldn’t be truer. The agricultural community, especially in Eastern Ontario, were in shock by the news. More than 400 community stakeholders gathered on Saturday to show their support in finding a way to keep the college from closing.

Most people say that the blame is shared between the university and Premier Kathleen Wynne who also doubles as the province’s agricultural minister. Clark is adamant that if the premier wanted to stop the closures from happening, she would.

“I have all the confidence that if they [the Liberals] wanted to do it they could do it,” he said.

After the community meeting on Saturday, a committee was formed to come up a solution to save the college and preserve access to agricultural education in the east.

“I’ve pledged to work on a solution,” explained Clark adding that he plans to work in consultation with the committee going forward.

At Clark’s request, there will be an emergency debate in the legislature on March 18 about the agricultural campuses closing. It starts at 6:00pm (ET). You can watch it here.

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