Wilfrid Laurier University, Conestoga College to Partner on Post-Secondary campus in Milton

By: Laura Steiner, Local Journalism Initiative, Milton Reporter
Milton is getting a post-secondary campus.  Wilfrid Laurier University, and Conestoga College are partnering a campus that will see a university and college built as part of the Milton Education Village.  The announcement was made by Premier Doug Ford, Milton MPP Parm Gill accompanied by three cabinet ministers.
“Our government applauds the collaborative approach taken by Conestoga College and Wilfrid Laurier University to expand their campuses,” Ford said at a morning news conference.  The campus will be part of the Milton Education Village (M.E.V.), and 400 acre complex stretching from the corner of Derry and Tremaine south.
The Town has been working with Wilfrid Laurier University on a potential post-secondary campus since 2008.  “Today has been a very exciting day that has been a long time in the making for Milton.  This announcement is a culmination of over a decade’s worth of collaboration among the Town and our partners,” Krantz said   The previous Liberal government announced it in April, 2018.  Shortly after the 2018 municipal election, the province withdrew the campus citing financial constraints.
The Ford government issued new guidelines for post-secondary campuses including  a requirement for them to match with municipal land uses.  The Town passed a secondary plan for the area  in December, 2020.  Today’s announcement was made possible by the use of a Ministerial Zoning Order (MZO), filed by the Town of Milton earlier this year.  “Today’s announcement is a perfect example of how our government is using tools like MZO’s, in partnership with municipalities to help on projects that will positively impact the community for generations, Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Steve Clark said.  The Ford government has faced criticism over their use in recent weeks.
The campus will serve up to 6,700 students by the time it’s completed.  Laurier will focus on a Science, Technology, Engineering Arts and Math (STEAM) approach to planetary health. “The university is excited about what this new campus will mean for students in the Greater Toronto area and Halton Region,” Laurier President and Vice Chancellor Deborah McLatchy said.  The university expects the campus to lead to job creation in clean and green technology as well as sustainable development.  The Town is hoping to attract knowledge-based business investment into the area.  It includes a research park, as well as areas zoned “mixed use” with commercial opportunities.  Laurier is expecting a total of 2,940 students.
Conestoga will focus on career-related programs.  “We look forward to the establishment of the Conestoga-Milton campus that will deliver relevant, accessible, career focused programs that address local workforce needs, contribute to personal and professional success, and support the prosperity and well-being well into the future,” Conestoga President John Tibbits said.  programs offered will include business, applied computer science, as well as health and life science.   The campus is expected to use the velodrome as part of the athletic complex.  Conestoga is expecting a total of 3,750 students.
The funding will come from the schools’ financial reserves, and through arrangements with third parties.  The Ontario government will provide funding based on student enrollment once the campus opens.
The MEV secondary plan includes land zoned for institutional use.  Schlegel Villages, has signed on develop a 192 bed Long-Term Care facility (LTC).  The Town has also been working with the Townsend Smith Hospice Foundation on a physical location. The foundation released a statement on their website.  “We’re excited about this development, but we still have a long way to go,” Newly Elected Board Chair Astrid Lakats said. The Foundation’s goal is to bring a 10-bed residential hospice to North Halton.
“Bringing post-secondary education to Milton has been a key priority for over a decade.  The partnership with the campus and the long term care facility is one example of innovation and collaboration of the integrated vision of the Milton Education Village,” Milton Chief Administrative Officer Andrew Siltala said.  The campus will be open in 2024, with construction expected to begin next spring.