By Adam Brazeau
CORNWALL, Ontario - The United Counties of SD&G has passed a resolution that calls for the Kathleen Wynne government to reverse the University of Guelph's decision to close its Kemptville campus.
At its monthly meeting, counties council adopted a strongly worded motion calling for a two-year moratorium on the closure of Kemptville College of Agricultural Technology and is demanding it still accept students for the fall 2014 semester.
Counties Warden Eric Duncan considers Guelph's decision to consolidate its regional campus programs in Kemptville and Alfred as shortsighted and unacceptable.
"We're going to be sending that resolution to every municipality in eastern Ontario to ask for their support," said Duncan. "The Kemptville campus is the backbone of agriculture and research and it needs to stay here in eastern Ontario."
He added that in order for the resolution to make an impact it would have to be accepted by the provincial government in the next week or so. Duncan encourages the public to contact the Premier, their MPP, and sign petitions to keep the campuses open.
He is holding Wynne, who is also the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, to her commitment of doubling the sector's growth rate and to create 120,000 new jobs in Ontario by 2020.
Duncan believes the two-year freeze will give the province and local stakeholders time to develop a new model to operate the Kemptville and Alfred campuses.
He will also be sharing the resolution with the Eastern Ontario Warden’s Caucus.
The United Counties call for a moratorium is being praised by local MPP Jim McDonell. He is suggesting municipalities and community members partner to convince the province to keep the campuses open.
"Our only chance is to put a lot of pressure on this government to give us an opportunity to keep both campuses open locally," said McDonell.
Guelph suggested the decision was based on program enrollment.
"Despite efforts over the past several years to introduce new revenue-generating educational programs and attract new students, enrolment at both campuses remains stagnant while operating costs have increased. Costs per full-time equivalent student are substantially higher at these campuses," said U of G president Alastair Summerlee, in a statement.
But the writing may already be on the wall as opposition MPPs made a similar demand at Queen's Park today during question period. McDonell suggested the government was having no part of it.
"We're just asking for a fair chance to make it competitive, but there's no effort to keep it open," he said.
McDonell noted five of his brothers attended the Kemptville campus, and went on to successful careers in the agriculture sector.