Letter to The Editor: Do not pursue university idea

By Richard Mahoney

The Editor,

The recent resurgence of the University Project caught my attention just last week, leaving me scrambling to voice my concerns before the impending City Council vote tomorrow (May 14).

Council is poised to allocate funds for yet another business case, this time in collaboration with Ottawa U, with the aim of bringing a university to our city.

There are myriad issues at play here, making it difficult to know where to begin.

Let’s rewind to when the City invested $100,000 in the Cornwall Innovation Centre and CREATE. A request for $50,000 annually for 10 years was made back in 2018. Out of the initial $50,000, $30,000 ended up funding my salary during my tenure as Executive Director. Half of this council voted in favour of funding us. There was a lack of consultation with me by any council member before greenlighting the funding, despite my pivotal role in presenting to Council for the funding.

There needs to be a post-mortem analysis to understand what went right and what went wrong with this initiative. If we are genuinely committed to pursuing this project without wasting more taxpayer money, it’s imperative that stakeholders engage in thoughtful dialogue to assess past endeavours.

We have a fantastic post-secondary institute here (St. Lawrence College, I’m a proud alumni) in a beautiful innovation district where they could potentially build something on the Port Lands in partnership with Akwesasne for young people. Ask young people what they would like to see.

My primary contention with this new University Project lies in the glaring disparity between the aspirations of younger generations, particularly Gen Z and Millennials, and the priorities of the older demographic. The former crave community engagement, a platform for their voices to be heard, and opportunities to effect positive change in the world.

Unfortunately, our city fails to uphold these values. At a time when university campuses nationwide are hotbeds of activism and peaceful dissent, our city administration and council seem averse to fostering genuine community dialogue. Moreover, many residents are disillusioned, feeling neglected and unsupported in their endeavours to revitalize downtowns and neighbourhoods.

Before committing another $60,000 of taxpayer funds to a venture that lacks thorough local research, I implore Council to consider reallocating these resources to local nonprofits and charities that actively serve our youth. It’s high time we prioritize initiatives that directly address the needs and aspirations of our community’s future leaders.

Kelly Bergergon, Cornwall

 

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