Ontario secures half the funding it needs for new French-language university; Penetanguishene lobbies to be its home

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Town docks on Penetanguishene Bay
Town docks on Penetanguishene Bay (Wikipedia)

Ontario Construction News staff writer

The Ontario government has signed announced a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the federal government to work together to build the Université de l’Ontario français. Both governments have agreed to commit public funding to the $126-million project.

“This is a great first step,” Caroline Mulroney, Ontario’s minister of transportation and Francophone Affairs said in a media release. “We recognize the importance of a university

governed by—and for—Francophones in Ontario. We want to ensure French-speaking students can count on a high quality, modern, postsecondary education system that is aligned with labour market needs.”

By signing the MOU, both governments say they are affirming their commitment to address the needs of more than 600,000 Francophones in Ontario with respect to post secondary education. Highlights of the MOU include plans for funding negotiations and a joint working group.

Ontario has secured half of the funding for a proposed French-language university, the Progressive Conservative government said Thursday as it invited Ottawa to come up with the other half.

The project would take eight years to be completed, the province said in its request to the federal government.

The Town of Penetanguishene is looking for support from neighbouring communities, in its bid to become the host community for the new university.

“The Town of Penetanguishene wholeheartedly believes that Penetanguishene needs to be considered as the primary location due to its long-standing French culture and heritage, the value (added) for the future of students studying in French, the location, the appropriate infrastructure to support such a worthwhile venture, and the overall quality of life for future students,” states a letter sent to Collingwood council asking for their support.

Penetanguishene is one of only a few French-designated areas in central Ontario – three are in Simcoe County.

“For a number of reasons, with supported rationale, Penetanguishene needs to be considered by the province as a primary location for Ontario’s first and only French language university,” Jeff Lees, the town’s chief administrative officer wrote in a report to council.

“It’s been suggested that a university campus requires, among other amenities, transportation, sports, food, social and housing components, all of which Penetanguishene can support,” Lees concluded. “Nothing compares to the quality of life that can be offered in the heart of Georgian Bay.”

Penetanguishene has a population of about 9,600 people, and is part of Simcoe County’s Huronia region, which includes Midland, as well as Tay and Tiny townships. Combined, the region has a population of around 47,000 people.

The letter requesting support for Penetanguishene’s campaign was sent to Collingwood and other Simcoe County municipalities and community partners with a vested interest in French culture and heritage.

Local officials lobbied the provincial government from 2014 to 2018, promoting Penetanguishene as “the most ideal location for a francophone university”, according to the staff report.

It’s unclear when the provincial and federal governments expect to begin work on the new university.

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