DRESCHEL: Trustees uses province as ‘bogeyman’
Liberal cabinet minister Ted McMeekin says the education ministry put “absolutely no pressure” on the public school board to abandon the option of building its new headquarters downtown.
McMeekin says fears the province might pull its support for the headquarters stem not from government coercion but the “skittishness” of trustees.
“This board tends to be risk averse and fairly conservative,” said McMeekin, minister of agriculture and MPP for Ancaster-Dundas-Flamborough-Westdale.
“It’s unfortunate they terminated the process they agreed to.”
McMeekin was responding to the suggestion that the board prematurely bailed on the proposal to build at the historic Cannon Knitting Mills in the heart of Beasley neighbourhood out of fear the ministry might change its mind about the $31.6 million headquarters
Earlier this week, the board voted 6-5 to stick with its original plan to build at the Crestwood school site near Lime Ridge Mall on the Mountain instead of honouring a June 18 deadline for a task force to put together a business case for Beasley.
The move shocked downtown councillor Jason Farr and west-end councillor Brian McHattie, who led the charge to keep the education centre in the core after the present site at Main and Bay streets was sold to McMaster University for a health campus.
McHattie believes some trustees and senior board staff were nervous about the downtown option from the get-go and so used the education ministry as a “bogeyman” to justify short circuiting the process.
A deeply disappointed Farr calls the decision a “squandered” opportunity.