Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Mac Announcement Catches City by Surprise

Only a year ago McMaster University and the City of Burlington signed a Memorandum of Understanding to build a new campus on a site in downtown Burlington.

Today, in a letter to the City, the Hamilton school says it has changed its mind. While it is making “progress” it will be pursuing new sites within the City i.e., not downtown.

Only last year (October 6, 2006) McMaster President Peter George said:

"Burlington's downtown will be an exciting place for our students, faculty and staff to be. "This location in particular allows our students and faculty close connections with the business community, while enjoying close proximity to the many support services they require."

“Any More Surprises”

At Community and Corporate Services Committee of Burlington council on Tuesday(October 30) one Councillor said the City has been “spurned.” Another Councillor interpreted it differently - McMaster is merely going back a “half step” to their previous position of wanting a campus in Burlington not just a 120,000 square foot downtown site.

No matter what your interpretation “hundreds and hundreds of hours of work” by city staff appear to have been wasted.

A motion to ask senior McMaster staff to come to the table with Burlington politicians ASAP was passed. In spite of two teams working on the project (joint negotiating and joint project teams) we still got surprised noted Councillor Rick Craven. “Will there be more surprises?”

A Short Leash

Councillor John Taylor noted that “everything was wonderful” from the University’s perspective when they met with Council last February. Then there were no plans for a campus. Now it appears Mac is trying to put the City on a “short leash for a December decision” that will apparently be made by the University’s Board of Governors.

"McMaster is anxious to finalize its plans in Burlington. This project has been evolving since its inception and we continue to look forward to working in partnership with the Mayor, council and city staff," says University Vice President IleneVP Busch-Vishniac in their letter.

Back To School

Working in partnership, eh? I’m going to have to go back to school to get a better understanding of what partnerships are about. This one seems rather one-sided.

At the end of the day though I don’t think the City will be pushed around.

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