Whatever Happened to the Benson University Project? Public Dollars Spent for Nothing? by Jamie Gilcig

Study Burns $65K While Having No Money for Snowsuit Fund for Poor Kids

Steering CommitteeCORNWALL Ontario – Whatever happened to all those tax dollars spent on the Benson Vanity University project?   The study still has yet to be released to the public.   Looking at the names on the committee above we can see that most have fortunes of their own or multiple tax paid jobs and pensions, yet felt a need to jokingly come to Cornwall City Council (and the counties and nearby regions) paws out grubbing for about $65K for the first study with a promise of coming back for more money.

Families like the Benson’s and Kaneb’s  made huge fortunes in our community; but chose again to ask for money instead of cover the cost of the study.  Mr. Kaneb joking at the 18:15 mark of the video that they’ll be back for more money is frankly scary as the budget committee has recommended another tax increase for this year.

Pathetically the process was rife with Conflict of Interest.   You had committee members voting on the funding with Councilor Elaine MacDonald and Mayor Kilger participating and voting as witnessed in the council meeting.

The ball was handed over to the River Institute.  Dr. Jeff Ridal is on the committee and Councilor Bernadette Clement is on his board of directors.  There was no RFP or tendering process for the study publicly notified nor to date; all these months later, has there been a study published.

Why?   Surely it shouldn’t be that difficult especially when having bags of money to spend?    Does it make any sense to cut snow fund suits for poor kids in Cornwall and then have some of the wealthiest people take tax dollars to fund a vanity study for a entity that is outdated and will never happen?

Learning now is rapidly shifting online.  It’s not about bricks and mortar anymore which I’m sure is appalling to tenured profs and the university system; but also is more economically feasible for students.

Canada’s university employees receive pensions valued at up to 70% of their best 5 year’s salary plus indexing throughout the life of the retiree.
Total aggregate unfunded pension liabilities for DBRS rated universities ballooned to approximately $3.2 BILLION in 2011.
Take a look at the salaries of university employees in Ontario
                                           EMPLOYEES ON THE
University        Sunshine List 2002       Sunshine List 2012       % increase

Mc Master               297                  1015                       241.8%

Queens                    258                      946                     266.7%

Western                  258                  1,101                      326.7%
Waterloo                 311                  1,042                      235.0%

Guelph*                  175                    788                       350.3%
Toronto**            1,184                2,854                      141.0%

Note from financial statements

 

* The University of Guelph’s unfunded status of post employment benefits while not recorded on the University’s statements, continued to increase in 2013  with a combined deficit (on an ongoing accounting basis) of $741.3 million ($484.3 million in 2011).

 

** The University of Toronto has made a $150 million lump sum payment to their pension plan and intend to do another in 2014 to address the unfunded liability issue.

MacLean’s magazine described the situation best

“management, with their fat cat compensation, will continue negotiating fat compensation with faculty, while politicians hold their tongues so that taxpayers don’t go after their fat compensations next’ ……

The issue isn’t really whether Cornwall should have some form of University Education; it should.   The issue is of entitlement that certain people feel they have over the public purse.
In this case it was grossly abused and frankly most of those on the committee should be ashamed of themselves and reimburse the community all of the monies spent on this non delivered report starting with the Kaneb family.
Gerry Benson spent a lot of time looking to create his legacy project and that’s noble, but it should be done on Gerry and his friends dime; and not ours, especially as it should’ve been created over 25 years ago if it was going to be done.
We need to take steps to make this sort of abuse of taxpayers never occurs in Cornwall again.    And it would be wonderful if this group wrote cheques to create a fund that could issue bursaries and scholarships for e-learning for the residents of this area.

Should the Benson University Committee Reimburse Taxpayers for the Full Amount of the Study?

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