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

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in Cornwall and then have some of the wealthiest people take tax dollars to fund a vanity study for a entity that is outdated and will never happen?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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  1. That is a tough call. Asking the rich to pay for something that we may all benefit from just because they have money????

    I believe what should be done is some form of tracking. I would hope they have a system in place that expects some form of qualitative assessments and a definite fixed deadline for the results.

    I think you are reaching with the snow suit comment; Spending money on this assessment may help reduce the need for a snowsuit fund in the future.

    Bursaries and funds are a great idea, but where would you have them spend them? We need a institution of post-secondary learning to use them in. E-learning is one of the biggest wastes of cyber space and education revenue available.

    It ONLY creates a book smart society

  2. Back in the 70’s era Cornwall had an affiliation with Ottawa U and only in the arts degree which is a nothing of a degree a degree in total and complete nothingness. You want to go into further learning then you have to leave Cornwall and go elsewhere. There were very few students in that program and others left town to pursue higher learning. It was run by the same gang in those days as well – everything is run only by certain people in Cornwall and it is disgusting and sickening and that is why everyone leaves Cornwall for good. There is no use spending big money to make some sort of a research of some mighty low standard university that people will not attend and when students come out with debts beyond their wildest imagination and only the children of the rich of Cornwall get the jobs and the rest are thrown into the garbage dump. NO THANK YOU. I would tell them to shove it up their keesters. I know how the town operates and so do others. Stop taking the food and clothing away from the poor people who have no voice.

  3. Jules
    The college has had a few different courses offered through Ottawa U over the years including nursing. Nobody registered for the most part.

    Besides Ottawa U is one of the worst Universities for administration and how courses are carried out…very very poor

  4. This was only a cash grab to begin with. They’ll never come through with any sort of university under this bunch.

  5. as debbie cameron said on the facebook page, why would anyone build a university in cornwall? why? when people take courses online. for that matter, if you really want to learn something you can put to good use in life, go talk with someone over 80 years old, make sure you check their birth certificate tho and make sure they didn’t grow up in the same period of our politicians. they are the take it all generation.

  6. hailey brown , you raise some good points, although not all agreed upon, for the most part sensible. i do agree on the hands on approach using a facility ordained for that purpose, but in order to best approach a predetermined journey you must study the route first to give you a basic idea of the geography. the map is used for reference only when the directions are vage and not deeply routed in memory.
    the same follows suit with anything else in life, if a procedure is followed several times the motions are routed deep within your memory, but when the procedure becomes more difficult, with an additional task, we must refer back to THE BOOK, and read between the lines. if i had not studied beforehand a procedure that i must attend to i would never have attempted it. yes the city must right justify its expensive budget of farming out studies for this and studies for that. i don’t think they even considered where those students would reside once the university was completed, or maybe that was the plan when the RCAFA building was slated for demolition

  7. On-line learning a waste of time?!! Most democratic allocation of resources ever worldwide. A kid in Bangladesh can take free courses up to university prep free with a laptop. Some introductory courses can now be taken through the Khan Academy. In the west, people pay their own shot. No loans, no grants. Dead weight drops off and there are less grads. For science this may not be possible, but for any other bachelor degree there is no longer a need for wasteful institutions.

  8. 420,
    I am not questioning the accessibility of the service but the quality of the service. As I said it only makes people books smart. There is no interaction, limited ability to work as part of a team and never any personal interaction which is a huge weakness in industry today.

    People have a hard time getting along and an ever more difficult time communicating

  9. John
    Very philosophical, But quite unclear sorry.

    We do not need what most universities and post-secondary institutions are providing. In a country with no or limited growth what will they do. I know in Cornwall alone a great many friends travel across the province for employment yet the schools still provide Engineers, Teachers, Psychologists, Statisticians and accountants all for what cause? I have friends whose kids graduated from university in Engineering design, Construction management, Graphics arts and two of the three works at a local grocery store. The third is having issues finding something in their field. ow to you live and repay tuition on those wages.
    At the time they did research for a good career, the schools told them it was a good choice, career counseling and government support groups told them it was a good choice. The journey was laden with bad direction and the only ones paying are the graduates.

    We need Dr’s and health care providers but for that we need a restructure in education and commitment. The course is free but you owe a specified community 15 years of service.
    Other than that we need interactive learning, something that will provide what families and post-secondary institutions fail to provide. Kids need to know how to learn, think and yes fail. There is no shame in failure it is an education in itself.
    If you want a wonderful piece of philosophy I suggest you read Utopia by Thomas More. It applies to all that we do now with education government and how it sets everyone’s status .

    Here is one of my favorite quotes.
    “For if you suffer your people to be ill-educated, and their manners to be corrupted from their infancy, and then punish them for those crimes to which their first education disposed them, what else is to be concluded from this, but that you first make thieves and then punish them.”

  10. Hayley you have hit the nail on the head and I have been saying it for years now and not everything that I say has been printed here. A girl that my daughter worked with has her masters degree in economics and all she could find was working with my daughter doing data entry. Everyone asked “what is she doing here with those qualifications” well Hayley there are no real jobs and only service jobs and that is what is going to happen very soon here in Canada. The US is already experiencing that and many people are leaving the US. Two other girls that worked with my daughter 11 years ago had their bachelors degree in IT and they were so mighty discouraged that they went back to university to get their masters. A man who lived in my building 11 years ago came out with 2 masters degrees in electrical and mechanical engineering and again he found nothing. He plastered his car with some sort of writing (the one that he can remove) to advertise himself looking for work.

    You spoke about some of your friend’s children with a good education and working in the service industry. Honest Hayley I am not just blowing my horn here but something is very wrong indeed. The economy worldwide is in mighty deep trouble and this is hardly the beginning of what is going to come. People have to learn to live with a great deal less, grow a lot of their own food and learn to do jobs that are below them in order to survive. The problem is worldwide and a great deal worse than what we see now. In my husband’s country and all over the Middle East men are marrying young girls as young as 12 years old and that includes even the Christians. People have gone totally nuts these days. There is also a great deal wrong with education as well and in a lot of countries the education level is much higher than our own. There is a lot more that I can say but it would take up too much space. The cost of running schools and paying humoungous money to teachers is insane. So much has to change and cannot keep going the way it is now. The cup is overflowing.

  11. Funny how it is that at a time when it is commonly accepted that we need a work force with diplomas over degrees that we would allow a group to raid our pockets to study the feasibility of a university. Funny primarily because these individuals represent a series of white elephant ideas for this community. Funny that this and other diversion of funds have plagued Cornwall’s progress for years. Funny that no one seems interested in just being real with our unsustainable position which is that we cannot afford any more tax increases from any level of bureaucracy ! Otherwise we will all end up living in the same house .

  12. I notice an increasing reluctance on the part of community leaders to use judgement ; they are coming to rely too much on research, and are beginning to use it as a drunkard uses a lamp post for support, rather than for illumination.

    With respect and credit to David Ogilvy.

  13. Very true Jules
    You should start paying attention to commercial as you watch television. The world has pretty much reached its apex for what people need. I fully understand people are still in need, but so far as commodities like phones, computers, cars well we pretty well have gone as far as technology will allow us. Games can only get so detailed before the system can’t handle it the same can be said for computers and cell phones.

    In the last 20 years have we really came up with anything new?

    Watch and see if this coming Christmas some of the toys we use to play with as children don’t make a comeback. Building toys for boys and the young women toys for girls.

  14. Jules….just wondering….do you ever have anything positive to say about Cornwall or the world in gerneral? It seems most of your posts are doom and gloom.

  15. David
    A university legacy is a tax write off. You can claim so much for education none of these people will pay taxes or very little.

  16. Hugger hang on to your seat and don’t fall off too soon. Pay very close attention to what is really going on in the world today as well as what is going on in Cornwall. Too many people have been asleep at the wheel not knowing or realizing just how corrupt and insane the world is and yes including little Cornwall. People can be mighty evil and everything that is happening in the world today is evil to the core. I am not going to paint a pretty picture of roses and valentines when things are on the brink of disaster. I am not a Polyanna but I face the reality which is mighty frightening. As far as that sham of a university called Benson LOL LOL. ROLF! that is a tax write off for the rich of Cornwall and Hayley hit the nail on the head. All I knew was that something was mighty wrong with this picture that didn’t add up and that it was tried years ago as a huge failure. Wake up and know the truth instead of living in fantasy land.

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