Collaboration Between Lakehead University and other Government Agencies

The Orillia Soldiers Memorial Hospital board of directors announced that they are starting a process to redevelop the hospital and plan for the future of the facility. They are looking at the potential options to meet the current demands of the community and into the future. A requirement of this planning by the Government of Ontario is that one of the options considered is a complete redevelopment on ‘green space’. Typically; I view this to be the least effective and least productive method for moving forward as green space is often away from established areas and can promote urban sprawl. In this instance I believe that there is an opportunity here to establish a new facility while creating new and exciting partnerships between other governments and governmental organizations. One of the options that the hospital should consider is a partnership with Lakehead University to create a university hospital much like those seen at larger campuses in the United States. This facility could provide a partnership that creates the future model for intergovernmental cooperation and the training pipelines necessary to provide the educational and real world experiences for future professionals. This collaboration provides benefits to Lakehead University; the Ontario Government; the City of Orillia and Georgian College. Below is a presentation of what each group has to gain and offer to this option.

Lakehead University

The campus was established in Orillia in 2006 and later established a permanent campus into a large green space in West Orillia shortly after. It currently serves approximately 1,500 students and is the only university in Simcoe County. Laurentian University was set to establish their satellite campus in the City of Barrie in 2015 which would have served 3,000 students but this was not picked by the Ontario government for funding. The Government of Ontario is currently looking to establish new campuses further into the GTHA region and much of the financing is being focused there.  The Lakehead Orillia campus is set for growth as both the City of Barrie and Orillia are expecting their population to grow significantly in the next 10 to 15 years. It is well positioned for growth as the campus has significant space requirements to expand their facility. The current issues pertaining to growth at this campus is the lack of available financing to continue expanding facilities and lack of space for new programs. The negatives for the campus can be used as collaboration pieces for the new hospital campus. The abundance of space means that the university can offer cheap land to the hospital in return for shared space in the new facilities. These shared spaces can be used in conjunction with one another to offer state of the art training facilities for university students and hospital patients. A practice like this is already in place at the Georgian College Barrie campus; if an accident were to damage the Royal Victoria Hospital (RVH) they could transfer patients to the training facility on campus and still have the same quality of care. The difference for this campus would be the buildings would be shared instead of stand alone buildings. Students in these facilities would get the opportunity to interact and observe the real world operation of a hospital. These shared learning facilities also provide the university with the opportunity to add additional degrees to attract students to the facility. Courses like Nursing, Business administration, Information technology are all some of the potential options to attract students to the campus. Lakehead University also has its own medical school which produces doctors at the Thunder Bay campus; were they to provide an additional satellite facility on the campus they could provide the same mandate of improving medical care to rural areas to Simcoe County. A collaboration between the hospital and the university opens up research opportunities for the academics within the facility and commercial opportunities for developing medical technology. In short; Lakehead’s current issues of lack of funding for expansion and the resulting issue of lack of space could be mitigated by this cooperation.

Orillia Solders Memorial Hospital

The current hospital is running into the issue of lack of space and existing facilities that are aging and not meeting the demand of the citizens. Some of the buildings are from its original construction and there have been additions on the building as its grown. The benefit of the expansion into the Lakehead space is twofold. One; they get a new facility which will be designed to meet the demands of the community and designed for future growth. This facility will be able to meet the requirements for accessibility purposes; the planners will have the reduced stigma associated with mental health hence providing more space for staff to reduce stress and more room for addressing mental health within the community. Secondly; they get a partner in the cooperation with Lakehead which provides them with the next generation of nurses, business administrators among other important roles. This means that when they need to expand they don’t look purely at the Ministry of Health for funding they can also look for the Ministry of Universities and Colleges. This additional funding opportunity allows them to get new technology faster and better meet the needs of the community. Leveraging the knowledge at Lakehead University could also allow them to attract research investment into the hospital. A smaller version of university avenue in Toronto, ON could be an example of collaboration between universities, research companies and hospitals leveraging each others strengths to further one another. In short; the OSMH gains a new facility where they meet the demands of a growing community for the next 25-30 years and gains access to new funding/research opportunities.

City of Orillia

The City of Orillia has done a lot of work to better support the expansion in West Orillia with the development initially of a single bus line serving Lakehead University to the expansion of a second one. They have also invested in a multipurpose sports facility which gets extensive use and an industrial park which is set to be home to the new OPP detachment and Hydro One research/service facility. The collaboration between these Lakehead University and the OSMH does provide some initial issues but I feel provides long term benefits to the community and the city. Short term the city has to deal with a large parcel of land in an established part of the community moving out to the fringes. This would likely cause a depreciation of land values of those homes and businesses close by to the hospital. Long term the city would gain a large parcel of land that it could influence the redevelopment of that part of town with. That could be the catalyst for new multi use developments which brings commercial and residential to that area including new tax income. There is a lot of opportunity for the community to reuse this land to provide benefits for the long term of the community. The continued development of Lakehead University also has important benefits to the community. Housing development in this area of town has expanded significantly in a short period of time providing employment and income to city coffers. With a community population of 31,000; 1,500 students annually attend the Lakehead campus on September 1st of every year which means the community grows by almost 5% overnight which has a significant impact on the businesses within the community. The City of Orillia has invested a lot of time and money into this part of the community to address its growth and expansion. The collaboration between Lakehead and OSMH would provide significant benefits to the community as a whole but could have some detrimental short term effects.

Georgian College – Lakehead Collaboration

Lakehead University and Georgian College have come together to provide additional programs that “offer the benefits of a college diploma and an university degree”. While this is beneficial to both campuses it is currently focused more on the Barrie campus then Orillia as Georgian has more space to offer these programs. Furthering the collaboration between these two groups could again provide fruits in the Orillia campus. Georgian college has a number of programs pertaining to health which would be beneficial to the new collaboration. Students at the Georgian Barrie campus have access to very high tech and realistic technology which makes them attractive candidates for future employment. Programs such as nursing could take advantage of the investment Georgian College has made into these facilities and complete a diploma there; then complete their degree at the university campus which would have ample workplace opportunities for training with the merged facilities. Nurses could have the opportunity to do two years in Barrie in those facilities and then come to Orillia to attend the theory part of nursing and the hands on experience of being in a shared learning space. This would provide students with the hands on experience they need to be highly sought after candidates and provide work spaces with employees who have real world experience coming into the work site. This makes it highly valuable for all parties to work together on providing the opportunities that students need to make something like this work. Continuing the collaboration provides highly sought after students and makes these two campuses attractive to applicants as they offer the best job prospects.

 

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Why LUSU’s plan to ‘Fight the Fees’ actually costs students.

Lakehead University Student Union (LUSU) and the Canadian Federation of Students have announced a new plan to ‘fight the fees’. Essentially, they are rebranding their annual proposal to vote no to tuition increases or to abstain from the vote at the board of governors meeting by participating in protests or sit ins. Annually, they lose these votes because they are outvoted by the rest of the board of governors and current/future students lose twice because they lose their voice and receive the tuition increases anyways.

The reason I am writing this blog is to show the folly of their plans and to provide a constructive criticism along with contempt as a student who suffers due to their actions. The board of governors typically votes during the summer at their general meeting on the amount of increase they will pass into tuition to help cover the expanded costs of operating the university. These costs are maxed out by the government and for many years it was 8% which is 2.5x times general inflation, currently it is 3%. Tuition rates have increased well beyond inflation and have caused severe strain for students and their financial supporters. I truly believe that the Ontario government and the Federal government need to look for new ways to prepare significant and stable funding increases for universities to cover costs. I would also like to see the Board of Governors move their meeting to during the school year so more students can be present and participate in the processes to which they are subject.

Yet, at the local level there are a number of things that could have been done to reduce the costs associated with the operation of the university and the services it provides to its students if LUSU was able to look beyond their own term in office. When LUSU votes ‘No’ or abstains from the vote at the board of governors they are effectively giving away any and all influence in the decisions on how that money is spent and what mandates we want it to go towards. This voice that students give the individual is wasted and thrown away and does nothing to benefit the university, students or future students.

Looking to the university campus there are a significant number of buildings that were designed, built and continue to operate in a pre-environmental concern mindset. Imagine if LUSU had voted for these fee increases and used that influence to change the landscape of the campus, reducing the number of buildings by combining them into larger structures which not only reduces the environmental impact, it reduces costs in taxes, heating, electricity, maintenance among many more. New facilities are also a huge draw for students and a larger student base spreads that cost over a much larger number of people meaning the individual cost is less. These new buildings influenced by LUSU and the students as to the needs and desires of students with an environmentally friendly and technology conscious mindset could help guide Lakehead for the next 50 years.

A reduction of current facilities into an amalgamated facility also allows for certain other things if the buildings are removed. Increased greenspace, opportunities for future facilities, expansion of facilities. As Lakehead is a school of the north and focuses heavily on the environment and forestry there could be community gardens, traditional aboriginal services or even cultural spaces from the many different communities and countries the international students come from. A modern campus would allow for a multitude of things to happen that could be increasingly beneficial for the student population, Thunder Bay and more.

Working with the university rather then fighting them also brings in a number of other impacts that could benefit student life and reduce the cost to students. Imagine in that new building (s) that LUSU worked with the university to build; it has a grocery store, cafe, among other privately run businesses that increase the offering of services on the campus and reduce the cost. It reduces the cost because now it is not only being shared by government/university and students it is being shared by government/university/students and private enterprise. It also provides employment for students to gain some much needed workplace experience, income and social connection that our university campus desperately lacks. We have 1,200 students on campus that live, study and socialize here. Its a captive audience for businesses lost by poor planning. Foresight, would reduce the cost of operating the university and the cost of university for the students.

As a student I have to question some of the auxiliary fees that I pay that go directly to support LUSU related activities or projects. I pay almost $17 for computer upgrade fees of which I use everyday through the wifi provided by Lakehead, school computers etc and yet I pay $6.66 for LUSU radio that I have never listened to. No private business operates with a subsidy so why is it that LUSU radio can not operate without a student subsidy; is the business plan so ineffective that it simply can not and as a student do I really want to pay for that failed business plan. Answer for me at least is NO. LUSU recently posed the question to students (couple years ago) about rebuilding the pool and the cost associated with that; they posed to students the question if they would be willing to pay for it. As a student who does not use the facility I see no personal benefit but others likely do and as a democratic organization if the student group said yes then that is fine to me. What I do question is: had LUSU considered working with the City of Thunder Bay in finding an operating agreement to use the complex as a facility for gym and pool. Other then a membership there is no cost to LUSU or the students. Whereas now we pay operating, staffing and maintenance costs. Had LUSU worked with the Board of Governors could that building could had been redone on Lakehead’s dollar and influenced other levels of government to reduce the costs. Could students have shouldered 15% of the rebuild cost rather then 100%.

Someone will probably try and say that it is impossible for students and the organization to work together since their goals and aspirations are so different. I would say to that person that they are wrong since Georgian College Student Association did just that. They put their money where their mouth is and put up cash to get a real voice in how it is spent within the organization. Their cash multiplies because they are working with other levels of government to fund the things that they want. They do not get to fund one project on their own they fund four because they are stretching their dollars. They do not get everything they want just as LUSU would not if they decided to go down this road. The influence would be much greater and we would see more student oriented items within campus.

Until LUSU and the Canadian Federation of Students get their heads out of the sand their doing more harm then good for students.

Explaining snow days to Thunder Bay students

I remember in first year that the Lakehead University campus had 2 snow days back to back at the beginning of the school year. It was joyful for the Orillia students but seemed to irk the Thunder Bay students that they weren’t getting days off. Students were making comments about the inability of southern Ontario drivers to deal with a Canadian winter. I totally understand where students are coming from and have personally seen both Thunder Bay and Central Ontario drivers not comprehend driving in the snow. There is one major difference though for students at the Thunder Bay campus to know about the campus down here though and why we may get more snow days.

In Thunder Bay the campus and a majority of its students are in Thunder Bay. There isn’t much driving required for Thunder Bay students to get to the campus and those that make the trip from out of town are smaller portion of student. Which means less reason to shut down the school if only 10-20% of class is commuting. Here in Orillia that statistic is much different. A significant majority of the student population commutes from outside of Orillia to the campus. The best example would be taking the Thunder Bay campus and placing it in Murillo or Lappe and expecting students to drive there during dangerous weather conditions. Large portions of students drive in from the surrounding communities and from Barrie which is the hub of Simcoe County. Highway 11 from Barrie to Orillia is 35 km one way and lined with farmland meaning squalls and whiteout conditions are common. Traffic is also much heavier leading less room for mistakes and more accidents to deal with. The geographical location means a significant portion of the class will be unable or unwilling to attend class due to the weather. Central Ontario also deals with snow drifts like I have never seen before, they are much more common than Northwestern Ontario and more severe. Add in a less comprehensive transit system and the location of school being a primarily car oriented design it doesn’t leave much room when the weather is dangerous.

As Lakehead Orillia deals with another snow day sit down and think if the campus was in Lappe would you take the time to drive there in blowing snow and squalls?

Event Center

The Thunder Bay Event Center wasn’t and never has been about a AHL team, tourism or how much money a facility could make. It has been about investing in the community that we call home and taking pride in our city. Thunder Bay currently has an arena that is 60 years old and doesn’t meet the needs of the people today, going forward or 20 years into the future. Councils of past have deferred this conversation until almost at the bitter end (Major renovations required in the 2020 range). Every year we delay we are one year closer to having to spend millions on a facility that can’t accommodate those with physical or mental handicaps. It grows harder for an older population to access and doesn’t meet the desires of an environmentally friendly young generation. Businesses are being left to wait for an answer from the city and the electorate to if they will have their major boost. We are left with a decision to make on whether we need to build this center or not and I believe the answer is yes.

Our city is undergoing a major transition from its resource based roots to a more diverse and stable economy. We seeing the errors of our ways when we decided that building on the fringes was the best option. The mindsets of city leaders, planners and developers are now about centralizing and supporting the things we already have. The city determined through an impartial third party that the city members supported this and that the marina was the best option. It’s the best option because its supported by the surrounding businesses and fits in the city’s plan to upgrade our community. It’s about improving the image of our community, supporting the businesses and community members that make the city tick. Most importantly it’s investing in us, our community and our people. We take pride in the fact that we have the most hockey players per capita but yet our facilities are underfunded, old and falling apart. We complain about the conditions of our infrastructure… well ladies and gentlemen this is a part of that infrastructure and it has been neglected for too long. We need to proceed with the plan for the event center and invest in our community. Our region is small so busloads of people will not come to the facility but the people that come out to support the Lakehead Thunderwolves will continue to come out. The parents who support their kids through hockey seasons and comes to the games will come and fill the seats of the event center.

This plan is not perfect, it will need some revision and the community should be able to provide ideas for this but we cannot let a minority of people express their thoughts louder than those in the majority and perceive them as right. We need to do what is right for our community today, tomorrow and 50 years from now when they look to a new building. People say a lot of things about this plan and how its negatives outweigh its positives. The fact it will lose money or the fact that we won’t ever be able to truly support a professional team. To me this project gets people so amped up because it has that potential to really bring the community together and be that spark that lights a fire under people. It is a major change from the way the city has conducted itself in the past. It challenges the mindset of thousands of people into a new, greener way of thinking. A downtown location is the best option for not only Thunder Bay but for major sports arenas around the world. We have seen Edmonton, Calgary, Minneapolis all look towards their downtown cores as the best option for their redeveloped arenas. We are even seeing Kanata look and see the error of their ways with the development of the Ottawa Senators home arena so far away from town. This project is about more then simply saying we want to have world class hockey here in Thunder Bay.

It’s not about the money, the AHL or a downtown hotel. It’s about the people of this community and giving them the chance to attend a world class building. It’s about investing in ourselves and making ourselves a stronger community and how we represent ourselves to those around us. Our city needs to have that boost where we invest in the recreational facilities that we as a community enjoy. This is about improving the quality of life that we expect to have in our city. The money issue can be figured out as well as the parking but I believe that this is truly about us as a city.

Lets build it Thunder Bay.

Lakehead University’s Parking Problem:

As lakehead University – Orillia has grown there has been an increase in the number of students who have had to drive to the campus in order to attend classes. The Orillia campus is situated in a farmers field which allows for cheap future growth potential but makes it a commuter based school. This means as the school grows it needs to provide additional spaces for students to park in order to attend classes which is a costly venture. This has become increasingly challenging as Lakehead University wants to keep it LEED diamond status of which adding parking stalls would negatively affect. I believe that there is an opportunity to address the concerns of Lakehead Students and Lakehead University through a number of different means by working with the community. This article will focus on a number of different initiatives that Lakehead could take in order to address its growing parking issues.

Carpooling:

Lakehead University currently has 2-4 car stalls set aside for people who carpool. Carpooling rules at Lakehead University include vehicles with 2 or more people in them which allows them to use these stalls. These stalls fill up fairly quickly and there is no real means of policing the vehicles as they come in. Lakehead Security can’t accurately determine if someone is using it for their own spot regardless of the rules or if it is being legitimately used. I believe that Lakahead could address these issues by expanding its offering of carpooling and providing students with perks to carpool. Carpooling is a great way for people to reduce the environmental damage they create, build social relationships and still use a vehicle. Here are a couple thoughts on how Lakehead can promote carpooling.

1. Add more spots for carpooling vehicles to promote its use.
2. Place a security camera by the carpool spots for the vehicles protection but also to find out if people are using the spots illegally.
3. Fine those who use these spots without merit.
4. Create a carpooling website for all Lakehead students to use in order to find rides and reduce traffic.

The program could work as such: when registering for your parking pass the website would ask if you plan to carpool with friends. If yes, it sends out an email to those people and to your lakehead University email asking to sign up. If the 3-4 friends confirm his email then you received a 10% reduction on your parking pass costs. Using a mobile application or the website you check in to the spot and how many people you came with and it gives you a points system which unlocks prizes. After 2-3 months of consistently carpooling with other students it gives you and your carpool mates a $10 voucher to the café. The program would be available to students who would regularly drive to school and who because of this program don’t drive to school anymore. The costs savings to Lakehead could be enormous and would prevent them from having to build additional parking lots. If using this program we could eliminate 15% of cars coming and going to campus it could save a lot of gas, time and money.

Off-Campus Parking:

Lakehead University has consistent access to Orillia transit but for many students it’s not a viable option because they either live out of town or need to drive in order to get to school. Lakehead has already partnered with the City of Orillia to purchase parking spaces for students at the Rotary Place for a cheaper cost. The students pay Lakehead and then they pay an annual fee of roughly $10,000 for the spaces to the City of Orillia. I would like to see this program expanded with the partners in the community and with the City of Orillia. Lakehead students pay for a yearlong bus pass in their tuition which means they can take the bus for free at any point in that year. There are a couple opportunities I see for Lakehead to look at community partners to fill its parking woes. There is a call center, movie theater and the City of Orillia all of which have lots with quick and easy access to Orillia transit. Based on their proximity to campus one could have a reduced fee and consistent access to parking.

The Call center has a large parking lot that is rarely full and could easily accept 20-30 vehicles that belong to students. Based on its proximity to the school you could charge a little less than the rotary place spots but add to the available spots without having to add parking on your own property. That business makes good use of its available spots and it provides an additional source of income for the business. The photo below shows one of the parking lots that could be used for additional parking and the bus stop going to the school and coming back are very close to the site.

Call Center Lot

The Movie theater again is another business which I believe could benefit from the additional access and money coming into its business. The movie theater is often empty during the day so its lots are open and available for students to use. As movies start to come close to starting is when its lots become a little fuller and a little more challenging to find parking. I believe the area shown in the photo could be set aside specifically for Lakehead University students from a 8 am – 5 pm basis and then after that they would be fair game for patrons of the theater to use or students with late classes. As the distance increases between the school and the parking space the cost would decrease for the students. This could be attractive for students who don’t want to pay for $400 for a parking pass come September but might be more willing to pay $250 or 300.

Movie Theater Lot

Finally there is a lot of opportunity for Lakehead and the City of Orillia to work together to find a use for the municipal lots that are owned by the City of Orillia. I believe that the city could set aside areas in these lots for students who are driving in and pay a fee $100-150 to park there for the school year without fear of being ticketed. This would not only bring in additional revenue for the City of Orillia but it would also allow students to use Orillia transit and show just how valuable of a tool it is for the community by raising its ridership numbers. Orillia bylaw could continue to ticket vehicles in this area as normal and take in those revenues while accepting the additional revenue from those vehicles. If students don’t have the pass in their car window then they can be ticketed as if a normal vehicle failure to pay. The benefits are there for both Orillia and for Lakehead to mitigate the parking disaster that continues to happen at the school.

Downtown Lots

Enforcement and additional rules

Lakehead University would need to make sure that people who are parking in the areas that have been designated for students are in fact students who have paid. This would mean that they would have to go to these areas and check on the vehicles to make sure they are registered and have paid. This would mean that Lakehead would be allowed to ticket on other businesses property and those revenues would come back to the university in the form of parking tickets. This would keep the students in line with regards to stealing spots designated for paying students and would keep these spaces available for students from other individuals. The City of Orillia could continue its bylaw enforcement of its parking stalls as it does currently depending on the agreement. If those spots were designated for specifically Lakehead vehicles they would fine those without a pass which may require bylaw amendments. If they allowed students who paid to park as long as they had a pass anywhere in the designated lots then they could continue on as normal.

Signs designating the spots would need to be put in to show that this was a designated area and allow for proper implementation of the rules and conduct. There would also be a fee associated with being able to park in other lots. So if you purchased a main campus lot spot you would pay nothing to park in the other 3 lots (downtown, call center and movies) where as if you bought a downtown spot you would pay $100 and only be able to go up as close as the call center. You can always go down and further from campus for free.

Hopefully with full implementation of these plans Lakehead can address the constant concerns of students about a lack of parking without having to spend millions on parking lots that sit empty throughout the summer and 3 of 7 week days. Carpooling and working with the community partners are just a couple ideas I had in order to address the issues at Lakehead’s commuter campus. The campus needs to do more to get people out of their cars and into transit, carpool, buses or alternative means of transport.