Bashing Barrie is a provincial sport.

Queen’s Park dashed Barrie’s hopes for a university campus recently and nobody in the city is happy about it. You would swear that bashing Barrie could be made a sport as part of the upcoming Pan-Am Games. Barrie was again among the forgotten as the province announced that only York University is currently allowed to expand. And that expansion is only as far as Markham on the northern boundary of Toronto.

To Barrie’s credit, it made a very strong case for building a campus for Sudbury-based Laurentian University in the city. Georgian College already partners with a number of universities in offering degree granting courses for students in Barrie and Orillia. As it stands today, it is reported by the media that more than 80 per cent of Barrie’s young people seeking post-secondary education are forced to leave Barrie for that education.

As the major centre of population growth at the north end of the Greater Toronto Trading Area, Barrie serves a large trading area of its own covering much of Simcoe County. While most people assume that the city is just a bedroom community for Toronto, it actually is claimed to have more people coming to work there from the neighbouring areas than leave it to go to Toronto each day.

It is only Torontonians, such as Premier Wynne who assume that Barrie is just the gateway to the Parry Sound-Muskoka-Haliburton lake country. Mind you, Barrie residents are used to directing lost tourists on summer weekends that make the mistake of trying to find routes through town other than a jammed Highway 400.

But Barrie is something of a political nonentity at the moment. Having the leader of the opposition at Queen’s Park from Barrie and without a seat in the Legislature leaves the area in limbo even though represented at Queen’s Park by a Liberal backbencher. The MLA is new and has little experience, knowledge or background on what the city needs from the province.

Federally the situation has been much worse for some time as the Conservative Member of Parliament that just resigned had no real influence in Ottawa and is not expected to ever have any influence at Queen’s Park.

It will be interesting to see how much influence Bryan Tamblyn, the former president of Georgian College and candidate for the federal Liberals in Barrie-Springwater-Oro-Medonte, can bring to bear on the matter. It depends entirely on whether or not he is under the thumb of the old guard Whigs who think they run the Liberal Party in Barrie.

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Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry

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