The province of Ontario has nixed the proposed law school at Ryerson University.
For those who have been watching the proposal work its way forward through various levels of the approval process, the news was not a surprise. As a four-part series this past summer in Law Times explored, graduates from law schools are facing issues such as mounting debt and dim prospects for articling positions.
What was interesting was the fulsomeness of the official government response to the cancellation, which cited “whether the program duplicates other programs in the province; labour market demand; student demand; appropriate tuition rates, and if the program aligns with an institutions Strategic Mandate Agreement” as part of its reasoning not to fund the school.
The school has now stated it did not seek new funding but “rather to transfer enrolment funding and OSAP, already approved by the government, toward legal education.”
Considering that in the span of a few days the province came under fire from critics for its reticence to kick in funding for improvements at the Brampton courthouse or to help with a $500,000 shortfall at Pro Bono Ontario, the news about Ryerson was another clear message to Ontarians about the province’s dedication to tightening up spending, even amid an extensive outcry in some cases.
The move by Justice Peter Daley of the Superior Court of Justice (clearly backed by his boss, Chief Justice Heather Forster Smith) was especially unusual.
The decision about Ryerson may have been very well reasoned, though there are many people who will be disappointed by the news, particularly those who saw the school as a way of improving access to justice.
If the past week is anything to go on, the Ford government has got a lot farther to go, and lawyers and legal organizations should be mightily aware that funding may be hard to come by when it comes to the province.