Rowena Santos, Regional Councillor, City of Brampton
There is a city in Canada where the population is growing faster than anywhere else and where immigrants are successfully establishing strong roots through grit and hardwork. The city is feeding the country through its supply chain and logistics. That city is Brampton, Ontario, where long-time residents and newcomers are engaged in lively city building. It’s the city I was raised in, where I am proud to call home and where I am raising my son as a single mom.
Like you, I too want to build a stronger foundation and brighter future for my son and every child here in the city that I love. Higher education is a way to do that. It is a way for people to move up the economic ladder and overcome social injustice. Those who pursue higher education cause economic decision makers to provide equal opportunities to them. This is why I was so excited about a $90M commitment from the provincial government to start work on a major university expansion in this city.
On my second day as Councillor, the provincial government cancelled the $90M plan. I took the decision personally. Brampton is the only big city without our own comprehensive university and most students are forced to study elsewhere or commute everyday at much added cost and time. My Filipino family worked hard so that we could get an education. I worked my way through university eventually getting a Master’s degree from the London School of Economics. It wasn’t easy and it was expensive. It shouldn’t be so hard. This is why I have always advocated for a full-scale university in Brampton.
At City Council, I was a champion of a “BramptonU” initiative; a comprehensive campaign for university funding. Our previous council had spent $750k to lobby for the $90M announcement. The BramptonU initiative cost $600k and resulted in numerous successes for the city. A new medical school has been announced. We are negotiating to move a 5,000 student university into our downtown. Toronto Metropolitan University and Algoma are expanding. And Sheridan continues to have a strong presence.
My role as a Member of Council in these wins is being questioned by some of my council colleagues, all of whom voted unanimously to support the BramptonU initiative. Big projects and ideas like a university take a great deal of work and investment. These things don’t happen without the city agreeing to spend the money to advocate and champions pushing the idea forward.
Despite unanimous support by Council for the initiative, it is no surprise that as the only woman on council, I am targeted for having big ideas like having our own university, and further pursuing them. I have used my voice and experience to battle systemic injustice as much as I can, which for anyone would take its toll on their mental health. But I will not be diminished or silenced and as a mom, I will continue to fight with you, for the equity that our next generation of Bramptonians deserve. This is how we overcome systemic injustice at city scale, by working hard and pushing forward together. Rowena Santos is running for re-election as Regional Councillor for Wards 1 and 5 in the City of Brampton. Contact her at [email protected] or visit www.rowenasantos.ca