It is a fitting postscript to the political career of John Les that UFV began classes this week at the new Chilliwack campus at Canada Education Park.
Just days after the MLA announced his decision not to seek re-election, students are filing into to their classrooms in a stunning new 150,000 square foot facility.
Les, whose political tenure stretches back 30 years, was Chilliwack’s mayor when the decision was made to close Canada Forces Base Chilliwack and move hundreds of jobs – and the economic vitality they bring – to other Canadian cities. It was a looming disaster for the community that Les played a key role in adverting. He did it by marshaling political support for the education park, with the University of the Fraser Valley as an anchor tenant.
Today, CEP is feeling the expanded presence of the Justice Institute of BC, Canada Border Services, and the RCMP at its Pacific Regional Training Centre.
But more significantly, UFV has consolidated its presence on the university’s 85-acre portion of the education park. Currently, the campus can accommodate 1,500 full-time-equivalent students, with the capacity to add 300 more.
But that’s not all. UFV’s 30-year plan calls for construction of several more buildings with the eventual capacity of 7,000 full-time-equivalent student spaces.
By 2020, the education park overall could be home to 18,470 full-time students.
For Chilliwack, this means more than educational opportunities. It means the presence of a partnership of employers who will provide jobs and the attendant economic activity for generations.
Les, of course, wasn’t alone in his advocacy for the education park. But as MLA, first on the opposition benches and then in government, he helped secure the $40 million in provincial money necessary for land acquisition, construction and infrastructure done on the UFV campus to date.
It’s an investment that will continue to pay dividends to the community for years to come.
A legacy that John Les can rightly feel proud of being a part of – and one we shouldn’t hesitate to acknowledge.