Two-thirds of Quebec CEGEPs are in poor condition, warns auditor general

By Caroline Plante, The Canadian Press

Two-thirds of the buildings belonging to Quebec’s CEGEPs are in poor condition, according to auditor general Guylaine Leclerc.

In her annual report submitted on Thursday, Leclerc said there aren’t enough funds in the budget to “reverse their significant deterioration.”

According to the Quebec government, they’ve set aside $608.6 million for maintenance until 2027-2028, but Leclerc estimates that $1.7 billion would be needed.

“The situation is such that certain infrastructures had to be closed,” she wrote in her report.

Last May, one of the student residences at a CEGEP was evacuated “due to mold which developed following water infiltration, and the threat of collapse of an exterior brick wall.”

The CEGEP swimming pool, the only one in the region, has been closed for over a year due to leaks.

“The more these buildings deteriorate, there’s a bigger risk of a breakdown leading to a drop in performance and a stoppage of services,” noted Leclerc. “A defect that is not corrected in a timely manner risks causing others and requiring much more extensive work. For example, a leaking roof can end up damaging walls and floors. After a certain threshold of deterioration, the building sometimes must be rebuilt instead of repaired.”

Long and inefficient process

Some CEGEPs are faced with a significant space deficit, while others have a surplus.

Leclerc claimed that certain expansion projects don’t consider the CEGEPs needs and the current decision process to select projects is “long and inefficient.”

To carry out its analysis, the Ministry of Higher Education uses the “maximum number of students allowed in the school rather than the actual number of students enrolled,” which, according to the auditor, causes “inconsistencies.”

Cégep de Saint-Félicien, for example, saw its request for expansion authorized by Quebec in 2022-2023, even though its numbers do not justify it, Leclerc noted.

Meanwhile, the ministry refuses to finance the expansion of certain overcrowded establishments in large centres, such as Cégep John Abbott.

“In fact, out of all 48 CEGEPs, there are no projects in place for four of them which present a significant space deficit, while expansion projects have been authorized in six CEGEPs who have a surplus of space,” she wrote in her report.

Minister Déry reacts

Minister of Higher Education Pascale Déry was questioned about the subject in the National Assembly on Thursday.

She acknowledged “certain shortcomings” related to the management of CEGEP infrastructure.

Déry said she had inherited previous problems.

“I know very well that maintaining assets from previous governments is not easy,” she said. “It was first come, first serve, so we set up calls for projects to ensure we had a good picture of the situation.”

The minister argued that the Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) government made substantial investments in the Quebec Infrastructure Plan to maintain assets.

“The government is aware they need to catch up. There is nothing arbitrary in the choice of what we do to maintain assets. (…) It is an extremely rigorous process that we follow,” concluded Déry.

–This report by La Presse Canadienne was translated by CityNews

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