North Bay, ON, March 23, 2021 – The Nipissing University Faculty Association echoes the call of the North Bay District Labour Council, published online in the Nugget/Bay Today/My North Bay Now on March 17th, for the province to end the CCAA process at Laurentian University and to provide adequate and sustained funding to ensure the continued viability of this important institution. On March 19th, the Ontario government announced $106.5 million in emergency funding for post-secondary institutions suffering financial effects of COVID 19, but have allocated none of this funding to Laurentian University. This decision is troubling for reasons that extend well beyond the particulars of the situation at Laurentian.
First, the government’s decision to permit Laurentian to enter the CCAA process is unprecedented in Canada. This process was designed for private corporations, and the precedent set by allowing a public institution, funded by the Province, to declare insolvency and enter the CCAA could not be more troubling: if a public university can be dismantled by a secretive, closed-door process intended for private businesses, then why not any other public institution? A Crown corporation, perhaps? Or a hospital? The province needs to act immediately to stop the inappropriate and radical misuse of the CCAA process at Laurentian.
Second, there should be little doubt in anyone’s mind that what is happening at Laurentian would not be permitted to happen in vote-rich Southern Ontario. The threat to Laurentian – and the underfunding of Northern Universities, generally – is part of a familiar story in the North, where unequal access to healthcare, under-funded education systems, and inadequate transportation networks are all well-known and long-standing problems. As a member of the opposition, MPP Fedeli spoke up for Nipissing University when the Liberal government of the day unilaterally imposed changes to Education programs that disproportionately affected us. Now he sits as a cabinet minister in a government that has dramatically cut support to the University system as a whole. These cuts have a disproportionate effect on smaller, Northern Universities. Emergency handouts, while desperately needed, do not fix the underlying problem that Ontario funds its universities at the lowest rate in the entire country. He and the government of which he is a part needs to stand up for all Northern Communities, including Laurentian and Sudbury.
Finally, it is worth noting that, just as Nipissing University contributes just shy of $140 million each year to the economy of North Bay, and is one of the top three employers in the city, Laurentian makes an enormously important economic contribution to its community. As Minister for Economic Development, Job Creation, and Trade, MPP Fedeli should know perfectly well that anything that diminishes Laurentian as an institution will be deeply harmful to the economy of Sudbury and to its people. It is time for MPP Fedeli and the Ford government to act, now, before the April 30th deadline imposed by the CCAA.