Post-secondary minister says Laurentian University investigator report expected in 6 to 8 weeks

Click to play video: 'Laurentian University facing ‘unprecedented financial challenges’, files for court protection'
Laurentian University facing ‘unprecedented financial challenges’, files for court protection
Laurentian University says they are facing unprecedented financial troubles and announced Monday that the institution has filed for court protection. Erica Vella reports – Feb 1, 2021

TORONTO — An upcoming report on the finances of a northern Ontario university that has filed for creditor protection should be made public, the province’s official Opposition said Tuesday.

The report by a government adviser tasked with investigating the financial woes of Laurentian University is expected to be completed in six to eight weeks.

The province’s minister for post-secondary education, Ross Romano, said he has already received a preliminary report on the situation at the school, which filed for creditor protection earlier this month.

The minister did not say if the “internal” document would be released publicly, but noted it would help the government determine how to proceed.

Romano’s office said late Tuesday that it will make a determination about the release of the report after it receives the document.

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Laura Mae Lindo, a New Democrat critic for colleges and universities, said the public has a right to know what’s been going on at the school, located in Sudbury, Ont.

“People want to know what was actually happening at Laurentian,” she said. “And this review would provide them with those answers. There’s no need to hide it.”

The president of Laurentian University announced last week that the school was insolvent after a decade of financial strain from issues that predate the pandemic, like population decline in the region.

Robert Hache said that the proceedings under the federal Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act would not affect day-to-day operations at the school.

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Romano said the province was made aware of the serious nature of Laurentian’s financial issues six months ago and had been working with the school.

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He acknowledged that insolvency proceedings were a “black cloud” over the community, but declined to provide any further details because of the court proceedings.

The province has warned it may introduce legislation granting it greater oversight of every university’s finances.

Lindo said the province should provide sustainable funding to all post-secondary institutions, including Laurentian.

She pointed to a 10 per cent tuition cut introduced by the Progressive Conservative government in 2019, which universities were forced to absorb. The decision resulted in a major revenue decrease across the sector, she said.

“This is a broader issue, those cuts were not things that a sector could easily walk away from or pick themselves up from,” she said.

On Tuesday, the United Steelworkers union called for the Canadian and Ontario governments to stop the insolvency proceedings at Laurentian and to provide the long-term, stable funding at the school.

While the Steelworkers do not represent workers at the school, the union said it has members at post-secondary institutions around the province who are concerned about the situation at the Laurentian.

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