MPP 'disappointed' Sudbury's Laurentian University fighting Speaker's warrant in court

The NDP MPP for Nickel Belt says she doesn’t believe Laurentian University will succeed in its application to stay a Speaker’s warrant seeking privileged documents.

Nickel Belt MPP France Gélinas doesn’t believe Sudbury, Ont., school will succeed in challenge

France Gélinas, the MPP for Nickel Belt, says the standing committee on public accounts has been working for months to try and get information from Laurenatian University. (Mathieu Gregoire/CBC)

France Gélinas, the NDP MPP for Nickel Belt, said she doesn't believe Laurentian University will succeed in its application to stay a Speaker's warrant seeking privileged documents.

Lawyers for the Sudbury, Ont., university have asked a judge to stay or suspend the warrant. The motion for the warrant was introduced by Gélinas.

On Dec. 9, the Ontario Legislature voted unanimously to issue the warrant for production of privileged information.

It's a rarely used tool the provincial government can use to force the release of sensitive documents.

This warrant comes after a dispute between the auditor general and Laurentian over the release of privileged information. Laurentian argues it is a legally independent entity and falls outside the scope of the Legislature.

"I'm really disappointed with [Laurentian's] behaviour," Gélinas said.

"The legislative assembly has spoken. Laurentian, like every university, is a transfer payment agency of the government of Ontario. When the government of Ontario asks them for something, they have no choice but to comply. To see them spending more time, effort, energy and money on legal fees is not something positive for my community."

Gélinas said she doesn't believe Laurentain will succeed in this challenge in court.

"The legislative assembly has all the powers," she said. 

"We make the laws. We don't use a Speaker warrant very often because this is really using a lot of powers in the legislative assembly."

Prior to putting forward the motion for the warrant, Gélinas said the standing committee on public accounts had been working on getting information from Laurentian for months.

"October, November, we bent over backwards to try and find ways to accommodate them and respect what they were asking us but at the same time to get them to respect what we were asking of them," she said.

"That was to no avail. They did not want to share. None of us can understand why they don't want us to look at this."

She added the committee has had several lawyers look at what they are doing.

"They all came back with the same advice: that we have all the power. They will have to comply."

Laurentian said it is a legally independent entity and falls outside the scope of the Legislature.

It also added it fears the university would be harmed if the information becomes public and said it has co-operated as fully as possible with requests for information.

With files from Kate Rutherford


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