Laurentian's president says he was transparent with government about financial crisis prior to insolvency

The president and vice-chancellor of Laurentian University said he did reach out to both the provincial and federal governments and was transparent about the university’s financial difficulties prior to seeking creditor protection on February 1st.

More questions for Robert Haché at the Standing Committee on Official Languages

Laurentian University President Robert Haché was questioned on his meetings with MP's about Laurentian's financial crisis before the Standing Committee on Official Languages, June 3rd. (Parliament of Canada)

The president and vice-chancellor of Laurentian University said he did reach out to both the provincial and federal governments and was transparent about the university's financial difficulties prior to seeking creditor protection on February 1st.

Robert Haché made that comment during an appearance at the Standing Committee on Official Languages on Thursday.

Haché was questioned by both Sudbury MP Paul Lefebvre and Timmins-James Bay MP Charlie Angus.

Lefebvre continues to say he did not know of the depth of the financial crisis, but he did offer all of the help the federal government could have provided through the Ministry of Official Languages.

Lefebvre asked Haché during Thursday's committee meeting if it was correct that he (Lefebvre) first learned of the university's financial problems during a meeting with Haché on December 22.

"Did I also not say that I had communicated with Minister (Mélanie) Joly's office to see what we could do, because as we know, and as we said last Tuesday, the Official Languages program works through a federal transfer payment but it does get delivered by the province so we could work together to move this forward. Did I not say that?"

"Yes, that's what I recollect," replied Haché.

Sudbury Liberal MP Paul Lefebvre said he did not know of the severity of Laurentian's financial troubles until after it declared insolvency. (Kate Rutherford/CBC)

Joly, the minister responsible for FedNor and Official Languages, testified earlier this week at another committee meeting that if she had known the seriousness of Laurentian's plight she would have stepped in.

Lefebvre also pointed out that Laurentian was to follow up with the federal Heritage department on funding for Indigenous programming, which Haché admits was not done.

The federal politician also emphasized his point that the province is responsible for the vast majority of funding for universities, and the federal government doesn't have the ability to intervene.

"Last week my colleague suggested that the federal government could lend 10 million dollars to Laurentian University and that would have made it possible for Laurentian to avoid the CCAA process. Is that indeed the case?"

"No," replied Haché.

The Sudbury MP has said he was shocked and surprised when the university resorted to deep employee and programming cuts, saying they removed the soul of the institution

The NDP MP for Timmins-James Bay still wanted to know why the financial crisis came as a surprise to so many, including politicians such as Lefebvre.

Timmins-James Bay NDP MP Charlie Angus questioned Laurentian's president on whether he clearly communicated the university's financial crisis to political representives. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

Charlie Angus asked Haché if it would not have been better to go above the local MPs, and talk directly to the minister for FEDNOR because she said she had the capacity to work with the province to help find a solution to the crisis at Laurentian. 

"So we did reach out broadly in answer to your question, both federally and provincially," said Haché. "We did absolutely work with our local MPs as an important touch point. We have a strong relationship and an ongoing relationship with them, but also reached out directly. In some meetings we were successful in achieving, and others we were not."

"She (Joly) said she would have intervened and helped if she had been made known," pressed Angus. "We're looking at something that's been disastrous for our region. And we have a minister who said, if I had been told, I would have been there….Why, given the magnitude of the crisis, why didn't you reach out to her and say, we need your help now?" 

"So, as I said, we did reach out and really, as well as provincially through our MPs and otherwise, and certain meetings we achieved and others we did not," said Haché. "And, you know, hindsight can be 20/20. And if we had been more aggressive, more successful, perhaps there might have been a change, but, perhaps not, as well." 

Laurentian's president Robert Haché says he was transparent about the university's financial crisis, despite local MP's saying they were shocked when it declared insolvency. Robert Haché appeared before another parliamentary committee. We have some audio from the committee meeting 4:57


Kate Rutherford


Kate Rutherford is a CBC newsreader and reporter in Sudbury. She reaches across northern Ontario to connect with people and their stories. She has worked as a journalist in Saint John, N.B and calls Halifax, N.S. home.


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