Sudbury

Ontario NDP leader accuses Premier Ford of 'hiding' from Laurentian University 'quagmire'

The leader of Ontario's NDP is accusing Premier Doug Ford of walking away from the financial crisis at Laurentian University. But Andrea Horwath isn't clear on what a government led by her would do differently.

NDP are committed to funding a standalone Francophone university in Sudbury

During a stop in Sudbury Wednesday, with local MPP Jamie West looking on, Ontario NDP leader Andrea Horwath accused the PC government of 'walking away' from the financial crisis at Laurentian University. (Erik White/CBC )

The leader of Ontario's NDP is accusing Premier Doug Ford of walking away from the financial crisis at Laurentian University.

But during a stop in Sudbury Wednesday morning, Andrea Horwath wasn't clear on what a government led by her would do differently, other than work with those involved to find solutions.

"You can't actually deal with these kinds of problems if you're not prepared to show up," she told reporters gathered in the Laurentian students' centre. 

"Because the government has simply walked away from the crisis here at Laurentian, it's everyday folks who are paying the price."

Horwath did commit to funding a standalone Francophone university in Sudbury.

But while the federal NDP have called for the restoring of all the jobs and programs cut at Laurentian, Horwath said she would only consider that option. 

A student gets ready to put on their mask as they walk into the Parker building at Laurentian University in Sudbury. (Erik White/CBC )

"That's absolutely something that's going to be on the table. We have to rebuild this university. We can't have over half of the positions cut and expect the university to thrive," she said. 

"There's just no doubt there have been some problems that have been identified, but what you don't do is just walk away. You try to solve them."

Asked about whether universities need greater financial oversight, Horwath shifted the blame to Liberal and Conservative governments that have steadily cut funding to post-secondary education.

She said outside of the "specific quagmire" at Laurentian, Ontario is the "bottom of the barrel" in per student post-secondary funding, a concern for all colleges and universities in the province.  

In response, the Progressive Conservative government released a statement saying their concern for the situation at Laurentian saw them move quickly to appoint Dr. Alan Harrison as a special advisor, and he will continue to analyze the state of the university until the end of this year. 

"Unlike the Band-aid approach of the opposition, our government is continuing to take a fact-based and rational approach that will address core issues at hand to best support students and staff alike in the short, medium, and long term," reads the statement.

Muskegowuk-James Bay MPP Guy Bourgouin says Premier Doug Ford's 'hiding' from the Laurentian University crisis has letdown the francophone community eager to set-up a standalone French-language university. (Erik White/CBC)

Jean-Charles Cachon, one of the 180 Laurentian professors laid off during the restructuring, said many of the programs cut were exactly what the university was founded on. 

"The clock has been turned back over 60 years, so welcome to the 1950s," he said. 

Guy Bourgouin, the MPP for Mushkegowuk-James Bay and the NDP critic for francophone affairs, said the PC government's "hiding" behind the creditor protection process during the Laurentian crisis has created uncertainty for French-language programs and failed to "address the full needs of the francophone community."

Horwath's stop in Sudbury was part of a northern Ontario tour during Thanksgiving week when the legislature is not sitting in Toronto.

She visited North Bay on Tuesday and is set to speak in Sault Ste. Marie on Thursday. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Erik White

journalist

Erik White is a CBC journalist based in Sudbury. He covers a wide range of stories about northern Ontario. Connect with him on Twitter @erikjwhite. Send story ideas to erik.white@cbc.ca

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