Sudbury

Greater Sudbury to petition province again about helping Laurentian University

Greater Sudbury council says it will renew its call to the Ontario government to intervene in the insolvency proceedings underway at Laurentian University, which earlier this month began making deep cuts to programs and staff.

Council passes motion unanimously, with several councillors voicing support

Ward 10 Coun. Fern Cormier says council's motion Tuesday expresses it wants the Ontario government 'to do anything and everything' it can as Sudbury's Laurentian University goes through insolvency proceedings. (Yvon Theriault/Radio-Canada)

Greater Sudbury council says it will renew its call to the Ontario government to intervene in the insolvency proceedings underway at Laurentian University, which earlier this month began making deep cuts to programs and staff.

This marks the second time the city will officially petition the province about the school, which on Feb. 1 declared itself financially insolvent and entered restructuring proceedings under the Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act.

Ontario, for its part, has consistently said it's monitoring Laurentian's situation, despite calls by Sudbury MPP Jamie West for the province to step in and provide funding to prevent the cuts.

At Tuesday's city council meeting, councillors Fern Cormier (Ward 10) and Deb McIntosh (Ward 9) brought forward the motion to again ask the province to step in.

"What I hope we will convey to this motion is a message to the provincial government that we want them to do anything and everything that they can as we go forward," said Cormier.

"I wish the university had ... taken a more laser-like focus on this that could have involved the provincial government, and the banks and the creditors working perhaps more collaboratively. But I feel this is a message that we need to send on behalf of our citizens in Greater Sudbury."

McIntosh told council Laurentian's health is critical to Greater Sudbury's economic, cultural and social well-being, and key to achieving the city's economic goals.

"There will be long-term impacts as a result of the changes occurring at Laurentian University, and the people of Greater Sudbury are calling on us to collectively, as a council, to fight for our university."

Ward 9 Coun. Deb McIntosh says a healthy Laurentian University is key to achieving the Greater Sudbury area's economic goals. (Submitted by the City of Greater Sudbury)

The motion was passed unanimously by council, with several councillors voicing their support.

Ward 1's Mark Signoretti noted the situation is having a negative impact on the contractors who "put their hard-earned money, time and energy into the capital projects that went along at Laurentian University. This decision has impacted their well-being and their viability as business owners in our community."

He said the ripple effects being felt go beyond students and faculty.

"It also affects the business owners that relied on this money and these contracts, that were supplied by Laurentian, to be paid, and it could be a situation where their business may suffer irreparable damage, that they may not be able to come out of." 

Ward 5 Coun. Robert Kirwan said that, as Laurentian assesses its real estate assets, the city should be taking a look at them if the opportunity arises.

"If it's something the city can invest in to turn things around, then that's an opportunity for us, because we do want the image of Sudbury to once again be strong. We don't want to see what's happening now at Laurentian to destroy that momentum.

"Let's make sure we're ready to intervene and make things work out for the best for all of our students, the faculty and the rest of the city," said Kirwan.

Checking in with city's lawyer

Mayor Brian Bigger pointed out that because Laurentian is involved in a legal process, the city can't intervene just yet.

"That's probably part of the reason that the province has not intervened at this point in time," said Bigger.

"I'll go to our our solicitor just for a response on the ability for a municipality to intervene in a legal process."

Cormier concluded the discussion, saying the thrust behind the motion is one of advocacy, "and to ensure that the message is heard loud and clear that we don't want to go softly into that good night. We want everything, every stone overturned, every potential solution going forward to regain as much as we possibly can at the appropriate time."

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