Sudbury

Would-be Sudbury MPs debate the future of Laurentian and reconciliation

Hours after Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau made an election campaign visit to the Laurentian campus without discussing the university's financial crisis, the candidates running to become Sudbury's MP raised the issue in an online debate Tuesday night.

4 of the 6 candidates for Sept. 20 federal election in Chamber of Commerce debate

Four of the candidates running to become MP for Sudbury met in a virtual debate on Zoom on Tuesday that was hosted by the Greater Sudbury Chamber of Commerce. The federal election is Sept. 20. (Greater Sudbury Chamber of Commerce)

Hours after Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau made an election campaign visit to the Laurentian campus without discussing the university's financial crisis, the candidates running to become Sudbury's MP raised the issue in an online debate Tuesday night.

"It is telling that Trudeau made a quick stop here today and barely talked about Sudbury, because for him this is just a seat. A seat they might lose," said Nadia Verrelli, one of the dozens of professors who lost her job at Laurentian University after the insolvent school cut programs and staff to deal with its financial problems while restructuring.

Verrelli is now running for the NDP. 

Her party's leader, Jagmeet Singh, was at Laurentian just a few days ago and pledged to provide enough funding to fully restore all programs.

Sudbury NDP candidate and laid-off Laurentian University professor Nadia Verrelli attacked the Liberal government for not doing more to protect jobs at the beleaguered university. (Greater Sudbury Chamber of Commerce )

But the Liberal candidate hoping to replace retiring MP Paul Lefebvre followed Trudeau's lead and said little about Laurentian's insolvency. 

Viviane Lapointe spoke about everything from the federal investments in bicycle infrastructure to the increasing budget at FedNor, the federal government's economic development organization for northern Ontario. 

but did not specifically address the uncertain future facing Laurentian University. 

"The Liberal government has been here for Sudbury and it will continue to be here for Sudbury," Lapointe said during the debate organized by the Chamber of Commerce. 

Green Party candidate David Robinson, another former Laurentian professor, said the financial state of the university is not a federal issue. 

"You're talking about provincial jurisdiction of course. The federal government has not much leverage," he said. 

Sudbury Liberal candidate Viviane Lapointe spoke about everything from the federal investments in bicycle infrastructure to the increasing budget at FedNor. (Greater Sudbury Chamber of Commerce )

But Robinson does believe the federal government should be protecting mining research at Laurentian as an important driver of the northern Ontario economy, and feels having French-language education in Sudbury is essential to attracting more francophone immigrants.

Conservative candidate Ian Symington also said his party would support the University of Sudbury's goal of becoming a standalone francophone institution, separate from Laurentian.

Lapointe did take exception with Verrelli's attack on the Liberal record when it comes to Indigenous issues, saying while the promise to end all boil-water advisories in First Nations was not met, important progress has been made. 

Colette Methé of the People's Party of Canada and perennial religious extremist candidate David Popescu are on the ballot in Sudbury, but did not take part in the debate.

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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