Sudbury

Advocacy group asking new minister of colleges and universities to save Laurentian University

The Sudbury Workers, Education and Advocacy Centre (SWEAC) is asking the new Minister of Colleges and Universities, Jill Dunlop to lift Laurentian University out of insolvency.

Jill Dunlop replaced Sault MPP Ross Romano as minister in cabinet shuffle about a month ago

Jill Dunlop was made minister of Colleges and Universities in a cabinet shuffle on June 18. (Colin Butler/CBC)

The Sudbury Workers, Education and Advocacy Centre (SWEAC) is asking the new Minister of Colleges and Universities to lift Laurentian University out of insolvency.

The centre in Sudbury, Ont., is a small, non-profit run by volunteers who lobby for better working conditions for northern Ontarians.

SWEAC has been throwing its support behind students and staff at Laurentian University who were affected by cuts made as the university restructures under the Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act (CCAA).

"The CCAA process is about making sure the creditors are happy so if there is an influx of money the creditors can be satisfied and the process can be stopped," said Scott Florence, executive director at SWEAC.

He is also a member of the Save Our Sudbury (SOS) group of faculty, students and other supporters protesting and lobbying against the cuts at Laurentian. The letter was posted to the SOS Facebook page.

Scott Florence is the executive director of the Sudbury Workers Education and Advocacy Center, a small, non-profit group which advocates for better working conditions for workers in northeastern Ontario. (Supplied/sudburyworkerscentre.ca)

SWEAC wants Jill Dunlop to stop the CCAA process. Dunlop replaced Sault MPP Ross Romano as Minister of Colleges and Universities in a cabinet shuffle on June 18.

The group also wants the province to remove the president of Laurentian, Robert Haché, and the school's board of governors.

"The problems and issues with the administration can still be addressed," Florence said. "They still need to be addressed, but having the team that created the problems be in charge of solving the problems doesn't seem particularly intuitive."

"That's what's happening with the CCAA," he added.

Asking for all job cuts to be reversed 

The centre is also requesting all job and program cuts be reversed. Florence says the centre lobbies for better working conditions, especially for those in low-wage and precarious employment.

"Although we often think of university jobs as good jobs, there's a whole lot of sessional teachers at universities," he said.

"That is the trend at universities to try and fill their teaching roster up with sessionals, as opposed to full-time faculty, and so those sessionals are precarious workers. They don't know year from year how many courses they're going to have if they'll continue to be teaching the courses."

"I would want to know why the provincial government allowed this process to go forward and what they're going to do to stop this process," Florence said.

"And to ensure that funding for education, not just here in the north — although it's of particular need in the north because of our smaller universities that we have here — but funding in Ontario overall, how she's going to fix the funding formula."

Statement issued from Ministry of Colleges and Universities

Meantime, the Ministry of Colleges and Universities responded with a statement saying Laurentian itself took the step into CCAA.

"Laurentian, as an autonomous institution, made the decision to enter into CCAA proceedings, and the Government of Ontario is not a party to the CCAA," the statement said.

"Since Laurentian entered CCAA, the Government has been clear that it would take steps to protect the pathways to graduation for impacted students. The government continues to monitor the CCAA proceeding closely and looks forward to taking steps in the future that protect and support the long-term sustainability of postsecondary education in Sudbury and Northern Ontario."

"Further, it is important to note that the ministry continues to provide operating funding to Laurentian as it operates during the CCAA process," the statement also said. 

With files from Kate Rutherford

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