The Faculty Association of the University of Waterloo stands in solidarity with our colleagues from the Laurentian University Faculty Association / Association des professeures et professeurs de l’Université Laurentienne (LUFA/APPUL), who are facing grave threats to collegial governance and collective bargaining. On February 1, Laurentian University entered creditor protection under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act (CCAA), which allows insolvent corporations to renegotiate their debts and potentially make dramatic changes to their labour agreements as well.
This is not the first time a public university in Canada has experienced financial distress, but it is to the best of our knowledge the first time one has sought creditor protection in this manner. The appropriate pathway forward is not creditor protection; it is a combination of support from the Ontario and federal governments to put Laurentian on a sustainable footing and (if needed) the implementation of the process for handling financial exigency already built into LUFA/APPUL’s agreement with Laurentian’s administration.
The crisis at Laurentian is not the fault of the university’s employees, and they should not be suffering as a result of mismanagement. To the contrary, as is true of university faculty and staff across the province, they have been doing astonishing work under extraordinarily challenging conditions since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, and this situation only exacerbates their difficult circumstances. FAUW supports our colleagues at LUFA/APPUL.
- Opposes the use of the CCAA: Laurentian has a cash-flow problem, but clearly has access to substantial resources, and can be backstopped by the Ontario government while it gets its financial house in order. Universities are public institutions, not companies that need protection from creditors. Allowing this to proceed will set a terrible precedent for other public institutions.
- Calls on the Ontario government to reinvest in universities in general, and Laurentian, with its bilingual structure and focus on educating Anglo-Ontarian, Franco-Ontarian and Indigenous populations, in specific. This is a manufactured crisis, and the means to handle the problem are in the hands of the Ford government.
- Deplores the financial mismanagement of the Laurentian University administration, which has burned through research accounts, retiree health-care premiums, and more while hiding the extent to which it was spiraling into financial disaster. We call for a renewed emphasis on transparency and collegial governance, and an examination of exactly what has transpired at Laurentian, so as to avoid similar mismanagement and crisis at other public institutions. The solution to crises of this sort is not more government oversight behind closed doors; it is more public and collegial oversight.