Will the crisis at Laurentian University create new legislative tools? | Crisis at Laurentian University
Ontario Senator Lucie Moncion still remembers her reaction in February 2021 when she learned that Laurentian University was seeking refuge from its creditors, the first public institution in the country to do so.
Prior to his appointment to the Upper House of Parliament, he worked in the financial institutions sector and
knows [donc] What happens when people seek protection under the Companies Creditors Regulation Act (CCAA)..
I consider this a very harmful tool for key stakeholdershe explains.
April 2021 program and job cuts at Laurentian University proved him right.
Already concerned about the financial problems facing other French-language secondary institutions in the country, such as the University of Alberta Saint-Jean Campus, it debated Bill S-215. (New window) if passed, it would prevent all public colleges and universities from using these facilities CCAA as well as the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act.
The text is currently being studied by the Senate Standing Committee on Banking, Commerce and the Economy.
Even as Laurentian University finally emerges from its tumultuous restructuring, the alarm bells continue, the senator notes, and in his view,
the law is very relevant.
In a report released last week, Ontario Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk highlighted the fragile financial health of Nipissing University in North Bay, as well as several management deficiencies at the institution.
” One of the concerns about universities reaching this level may be the lack of monitoring by governments regarding the work done in universities. Regulation is important in financial institutions, […] and we come to universities, we talk about academic independence. I understand academic independence, but there is an entire financial sector that our governments ignore. »
Limits on university deficits?
President of the Laurentian University Professors Association (APPLE), Fabrice Colin, agrees with Senator Moncion.
Government control is absolutely essentialhe notes and adds that the Ontario government through its representatives on Laurentian University’s board of governors
did not fulfill monitoring obligations.
In a research report on Laurentian University (New window)Bonnie Lysyk concludes that most of the enterprise’s financial problems are caused
unthinkable capital expenditure.
Recommends to the Ontario Ministry of Colleges and Universities
to assess the benefits of implementing enabling legislation […] set limits on university deficits, debt and capital expenditures.
All Canadian provinces except Ontario, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Quebec have such a legislative instrument.
But the University of Ontario Association of Faculty Unions wants to be cautious about this.
I believe that it is dangerous to think that the solution to this lies only in increasing state control. […] Adding more would create additional burdens for already underfunded universities, which have to respond at any time.explains organization president Susan Wurtele.
” Governments already have some control. They have not always used it wisely. […] Instead, we need the government to be more concerned with the needs of universities. »
Among other things, it demands an increase in state funds for universities.
Asked about the possibility of a law that would put limits on university deficits, the Ontario Ministry of Colleges and Universities said through a spokesperson that in response to the current crisis at Laurentian University,
a robust regulatory framework to identify institutions experiencing financial difficulties.
The goal of this new regulatory structure is to strengthen departmental oversight and ensure proactive reporting before an organization reaches the point of financial distress.Liz Tuomey, spokeswoman for Minister Jill Dunlop, wrote in an email.
NDP MP for Nickel Belt, France Gélinas believes Ontario
should do to pass the law.
He recalled that Bonnie Lysyk recommended several other measures to improve governance at Laurentian University, and said that several other universities in the province wanted to implement them as well.
” But leave it to goodwill [des dirigeants actuels]yes, maybe we will have immediate changes, but in five years, in 10 years, will these changes still be valid? »
Professional secrecy and the Authority of the Auditor General
Along with her colleague, Sudbury Member of Parliament Jamie West, Ms. Jelinas also tabled the bill. (New window) Strengthening the powers of the incumbent Auditor General of Ontario.
The two elected officials made the decision after Bonnie Lysyk overruled Laurentian University’s resistance in an investigative case to produce documents related to attorney-client privilege.
The Bill proposes amendments to the Auditor General of Ontario Act to provide access to all records requested by the Auditor General of Ontario from an entity he is investigating.
even if such information or documents are confidential or subject to attorney-client privilege.
Ms. Gelinas says she wants to make it easier for Ms. Lysyk and her successors, especially since the Auditor General of Ontario is required by law not to disclose privileged information she receives.
Ms. Lysyk is also awaiting a decision from the Ontario Court of Appeal, which must rule on her powers under the law.
The concept of attorney-client privilege is an absolutely essential concept that must be protected. Gilles LeVasseur, professor of law and management at the University of Ottawa, notes that even in cases where the client is an institution that receives public funds.
It’s all about being able to explain as well as building trust in a relationship [à un avocat] what is happening according to our view of events and that it is not interpreted by someone else because we can access this conversationhe explains.
” If we begin to open up this privilege, it will open up the whole question of knowing the trust that can arise between two parties trying to work on a legal document. »
Protection of pension plans
The crisis at Laurentian University initially raised fears among the institution’s employees and retirees, worried about losing their pensions.
Finally, the University’s settlement plan with its corporate creditors, approved in October, protects pension plans.
But last month, federal lawmakers unanimously passed Bill C-228. (New window) By Conservative MP Marilyn Gladu, it aims to ensure that pension plans are protected in the event of company bankruptcy or insolvency.
The text of the law is being examined in the Senate.
The member explains that it is only
accidentally The passage of his bill came in the context of a crisis at Laurentian University.
However, devastating problems at Laurentian University […] shows the need for a bill to protect Canadian workers and their pensionshe wrote in an email to Radio-Canada.
Such efforts at the federal level please Susan Wurtele, president of the Ontario Association of University Professors, who welcomed the debate in the House of Commons last week on another bill aimed at curbing public institutions. should be protected from creditors.
The lessons learned from this very damaging series of events should not be wasted. This is exactly what should happenhe concludes.