Crisis at Laurentian a symbol of the larger problem

“Insolvency proceedings at Laurentian University in Ontario should shock all citizens of Ontario and “put Owen Sound on notice,” says Grey Bruce Labour Council President, Kevin Smith. In addition, Smith says that “Ontario’s labour movement is urging Premier Ford and Minister Ross Romano to step up and fix the crisis exacerbated by this government’s post-secondary funding failures.”

“The news that Laurentian University is laying off over 80 faculty members, numerous staff, and cutting over 60 programs is not only devastating, but could be the future of any of Ontario’s post-secondary institutions,” says Dave Trumble, Grey Bruce Labour Council VP for Bruce County.

Within Grey Bruce lies Georgian College and there is no reason to believe that this college could not find itself in similar circumstances. The crisis at Laurentian is merely a symptom of the much larger problem of chronic underfunding of Ontario’s post-secondary education system. Years of diminishing funding for colleges and universities paired with the Ford government’s refusal to provide any short-term funding relief, has resulted in Laurentian University’s use of the Companies Creditors Arrangement Act, the CCAA process – a process reserved for private institutions, until now.

Grey Bruce Labour Council VP for Grey, Chris Stephen, warns “that Owen Sound and the City Council must act now to make it known that they insist on action from the Ford government to address items such as chronic underfunding of post-secondary institutions in Ontario. This funding will not only ensure sustainability for Georgian College, but for post-secondary institutions across Ontario.”

The Grey Bruce Labour Council passed unanimously a motion calling on the Ford government to adequately fund post-secondary institutions across Ontario. The Labour Council anticipates that this would involve intensive aid to mitigate the tragic situation at Laurentian University.

“Workers and the communities living in fear of public institutions going bankrupt, tears the very fabric of a socially responsible society. It is not too late for the Ontario government to step in, fix the crisis at Laurentian, and ensure that no other post-secondary institution or any other public institution faces the same fate. Ford and Romano must stop putting ideology over protecting the public institutions Ontarians rely on – especially in the midst of a pandemic,” says Labour Council Secretary, Amy Stephen.

Anna Morrison, Labour Council Sergeant at Arms, cautions against excusing funding shortfalls due to the pandemic. “Excusing this, and allowing it to happen despite our current situation, will only make it all the more difficult to emerge successfully from COVID-19.”

Georgian College and its success is intrinsically connected to the success of Owen Sound, not to mention students should not live under the threat of having to travel great distances to secure post-secondary education. Smith also notes that the Grey Bruce Labour Council will be providing a motion for Owen Sound City Council to hopefully support local education.