Thu. Feb 29th, 2024

In its economic statement released Tuesday, the federal government proposes to amend the Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act and the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act to prevent public colleges and universities from using it.

Universities: unions urge Ottawa to act on insolvency laws | Crisis at home Laurentian University

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Laurentian University became, in 2021, the very first Canadian public post-secondary institution to have recourse to the Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act.

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Students and faculty unions across the country welcome the federal government's proposal to prevent public post-secondary institutions from resorting to insolvency laws. However, they are urging Ottawa to make its promise a reality.

Today halfway through her master's degree at the University of Ottawa, Marie-Pierre Héroux is still marked by the great moment of anxiety that she experienced in 2021, while she was a student at Laurentian University.

Overnight, she learned that her history program was canceled, like dozens of others, by the establishment in financial crisis and which was placing itself in shelter from its creditors.

It’s a whole network that I I lost. When I think back on this whole saga […], it's practically a mourning for several future plans that will not see the light of day.

A quote from Marie-Pierre Héroux, former student at Laurentian University

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Marie-Pierre Héroux had to leave Laurentian University after the elimination of her history program in 2021.

Crisis at Laurentian University

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It took months before she found a new path at her current university, where she is delighted to have discovered so many more opportunities.

She still had a good reaction when she learned this week that Ottawa was proposing to implement legislative changes to ensure that public colleges and universities can no longer take advantage of the Creditors Arrangement Act. companies as well as the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act.

Qu' a situation like what happened at Laurentian University cannot happen again, I think that's the best thing we could ask for.

A quote from Marie-Pierre Héroux, former student of Laurentian University

In a written statement, the Canadian Federation of Students also said it supported the federal government's measure.

The Association of Professors of the Laurentian University (APPUL) also welcomes a major victory for the post-secondary sector.

Its president Fabrice Colin regrets that it took a crisis like that of its establishment which [has] generated so much suffering […] for the government to finally realize that these corporate processes are completely inappropriate for public institutions, in particular post-secondary education.

In her investigation report on Laurentian University, former Ontario Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk also spoke out on the issue.

It could be convincingly argued that the CCAA constitutes an inappropriate and even damaging remedy for public entities. Using federal law allowed Laurentian to circumvent the provisions of its collective agreements, eliminate a backlog of long-standing union grievances and operate with even less transparency.

A quote from Excerpt from the investigation report by former Auditor General of Ontario Bonnie Lysyk on Laurentian University

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The former Auditor General of Ontario, Bonnie Lysyk, highlighted in her investigation report on Laurentian University that the use of the Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act was “inappropriate” for public entities .

The union will, however, have to wait before celebrating, recognizes Mr. Colin.

The federal government concluded that legislative changes were necessary, after consultations with stakeholders in the post-secondary sector carried out earlier this year.

Questioned by Radio- Canada on the timeline for a possible bill, a spokesperson for the Department of Finance simply indicates that there will be legislative measures associated with this announcement without specifying a date.

We wholeheartedly hope that these changes will be made as soon as possible, obviously so that the issue is not relegated to indefinite time if there should ever be, for example, a change of government.

A quote from Fabrice Colin , president of the Association of Professors of Laurentian University

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Fabrice Colin is the president of the Association of Professors of Laurentian University.

The issue was also on the agenda Thursday during the lobbying session of the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) with representatives of the various political parties represented in the House of Commons.

The treasurer of the Yalla Sangaré group says he is quite optimistic after his conversations, but the finish line is not yet crossed, he points out.< /p>

We must also understand that for the moment, this is an announcement, there is a whole process that will follow and we will keep an eye on things. […] We will remain extremely vigilant. […] It's five minutes to midnight, time is running out.

A quote from Yalla Sangaré, CAUT treasurer in the House of Commons

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Yalla Sangaré is treasurer of the Canadian Association of University Teachers.

In analysis, political scientist Stéphanie Chouinard of the Royal Military College of Canada does not have the impression that the [federal] government will delay implementing this promise.

She recalls that the New Democratic Party (NDP) in particular has already demonstrated support for this cause.

In the context where it would be an additional string to the government's bow to demonstrate that we have acted on this issue for other post-secondary institutions which could be at risk, I have the impression that we could act quite quickly.

A quote from Stéphanie Chouinard, political scientist

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Stéphanie Chouinard is a political scientist at the Royal Military College of Canada.

The Liberal federal MP for Sudbury, Viviane Lapointe, emphasizes that we will first have to ensure that the changes [envisaged] are consistent with the Constitution in terms of language and intention.

But the mention in the economic statement represents a firm commitment on the part of the government, she notes.

I hope that we will see it in the spring of 2024 with the budget statement.

A quote from Viviane Lapointe, Liberal federal MP from Sudbury

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Viviane Lapointe is the federal MP for Sudbury.

NDP federal MP Carol Hughes, who represents the riding of Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, says her political party is happy that the government [has] seen the light and [has] decided that it should act .

We, in the NDP, will continue to push them to try to ensure that the bill is tabled and debated quickly enough so that it be [adopted] before the next elections, she says.

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New Democrat Carol Hughes represents the riding of Algoma-Manitoulin-Kapuskasing.

But the NDP also intends to demand that the bill also extend to all other public establishments, such as hospitals, adds Ms. Hughes.

The Conservative Party of Canada did not respond to our interview requests.

In response to the economic statement, Universities Canada, spokesperson for the country's public universities, says it is analyzing the impact of the proposed [legislative] changes.

The government has already indicated that the CCAA was created to prevent an uncontrolled worsening of the situation in the rare cases of financial difficulties. He did not specify how these risks will be mitigated in the context where many universities are affected by the significant reduction in public funding, we can read in a written statement.

The Canadian Federation of Students says it expects more action from the federal government to resolve the financial instability of post-secondary institutions.

The Ontario Confederation of University Teachers' Unions is also calling for increased provincial funding for universities.

Last week, a report from a panel of experts commissioned by the Ontario government to examine the financial viability of public colleges and universities reiterated that Ontario was the province that provided the least funding to its institutions post-secondary education in the country.

The committee recommended to the province a 10% increase to partially cover the inflation observed since 2017, and then an annual readjustment based on the consumer price index or at least 2%.

In a statement, a spokesperson for the Minister of Ontario Colleges and Universities, Jill Dunlop, says the Ford government will carefully consider the report's recommendations.

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