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Laurentian University pledges 'full co-operation’ in response to scathing auditor general’s report

Sudbury university's board of governors 'took every possible step to avoid CCAA filing'
Laurentian University in Sudbury

In the wake of the auditor general’s findings, Laurentian University has stated in a release that it is committing to “immediate actions and full co-operation.”

In a scathing preliminary report released on April 13, Ontario Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk said she believes the data shows Laurentian University did not have to file for creditor protection under the Companies Creditors’ Arrangement Act (CCAA).

This action was “strategically planned” and Laurentian “chose to take steps to file for creditor protection in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice on February 1, 2021.”

“In our view, there were many people hired by Laurentian who were more focused on laying the track that guided the train toward the CCAA process, and less on working co-operatively and with full transparency with the Ministry of Colleges and Universities and faculty and staff labour unions,” Lysyk said.

During an April 22 Laurentian board of governors meeting, chair Jeff Bangs said some of what was said in Lysyk’s preliminary report was “not entirely correct,” but didn’t go into details of what he considers inaccurate.

But he added that LU is working with Lysyk as she completes her yet-to-be-released full report.

In a press release issued by the university shortly after the April 22 board of governors meeting wrapped up, Bangs states, “Laurentian, its management and renewed board of governors, fully recognize and accept that, as recipients of public funds, we are fully accountable for the stewardship and prudent management of the university. We will continue to co-operate with the auditor general and her team as they prepare their final report to ensure it is as accurate and complete as possible.”

The release continues, noting that, “it is important for stakeholders to know, however, that the university took every possible step to avoid a CCAA filing, and only at the timing of the filing at the end of January 2021, when all other options had been explored and it was clear there was no alternative, did the board of governors make the difficult but necessary decision to bring the court application to enter into CCAA protection.” 

Bangs also said the move to enter the insolvency process on Feb. 1, 2021 was “unavoidable.” 

His statement echoes remarks made by Laurentian president Robert Haché earlier this week.

“It is more important than ever that Laurentian along with its key stakeholders and partners — including students, faculty, staff — successfully complete the CCAA restructuring process and turn its attention to building an academically rich, culturally diverse, and fiscally sound future,” said Bangs.

The release also contains the actions that Laurentian and its board further will commit to in the “near term.”

  • Full Disclosure: Next week, the university will complete the final transmission of all documents requested by the Standing Committee on Public Accounts in respect of which disclosure is not prohibited by the ruling of Chief Justice Morawetz, the supervising Judge in the CCAA proceedings. Laurentian has worked co-operatively and openly with the Legislative Assembly of Ontario and its Standing Committee on Public Accounts to achieve this task within the parameters of the Orders made by Chief Justice Morawetz, said the press release. Since January, Laurentian has produced over four million documents to the Standing Committee spanning the past 12 years for review by the Committee and the Auditor General.
  • Engaging our Stakeholders: The board of governors and management will foster engagement with various stakeholders of the university, including senate, students, faculty and staff, labour partners, creditors, the broader community and the Province to have ongoing dialogue about building a better future for Laurentian once the CCAA proceedings have concluded, including a new strategic plan. These will be opportunities for constructive discussions and relationship building from a position of mutual trust.
  • Continuing Oversight and Restoring Confidence: The board of governors will continue to monitor costs related to the restructuring process “as we work towards emergence from the CCAA proceeding,” the press release said.