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Opinion: Don’t let Laurentian University fade into obscurity, says chamber chair

'Tough pill to swallow,' but opportunity arises as restructured university prepares to exit insolvency process
Laurentian University campus aerial 2
(Laurentian University photo)

As the September 14 voting deadline approaches for Laurentian University to emerge from the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act (CCAA), the Greater Sudbury Chamber of Commerce and its board of directors are hopeful a new and re-imagined post-secondary institution will be the ultimate result.

Significant impacts have been felt throughout the community since the beginning of Laurentian University’s CCAA process in the early months of 2021, as the university moved to cut costs and restructure. During that process, hundreds of professors and other professionals at Laurentian – as well as at its three former federated universities – lost their jobs.

Many of these people have left the region with their families. The result has been a substantial economic, social,intellectual, and cultural withdrawal from the city. Local businesses have lost clients and future employees. Businesses and industries have lost research opportunities and talented researchers.Health centres have lost practitioners. Arts organizations have lost patrons and volunteers. Primary and secondary schools have lost students. The list goes on.

Far fewer post-secondary students are choosing to come to Sudbury because of the situation. It goes without saying that Laurentian University’s insolvency and its actions towards restructuring have hindered its reputation. As a result, Greater Sudbury has been deprived of intellectual and social capital essential to the city’s image and to its economy.

The impact this university has had cannot be understated, though. Laurentian University is the largest bilingual provider of distance education in the country, and a leader in technology and innovation. The university is home to the recently created McEwen School of Architecture and NOSM University, both of which are important regional economic drivers.

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Sudbury would not be the city it is today if not for Laurentian University. The university and its students have contributed to the regreening efforts to repair damage from decades of mining activity, and those efforts have won this city worldwide accolades. Laurentian students and staff have been instrumental in the dark matter research at SNOLAB, research that has been crowned with a Nobel Prize in physics.

Losing the university would bring an end to decades of successful land, soil, and water research.

As Laurentian is located inside one of the largest mining complexes on the planet, its research has solidified its reputation for the study of environmental stewardship. The post-secondary institution has forged a name for its research into wetland ecology, restoration ecology applied to highly disturbed land, as well as invasive aquatic species.

Out of crisis comes opportunity, the Greater Sudbury Chamber of Commerce believes this is a chance to develop a renewed and sustainable university, one that capitalizes on its strengths.

But in order to do that, it depends on a successful exit from the CCAA process. That will be a tough pill to swallow for many in this community, though, for the most part, a community that  is justifiably proud of the accomplishments of Laurentian University. Graduates find high-paying, sustainable jobs here. They work and live in Greater Sudbury, supporting the economy and contributing to the way of life we have all come to enjoy.

Laurentian’s role in the history of this city is significant, and that’s why the Greater Sudbury Chamber of Commerce does not want this institution to fade into obscurity. It’s too important to Sudbury, the North, and all of Ontario – and to Francophone and Indigenous communities who count on Laurentian to provide educational opportunities close to home. The time to rebuild a stronger Laurentian is now.