Laurentian President said he was “very transparent” about the school’s financial issues during meetings with MPs
Robert Haché testified before the House of Commons Official Languages Committee on June 3, during which MPs discussed the reasons the federal government did not save Laurentian from insolvency
With Robert Haché as a witness, a discussion on the reasons why the federal government did not intervene and save Laurentian University from insolvency took place on June 3 at the Official Languages Committee of the House of communes.
It was the second day in a row that this issue was discussed at this particular House of Commons committee, and also the second week in a row that Laurentian President Haché faced questions from MPs.
He also appeared before the House of Commons Standing Committee on the Status of Women on May 25, answering questions about Laurentian’s now abandoned midwifery program as well as the university’s insolvency.
Haché was one of the witnesses invited to participate in the June 3 discussion at the House of Commons Official Languages Committee on federal support for francophone or bilingual postsecondary institutions in minority communities.
More than two dozen French-language programs were cut at Laurentian – which is a bilingual university – in April as part of restructuring efforts overseen by the insolvent university court under the Creditors Protection Act. companies (LACC).
Sudbury MP Paul Lefebvre and Nickel Belt MP Marc Serré, both Liberals, had met with Haché in December about LU’s financial woes, although they both maintain that they had no idea the university was insolvent and was considering filing a CCAA application.
Charlie Angus of the NDP wanted to know if there had been a “specific request” from the federal government made by Laurentian during a meeting in late December with local MPs.
“At the end of December, we were very transparent about the magnitude of the challenges we had, and without making a specific request, highlighting the magnitude of the challenge, the gap we had at Laurentian in research anyway. which the federal government could perhaps help us to bridge this gap, ”replied Haché.
Angus also referred to the statements of the Minister of Economic Development and Official Languages, Mélanie Joly, during the hearing of the Official Languages Committee on June 2.
Joly said that despite LU’s meetings with local MPs, she was not made aware of the full gravity of Laurentian’s financial problems, “and if I had been told, I would have clearly called the province to find out. a solution.
“It is an absolute crisis that has occurred,” said Angus, who is the Member of Parliament for Timmins-James Bay.
“What surprises me is that Ms. Joly, the Minister for FedNor and Official Languages, said if she had been told she would have stepped in and worked directly with the province,” Angus said.
“Do you think it would have been better to go directly to Ms. Joly than to local MPs?” Because she said she would have acted.
Haché said Laurentian has reached out “more broadly” and worked with local MPs, who are an important point of contact.
“The recoil can be 20 to 20,” he said. “And if we had been more aggressive, more efficient, maybe there would have been a change, maybe not.”
“I’m just surprised when she said that she (Minister Joly) would have helped, but we didn’t tell her. You had met with local MPs, ”Angus said.
“You said you were transparent about this, that you explained to them the extent of the crisis, that it was not communicated to the minister, who is FedNor’s minister for our entire region. I just think it was a really tragic and lost opportunity.
Paul Lefebvre, MP for Sudbury, said that after he and Marc Serré, MP for Nickel Belt, met with Haché in December, he suggested a number of potential sources of federal funding.
He said he told Haché that the federal government could support official languages and aboriginal languages programs.
Although these programs are run by the province and funded by federal transfer payments, Lefebvre said he would work with Joly’s office to “get things done.” Haché confirmed that indeed, this is what happened at the meeting.
Lefebvre and Serré both noted that funding post-secondary education is a provincial responsibility.
“It seems some members don’t understand the difference between certain levels of government,” Lefebvre joked.
Although Angus has been candid about the insolvency and restructuring of LU, Serré pointed out that the lobbyist registry shows that he has never met with representatives from Laurentian University.
Haché confirmed that he “never had the pleasure” of meeting Angus, although he could not speak for his predecessors.
“So they didn’t have a meeting,” Serré said. “Let it appear on the record. “
While the Commons committee meeting pointedly focused on bilingual and French-language postsecondary institutions, in his opening remarks, Haché defended LU’s recent cuts to French programming.
“Laurentian continues to offer 28 consolidated undergraduate programs and five graduate programs in French, which have a high enrollment rate, meeting the needs of our students,” said Haché.
“In total, by maintaining the focus on in-demand programs, less than 10 percent of all students enrolled in French-language programs are directly affected by these changes.
“These offers keep us among the most complete establishments in terms of the balance of our programs in French and in English.
“In addition, our Francophone students continue to have a variety of French courses to choose from in their programs.
Haché added that the programs that were cut had few enrollments, sometimes only two or three students. “We have kept the programs that interest the students,” he said.
Lefebvre, however, said that “cuts to French-language programs have cut the soul of Laurentian University.”