When Laurentian University filed for protection under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act (CCAA), it became the first public university in Canada to do so. The upcoming federal budget is our chance to make sure it is also the last.
Both the CCAA and Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act (BIA) are federal pieces of legislation specifically designed for private-sector corporations, not public institutions. However, as they are currently worded, these acts can still be used to dismantle and restructure public institutions.
If other public institutions, like universities and hospitals, are allowed to invoke the CCAA or BIA, the results will be devastating. At Laurentian, where the CCAA was used, students lost access to more than 60 programs, over 100 faculty and staff jobs were cut, years of important research was forsaken, and the university has abandoned its commitments to local Francophone and Indigenous communities. Terminated employees were denied severance and instead have to get in line behind big banks, whose profits have soared during the pandemic. Students have had to change programs or transfer to other universities.
The federal budget is an opportunity to remind the Liberal government of their promise to reform the CCAA and BIA to make public institutions exempt and ensure that Canada’s vital public services are protected through proper funding.