Budget can’t miss another opportunity to protect universities

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TORONTO, March 24, 2023 –Ontario university faculty demand that the federal government make good on their election platform promise to protect public universities and other public institutions by amending destructive corporate restructuring legislation—a no-cost move that could save millions and preserve Canadian communities.

“In 2021, the government squandered an opportunity to protect public institutions from corporate legislation in their last budget. Now’s the time to act on their promise and not miss another chance,” said Sue Wurtele, President of the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations. “When Laurentian University filed for protection under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act (CCAA), it became the first public university in Canada to do so—with devastating consequences for the institution and the Sudbury community. The government has an opportunity in this budget to make sure it never happens again.”

OCUFA and its allies have called on the government to exempt public institutions from seeking protection through corporate legislation since 2021.That’s when Laurentian administrators filed for creditor protection under the CCAA—an unprecedented decision resulting in the loss of 69 university programs and 200 faculty and staff jobs.

“The CCAA and the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act (BIA) are federal pieces of legislation specifically designed for private-sector corporations, not public institutions. However, in their current form, these acts can be used to dismantle and restructure public institutions in particular ways, as we saw with Laurentian,” said Wurtele. “If other public institutions, like universities and hospitals, are allowed to invoke the CCAA or BIA, the results will be destructive.”

In late 2022, Ontario Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk deemed the CCAA process an inappropriate remedy for addressing the financial challenges of public institutions. And documents released in 2022 showed that the Ford government knew of Lawrentian’s financial situation, they offered little meaningful assistance to Laurentian and its community during a time of crisis. To prevent another crisis, all levels of government have a role to play, said Wurtele.

“Public universities are pillars of their communities, and are vital spaces for teaching, learning, and research,” she said. “The federal government has an opportunity to ensure that they—and all public institutions—won’t be vulnerable to the same destruction suffered at Laurentian, by amending the CCAA and BIA to exempt public institutions now.”

Founded in 1964, OCUFA represents 17,000 faculty, academic librarians, and other academic professionals in 31 member organizations across Ontario. It is committed to enhancing the quality of higher education in Ontario and recognizing the outstanding contributions of its members towards creating a world-class university system. For more information, please visit the OCUFA website at www.ocufa.on.ca.


For more information, contact:
Manisha Aggarwal-Schifellite, Communications Lead at manishaas@ocufa.on.ca or 416-306-6033