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Opinion: Governments must step in to help save Laurentian, city councillor says

‘We cannot simply accept the first restructuring proposal delivered to this community,” says Ward 1 Coun. Mark Signoretti
Ward 1 Coun. Mark Signoretti. (Supplied)

I am not going to point fingers or cast blame on anyone specifically for the catastrophic, historic, unprecedented “restructuring” at Laurentian University revealed this week. I do however want to request, encourage, even demand, complete transparency on this situation which has painted such a black eye on our wonderful city. 

The analysis of past decisions that have resulted in this degradation of our hometown university must be made public. Such a financial disaster does not happen without warning signs.
I sincerely believe that if more time had been allotted to construct a viability plan for Laurentian, all stakeholders could have worked collaboratively to create a plausible pathway. I call for the Ontario government to support its university. I also urge the federal government to do so. 

Yes, I am asking that the upper levels of government provide monies so that Laurentian can thoroughly formulate a plan that reduces the negative effects of the restructuring plan put forward this week. Upper levels of government have financially supported private industries with loans and grants in the past, as well as during the current time of COVID, so why not offer similar considerations to Laurentian University?
I cannot state strongly enough the importance of Laurentian University as an economic driver in our community. Greater Sudbury cannot afford to lose what is conservatively estimated to be at least $100 million a year of economic activity related to LU, its faculty, staff and students. 

We must minimize the loss of the good paying jobs the university offers. I understand the need for a solid financial case, but does this "rush job" on restructuring truly create the most diverse selection of successful, sustainable programs? Could more time have been given to the analysis of which programs are truly self-sustaining?  

The university has supplied, and must continue to supply, the future leaders, entrepreneurs, public sector workers, and employees for our local workforce. We are already aware that we have gaps in our available workforce, which are projected to become even worse.  

How will those gaps be filled with a diminished university? One example: as the world looks to environmental remediation and to reduce the impact of climate change, we have gutted the program which is recognized world-wide for the regreening of Sudbury … in my opinion a very short-sighted choice. 

I encourage all Laurentian alumni, whether you reside locally or in other areas of the world, to contact the offices of the prime minister, the premier and the provincial minister of Training, Colleges and Universities to share with them your successes, in part due to your education at Laurentian University. We cannot simply accept the first restructuring proposal delivered to this community. What has been revealed so far has been devastating, and we are all waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Mark Signoretti is the Greater Sudbury city councillor for Ward 1.