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Lefebvre: Charlie Angus should get his facts straight on Laurentian University

Sudbury MP Paul Lefebvre says the Timmins-James Bay MP is misleading the public about local MPs’ response to the university’s financial crisis

Editor’s note: This column is in response to a statement from Timmins-James Bay MP Charlie Angus, “With potential election looming, Angus takes a swipe at Sudbury MPs over Laurentian” which ran  Aug. 3 on Sudbury.com.

The author of your letter and subject of your story, Timmins-James Bay MP Charlie Angus, goes out of his way to misrepresent both the facts and the words of Min. Mélanie Joly. Please allow me to correct the record for the benefit of your readers, and any MPs who are confused about the facts.

Had the press bothered to contact me for comment before running this misleading story, this is what I would have told you:

  • I learned from Laurentian President Robert Haché in late December that Laurentian’s financial position was worsening. I immediately informed federal Minister of Economic Development and Official Languages Mélanie Joly, who’s office then reached out to its provincial counterpart in early January to offer federal assistance. The province did not reply. That, word for word, is what Min. Joly testified before the House Official Languages Committee on June 1.  
  • Charlie Angus did not participate in the full committee meeting. He appeared briefly, asked one misleading question of the minister and has been misquoting her ever since. She clarified her comments later during the hearing, but Angus had conveniently already left the meeting.
  • Despite his protestations, Angus and the NDP have yet to present a single credible suggestion on how the federal government could have prevented the insolvency of Laurentian University. Given that colleges and universities are the exclusive jurisdiction of provincial governments, that should not surprise anyone. 

Angus goes on to use Laurentian as an example of how “being at the so-called Liberal table” has not served Northerners well. Let me give your readers an example of exactly how working within government can help … one right in his own backyard. And this time, I hope media does fact-check this story.

In 2018, members of the board of Timmins’ Centre Culturel La Ronde approached me to advocate for their rebuilding project after a devastating 2015 fire. They had seen firsthand how I and my colleague, Nickel Belt MP Marc Serré, had successfully advocated for Place des Arts in Sudbury, and they asked me to do the same for them.

They were very clear with me — they had been trying for two years to work through their MP, Charlie Angus, for access to a federal funding program. They got no results whatsoever.

Whether Angus didn’t want to help the board or wasn’t able to help is not for me to say. What I can say is that I was able to open doors for the board and its hard-working volunteers, and this past May I was proud to announce a $2.5-million federal investment in the Centre Culturel La Ronde.

Here’s another way of looking at it. Since 2016, I have announced more than $100 million in federal investments in infrastructure projects in Sudbury alone. That’s $100 million worth of road repairs, transit improvements, active transportation corridors, flood mitigation and housing projects in my city, many of which leveraged an equal amount of provincial money. 

Can Charlie Angus say the same? Can the people of Timmins say the same?

I am very much at the “government table” as Sudbury’s voice in Ottawa. It’s what I was sent to do, and I am very proud of my record.

It seems to me the voters of Timmins have a choice to make. They, too, can elect an effective voice at the table, as the voters of Sudbury and Nickel Belt have done, or they can continue to elect a voice on the sidelines.

I hope the people in Timmins choose wisely.

Paul Lefebvre is the Member of Parliament for the riding of Sudbury.