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Union leader says it’s ‘disappointing’ Laurentian University restructuring could last until end of 2022

‘The idea that we would do this for another year and two months is not plausible in my head, and what this would do to this institution’

The president of the Laurentian University Staff Union (LUSU) is expressing his disappointment about recent news that the university’s insolvency restructuring could possibly last until the end of 2022.

Tom Fenske said this information came out at a Laurentian Senate meeting last week.

“Court documents will tell you things have been pushed to January until we can have the next step in this process,” he said, speaking at the Laurentian board of governors meeting Friday morning.

“We’ve heard a variety of times where it might go until April. At the senate (meeting), we heard there’s a chance it might go to the end of the year in 2022. The idea that we would do this for another year and two months is not plausible in my head, and what this would do to this institution, where we are mentally right now.”

Laurentian president Robert Haché said right from the onset of Laurentian’s filing under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act (CCAA) last winter it was known it would take at least a year for Laurentian to fully navigate the process.

“It is a fluid process,” Haché said.

“It is difficult today in October with a number of things. The real estate review, the governance review that needs to be completed by the end of this year, and then enter into negotiations with creditors for a plan of arrangement. It is difficult and challenging to provide a precise date.”

Haché said there’s been a lot of confusion surrounding the meaning of the stay of proceedings against the university, preventing creditors from taking action against them. 

Currently, the stay of proceedings has been extended to Jan. 31. However, Haché said that’s not necessarily the date the university will emerge from the CCAA.

Sharon Hamilton, a representative of the firm Ernst & Young, which is the court-appointed monitor of Laurentian’s CCAA proceedings, also spoke to the issue.

“I think people are working as hard as possible,” she said. “We all recognize everyone wants this to come to an end. It is moving forward. That’s the important thing, and we just have to let that process play itself out.”

Fenske said it’s “disappointing to know that there’s a potential knowledge that it could take up to and including all of 2022,” given major restructuring efforts such as employee and program cuts took place “in such a nanosecond.”

“It’s very frustrating to know that the heart and soul of this institution was restructured in a very short timeframe with the knowledge that this could last a year and a half or longer,” he said.

“I don’t expect a comment, just to note that it is very frustrating to know that you would assume that if you have that much time, you would spend a lot of time on restructuring an institution.”

Haché said that if the “first step in the restructuring you’re referring to had taken longer, that would have pushed the overall timeline out further.”

He also said those early restructuring changes are what has brought the university’s cost structure to a point where Laurentian has the ability to continue through the CCAA process.

Hamilton added that “unfortunately, you can’t look at it that we had all this time.

“From a cash flow perspective, the university simply didn’t,” she said. “And so, that first period was critical, and if everyone hadn’t come together and made all the effort that they did, we probably wouldn’t be sitting here today.”


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Heidi Ulrichsen

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