Laurentian University in Bankruptcy Protection

Ruling Elite Put Public University at the Mercy of the Financial Oligarchy

Professors, staff, students and community in shock to learn that Laurentian University in Sudbury is in bankruptcy protection.

The financial oligarchy put Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ontario under Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act (CCAA) bankruptcy protection on February 1, 2021. The CCAA is a fraudulent weapon in the hands of the most powerful oligarchs to secure their private holdings in a property. The CCAA is designed to deny workers what belongs to them by right, violate the interests of the local community and broader society, and seize the holdings of smaller unsecured creditors.

Laurentian University workers and others in the community are demanding to know how a public university could even find itself in this terrible situation. Many are demanding to know what CCAA has to do with providing our youth with a post-secondary education. Laurentian University is an important institution that is supposed to be funded publicly to serve the common good. That such a crucial institution of nation-building could be put into this mess is a testament to how low the country has sunk under the anti-social offensive of the last thirty years.

By refusing to build and fund the university in northern Ontario and instead handing it over to the oligarchs to make maximum profit and otherwise serve their interests, the ruling elite have in effect prepared the conditions to wreck any semblance of nation-building and the right to education.

Laurentian is the first Canadian post-secondary educational institution to be forced into bankruptcy protection under the CCAA. People across the country cannot allow this to become a precedent. The CCAA attack on Laurentian is an opening shot against all public universities in Canada to turn them completely into private enterprises serving the oligarchy's thirst for maximum profit. This must not pass!

The notorious Ernst and Young, which has fattened itself for decades on the CCAA at the expense of workers and communities throughout Canada, will be the "court-appointed monitor" to divide up Laurentian's assets and ensure that the interests of the university workers, staff, students and community are blocked from even being heard.

Ontario Superior Court Chief Justice Geoffrey Morawetz gave Laurentian University until April 30 to present a CCAA plan designed to restructure its operations and its finances. By issuing such a dictate, the court showed its colours of not giving a damn about the right to education but only in defending private property, which presumably is owed a lot of money by the university. The justice authorized $25 million of Debtor in Possession (DIP) financing for the university to borrow to continue its operations for three months. Under CCAA rules, DIP lenders leap to first in line for seizure of property if their debts are not repaid.

In his ruling, Justice Morawetz said the university was entitled but not required, from the date of the filing, to pay "all outstanding and future wages, salaries, employee and retiree benefits... pension benefits or contributions, vacation pay etc ."

Justice Morawetz wrote later, on February 12, that Laurentian would have the right under the CCAA dictate to permanently or temporarily cease, downsize or shut down any of its business and operations and to terminate the employment of its employees or temporarily lay off them off as the university deems appropriate.

The court order is legal within Canada's civil society where property rights deprive the people of the rights they have by virtue of being human. This is the problem and dictate the people face within the current Canadian economic, political and legal system. This is the challenge the people face to affirm their rights such as the right to their livelihood and job security as well as to education, etc. Only the organized people have the power of numbers, social consciousness and outlook to build the nation to serve the people and put an end to these attacks on their rights.

For his part the President of Laurentian University who presumably is supposed to defend the interests of the university, its staff, students and the right to education, made an open threat in the Sudbury Star on March 20 saying, "If we're not successful in mediation with all the different parties and the recommendation to senate is turned down, the university will cease to function as of April 30. It is not an if, and or maybe -- that's when the money runs out."

Thirty years of neo-liberal anti-social nation-wrecking has brought us to this: When no money is left to pay the rich, the financial oligarchy will shut the country down.

Workers' Forum joins the chorus of anger over these attacks on northern Ontario, the youth, workers, the right to education and society itself. Administrators who are appointed to run a business not an educational establishment should be replaced with those appointed by professors and staff who are dedicated educators. Universities should be organized and financed in a manner which achieves the right to a higher education for all who want it on a modern basis. People expect universities to fulfil  a duty to the society and uphold the right to education for all.

All levels of government must immediately increase their investments in social programs including Laurentian University. All enterprises in the country that employ Laurentian graduates or otherwise use the thought material the university produces must immediately pay for those services and value and together with increased government investment put the finances of the university on a firm modern footing.

This outrage against the youth, workers and others in northern Ontario must cease immediately.

Take Back Laurentian University from the Hands of the Financial Oligarchs!
Stop Paying the Rich! Increase Investments in Social Programs!

(Photos: WF, ETT)

This article was published in

March 26, 2021 - No. 22

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