Ontario cabinet minister questioned over Laurentian University
SUDBURY -- Ontario Minister of Colleges and Universities Ross Romano found himself in a tough spot on Friday as he faced off with media from across northern Ontario.
Romano held a news conference on Friday and journalists had no advance warning over the topic.
So it was a surprise when the Sault Ste. Marie MPP held an event over microcredentials. It didn't take long, however, for the questions to turn to Laurentian University.
And while he kept trying to steer it back to his topic of choice, the questions didn't stop.
"The situation at Laurentian is a difficult one and I have a great deal of empathy for the situation," Romano said. "I've been as the member of Sault Ste. Marie when Algoma Steel went through creditor protection of a similar nature in 2015, it wasn't until January 2018 that we were emerging from that crisis."
Romano said the Companies' Creditor Arrangement Act (CCAA) is a federal court process and all the parties have to be able to take part in negotiations. That process has to be respected, he said.
Politicians on Parliament Hill, in both the House of Commons and Senate, and some, like Sudbury MP Paul Lefebvre, have called on provinces to fulfill their jurisdiction.
Lefebvre now has a private member's bill going through the court in hopes of preventing other universities from going through the CCAA process.
"I cannot comment on anything that's happening within the CCAA process," Romano said. "I want to continue to monitor the situation. We are continuing to monitor everything that is happening with Laurentian and looking forward to help Laurentian in its steps to move forward."
It was at that point he started talking about his topic of microcredentials before he got another Laurentian question.
'There is great anger'
"There's a great anger in the Franco-Ontarian community about what is happening at Laurentian ... do you still believe that Laurentian can serve the francophone community in the North," one reporter asked.
"Again thanks for the question and I have to reiterate Laurentian is in CCAA court proceeding, what is going on at the University of Sudbury is part of those proceedings and we cannot discuss," he said.
Romano took another opportunity to turn it back to microcredentials before getting his third question.
"The university is already restructuring and making massive cuts, what is the point of the special adviser's report when these cuts are already being made? Will this guidance be coming to late," asked a reporter.
Romano said the report the province will be getting looks into the systemic issue that Laurentian was facing and investigates how it ended up in its current state.
He adds those issues were 10, 15 years in the making and the report will help to inform the ministry to make sure they don't end up in the same place again.
The minister added, once again, the Ontario government is not a part of the current process and he couldn't talk about it any further because of the court order that's currently in place.
In total, the minister answered four questions from two reporters on Laurentian and a question from a reporter on microcredentials. He had media outlets lined up in his Zoom conference for questions when his team wrapped up the virtual event.