Sudbury mayor takes issue with tweet from federal NDP leader about Laurentian University
SUDBURY -- Greater Sudbury Mayor Brian Bigger says he hasn't lobbied local Liberal MPs to get the federal government to intervene in the crisis at Laurentian University.
Bigger was reacting to a tweet from NDP leader Jagmeet Singh.
In it, Singh writes: "Over the last 2 weeks, I've met with students, professors, workers & the mayor of Sudbury - I've even held a town hall."
"The common denominator in every meeting and conversation has been the desire to see the Liberals get off the sidelines and help Save Laurentian University"
The tweet drew a quick response on Twitter from Bigger.
"@theJagmeetSingh at no time during our meeting did I say this. I have a great relationship with @MarcSerreMP and @LefebvrePaul. They work hard for our community."
"It's important to have a mayor that's non-partisan and I was a little disappointed as to how I was characterized in that tweet," the mayor told CTV News.
Bigger said it was best to clarify his position publicly, and adds he's doing everything he can, within the city's power at this time.
"I can assure you that we're advocating and communicating constantly and frequently on behalf of the citizens, but getting pulled into partisan politics is not the best route," he said.
When asked whether demanding upper levels of government to act was partisan, Bigger had this to say:
"I do expect the provincial government to provide some level of support as we move forward. (Education) is under provincial jurisdiction. There are also levels that the federal government has interest in, as well, and so whether I'm speaking to faculty and staff at Laurentian, or whether I'm talking to the court-appointed monitor or anyone involved, it's all about making sure when the need arises, when the opportunities arise to talk about the importance of community assets and who might participate in protecting and observing them, I can get everyone to the table."
Voters watching closely
Nipissing University political scientist David Tabachnick said local voters are no doubt watching closely to see how their elected officials handle the issue.
"Ideally, a university is a non-partisan organization so it's not affiliated with any party, so politics shouldn't affect its operations, but of course the reality of that is really quite different," said Tabachnick.
"This is a fiasco, I would say, in which really no government (the federal or provincial) wants to own it. They want to download it onto the city and the people of Sudbury. City council, of course, has passed a motion, expressing concern, but what they can do as a council seems fairly limited at this time."
Timmins-James Bay MP Charlie Angus, a New Democrat, said he can sympathize with Bigger, who he said is in "a tough spot."
"This is an unprecedented hit to a city that's very important to all the north, so I get it," Angus said.
He said you can't read into Singh's tweet more than just the fact the New Democrats have been standing up and will continue to stand up.
"The Liberal government is feeling an enormous amount of pressure right now and it's coming from the New Democrats," Angus said. "Having these Parliamentary investigations where we can draw resources from two committees, two national committees studying Laurentian, I think that's really extraordinary."
Working behind the scenes
Nickel Belt MP and Liberal Marc Serre recently wrote a letter to the editor, outlining some of the work the federal government has been doing behind the scenes.
"I want you to understand, just because we are not shouting out publicly does not mean that we are not doing anything," Serre wrote. "In fact, hours have been spent working towards options to assist when the requests are made, and the opportunity arises."
"We need to be working together," Serre told CTV News. "This is a very serious issue, Black Monday and what happened with Laurentian University and what they did with the CCAA process is really unacceptable."
But he said there isn't a single premier in the country who would allow the federal government to step in its jurisdiction.
"At the end of the day, I cannot as a federal Member of Parliament intervene in a federal court process and I cannot intervene without seeing what the plan is from the province," said Serre.
"People are hurting. We not only have COVID, but we've also got people who have lost their jobs. So how can we get together with the municipality, the province and try to sit down and with the Chamber of Commerce, the business community, to try and find a solution?"