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SUDBURY- A new milestone in history has been taken at Laurentian, which has opened a painful chapter in its history just weeks after Chancellor Robert Hache announced his departure from the institution. Creditors of the organization during a virtual meeting held behind closed doors voted overwhelmingly in favor of an adjustment plan to emerge from bankruptcy.
“Today marks the beginning of a new chapter for Laurentian University,” said Fabrice Colin, president of the Laurentian University Professors Association (APPUL).
Creditors who attended a virtual meeting this Wednesday morning have, in fact, agreed to a plan of arrangement under the Companies Creditors Arrangement Act (CCAA), according to a press release sent out by the company to the surrounding area.
For the plan to be accepted, it would have to receive a majority of affirmative votes from existing creditors, representing at least two-thirds of the total amount Laurentian University collectively owes them.
However, according to data provided by APPUL, the plan almost failed to be approved as 87% of voters, a total of 522 creditors, supported the plan, but they accounted for only 68.9% of the amount due. 66.7%, just 2.2% more than the plan applied for to avoid rejection.
“While there is still work to be done, this milestone sends a strong message to current and future students, our dedicated staff and faculty, all members of the Laurentian community and the people of the North. We are confident that we will soon emerge from the restructuring stronger than ever and with renewed optimism,” said Laurentian University Board of Governors Chair Jeff Bangs.
“We can finally begin the work of restoring the integrity of our university, as well as the programs and jobs that have been cut due to mismanagement and an irresponsible provincial government,” adds Fabrice Colin.
Recent progress on the file
Depending on the plan adopted, unsecured creditors will receive between 14 and 24 cents for every dollar owed to them. The total debt of the enterprise is about 360 million dollars.
It was endorsed by APPUL and the Laurentian University Employees Union (SEUL), who encouraged their members to vote in favor of it.
A few days earlier, on September 9, Laurentian filed an amendment to the settlement plan with the Ontario Superior Court of Justice after receiving an update from the province.
The Ontario government actually claimed that it could finally acquire the Laurentian University real estate within three years of the plan’s implementation instead of the originally planned four years.
This faster sale of its assets would allow Laurentian University to repay its creditors more quickly.
In total, the state has invested $35 million in taking on the bankruptcy loan and will offer to participate in up to $53.5 million in the purchase of the facility’s assets to support the settlement plan.
This news was well received by the community at the time and probably influenced the voting process of creditors.
Towards the end of the crisis in October
A negative vote could have had disastrous consequences for the community, with the institution closing its doors and assets being sold or transferred to another university, thus jeopardizing the future of thousands of students.
It should be recalled that in April 2021, the university cut 72 programs, including 29 French language programs, in the combined program of all periods. Even if they were few, cuts in French-language programs were proportionately higher than in English-language programs.
The next step will take place on October 5, when the University will ask the Supreme Court to approve the plan, marking the official end of the CCAA process.
Former teachers disagree
“Part of me is relieved it’s over, but it’s still a horrible process that should never have happened,” said Laurentian University professor emeritus Joel Béliveau.
One of the thirty or so French-language teachers who were laid off during the April 2021 program cuts, she spoke out against the plan during today’s vote, defying union pressure.
With compensation ranging from 14% to 24%, the proposed plan is therefore not very attractive to the company’s creditors.
Laurentian University is the first public university in Canada to apply for the Companies Creditors Regulation Act and was not required to do so according to the findings of the Auditor General’s report published last April. .
Aurélie Lacassagne, another professor emeritus suspended from the institution, does not mince words. He also voted against it, thinking that the role played by the province is insufficient.
He said a no-vote would have forced stakeholders to return to the negotiating table, particularly the Ontario government, to put more money into the discussion.
“The 50 million offered by the province is far from compensating for the responsibility of the province in this fiasco and mismanagement of the university for 15 years,” he concludes, before mentioning that several government officials sit on the institution’s Board of Directors. Governors.
File University of Sudbury
As for the Assemblee de la francophone de l’Ontario (AFO), President Carol Jolin believes that this is good news for the institution, but it must now allow us to focus on the University of Sudbury file.
“Sudbury needs Laurentian University strong in English programming and Sudbury University strong in French programming.” According to him, the time has come for Laurentian University to respond to the community’s calls to partner with the University of Sudbury for the development of the region.
He took the opportunity to remind that the University of Sudbury submitted documents to the Commission three weeks ago aimed at demonstrating its ability to provide university programming, and that recommendations on this matter would be imminent.
“I’m optimistic because the University of Sudbury has always been well run and is probably the best run university in the entire Mid-North, so I can’t wait to see, but today’s news will finally make the move possible. move forward on these issues,” he concludes.
The article was updated on September 14 at 17:10.