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Dear Minister Fedeli,
Northern Ontarians are calling on you to step up and support local universities. The catastrophic loss of programs and jobs at Laurentian university should never have happened, and you and your government can fix it: provide the funding needed to support all public post-secondary education in northern Ontario, reverse the cuts to Laurentian and ensure that this never happens to another Ontario university.
When in opposition, you were a vocal supporter of Nipissing University--in your own backyard. You have been a faculty member at Nipissing and one of our classrooms bears your family name. When Nipissing was in trouble, with the Liberal cuts to education programs, you were there to speak out on our behalf. Where are you now?
As Minister of Economic Development and Trade, you know that Nipissing and all northern universities are key economic players in their regions. Northerners especially struggle to find good jobs. Until April 12, Laurentian University was the third largest employer in Sudbury, and Nipissing is the same in North Bay. Can we afford to lose yet more jobs in North Bay or anywhere in the north? Do we want to see a brain-drain of students from the north?
Nipissing and Laurentian universities are more than just economic generators—they are also key contributors to the social well-being of all our communities. Consider the incredible loss of the highly successful midwifery program from Laurentian—the only Francophone program of its kind in Canada outside of Quebec. Do we not want this essential health service for (Francophone) northerners? What will these cuts and cuts to Indigenous Studies and other programs for Indigenous students mean for the urgent responsibilities of education in the north for truth and reconciliation? We let everyone down when we abandon universities.
What happened at Laurentian is the result of chronic underfunding of Ontario universities in general and a lack of attention to the extra challenges faced by northern universities in particular. Universities are not private corporations, and as public institutions, we have our own oversight mechanisms in place to address budgetary crises, academic quality, and fair employment practices. By going into creditor protection, these safeguards have been thrown out the window along with the people they represent. Those people are faculty, staff, and students at Laurentian University, and they are the citizens of Ontario, especially northern Ontario.
As the representative for the Nipissing region, you should be doing everything in your power to ensure all universities in the north—including Nipissing university—have the public funding they need to thrive and serve the region in the best ways possible.
Step up and speak out, Vic.
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