Michael Mantha MPP, Algoma–Manitoulin

Government of Ontario

News from the Park - April 26, 2021

Published on April 26, 2021

I enjoyed a recent opportunity to connect with an old friend of mine who is a retired special education teacher.  We were sharing some experiences about occasions where we have come across questionable decisions being made. 

My friend shared with me a story that occurred early in his career in which he met with the parent of one of his students who was not pleased with some aspects of the program that her daughter was receiving.  The mother introduced her sister whom she had invited to offer insights on her niece’s program because of her background in psychology.

My friend said he listened to the aunt explaining all about her niece’s challenges and abilities as well as multiple suggestions that the teacher should include in the child’s program.  Through further discussion it became apparent to my educator friend that the “background” in psychology consisted of a first year introductory course in psychology.  In the end, the parent insisted on implementing her sister’s recommendations.  Needless to say, my friend was flabbergasted.  None the less, my friend was obliged to comply, but the results were… well…what one might have expected under the circumstances.

This brings to mind the well known proverb, first penned by Alexander Pope in his poem, An Essay on Criticism, which he composed in 1709.  Pope wrote, “A little learning is a dangerous thing; drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring: there shallow draughts intoxicate the brain, and drinking largely sobers us again.”  In effect, the proverb means that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing.

Recently I rose in question period to ask Premier Ford about the matter of underfunding and ultimate financial falling of Laurentian University (LU).  Despite knowing that the university was in dire financial straits, Ford and Minister Ross Romano did nothing to help or protect the school.  The Ford government chose not to intervene in LU’s filing for protection from creditors under the Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act (CCAA).  The CCAA was always intended to be applied to business situations, not public institutions.

Doug Ford prides himself on being a savvy business person.  Romano’s background is studying law and was a former chair of the downtown business association in the Sault.  They chose to see the entire matter from their own business perspectives – as broad or limited as they might be. 

Ford and Romano focussed primarily on how the restructuring would affect the school (business?) itself.  But LU is not a business.  It’s a public institution that plays an integral role for Northern Ontarians.  It has very long and broad reaching branches that extend not only across the north but fills unique niches not available anywhere else in the province or even nation.

“A little knowledge can be a dangerous thing.”

The restructuring of LU has brought about the layoff of over 100 faculty members and the cancelation of 70 programs.  In fact entire departments have been eliminated all together including specialized Indigenous and francophone programs which LU is mandated to support.  They are also cutting programs like engineering, math, economics, entrepreneurship, nursing and midwifery. 

What sort of impact might one expect if any of the Greater Sudbury area’s largest employers shut down?  Did Ford and Romano not realize that LU is Sudbury’s third largest employer?  Wouldn’t you think that that fact alone might catch their interest?  The devastating impact is being felt far beyond just students and staff, far into the business sector and overall Greater Sudbury economic community.

As well, one might think that as soon as the government learned of the likely scenarios that could play out, that they would have started immediate consultation of affected entities?  Entities that include the Northern School of Medicine (NOSM) and Lakehead University.  In a recent question period, I reminded Premier Ford how long and hard Northerners worked to establish NOSM and its partnership with LU and Lakehead U.  I reminded him that NOSM is an award-winning, socially accountable medical school that is renowned for its innovative model of distributed, community-engaged education and research.  And it is because of its partnership with LU that we now have a health network of 1,700 health care professionals, and 600 trained doctors to meet the complex health care needs of Northern Ontario.

Alas, the government did not consult with the heads of NOSM or Lakehead to see what affect the collapse of LU would have upon them.  The president of Lakehead confirmed that she was not consulted and that the move is not in the best interests of NOSM, the universities, or communities and that it will cost Ontarians far too much.

Northerners deserve to know why and how Doug Ford and Ross Romano decided to separate NOSM from its ties with both LU and Lakehead U.  Under no circumstances should the Ford government be playing games with the NOSM.  Too much is at stake for Doug Ford to be making his famous backroom deals on the future of northern health care.  

As Pope wrote, a little knowledge is a dangerous thing.  The Ford government had both the obligation and ability to formulate an all encompassing understanding and responsible approach to the financial woes at LU – long before they became a financial crisis for all of Northern Ontario.

Northern Ontarians deserve so much better.

As always, please feel free to contact my office about these issues, or any other provincial matters.  You can reach my constituency office by email at [email protected] or by phone at 705-461-9710 or Toll free 1-800-831-1899.

Michael Mantha MPP/député