Are big changes coming to financial accountability in Ontario as Laurentian loses its elite status?

Are big changes coming to financial accountability in Ontario as Laurentian loses its elite status?

April 1, 20212 min read

As the higher education community anxiously awaits more news on just exactly how Laurentian University in Sudbury has essentially gone bankrupt, those who oversee universities and colleges in Ontario are also watching with interest.

The chain of events that led to Laurentian having to file for creditor protection reveal a failure in governance. And it points to a wider set of reforms that are being contemplated within the public sector.

A special investigator’s report on the Laurentian University insolvency is coming out soon, according to the Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities, Ross Romano. The province has warned it may introduce legislation granting it greater oversight of every university’s finances.

Recently, Umar Saeed, a public sector accounting expert and a partner at Welch LLP, sat down with Newspoint360 to discuss in an in-depth interview how Ontario’s ability to control and govern the university sector is unlike other provinces, such as British Columbia.

If new legislation is introduced that enhances the government’s ability to appoint Board members or control the financial and operating policies of Ontario universities, it will have broad implications for the entire university sector in Ontario:

• New legislation may lead to consolidating all the universities (debts and deficits) into the Ontario government’s public accounts

• Legislation would acknowledge an implicit promise by the Ontario government to backstop public sector debt (including the university sector)

• Public universities may lose their perceived independence if they are “controlled” for accounting purposes

The story of Laurentian University is fundamentally about poor governance. However, missing from this story is the backdrop and conditions that led to poor governance.

There’s a lot at stake for Laurentian, it’s faculty and staff and the provincial university sector as a whole, and if you are a journalist looking to cover this topic, then let us help.

Umar Saeed is a partner at Welch LLP in Ottawa and an expert in Public-Sector Accounting Standards. Umar is available to speak with media about this subject – simply click on his icon now to arrange an email today.

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