Former Sudbury mayor calls for northern medical school to be granted university status

Former Sudbury mayor Jim Gordon is calling on the province to grant the Northern Ontario School of Medicine university status. (File)

Former Sudbury mayor Jim Gordon is calling on the province to grant the Northern Ontario School of Medicine university status.

Gordon, who played a large role in the founding of the medical school, said the province has to insulate NOSM from Laurentian University's insolvency process.

He said millions in donations to the medical school flowed through Laurentian, and appear to have been swallowed up in the mountain of debt LU has accumulated over the years.

"I'm angry and disappointed," Gordon said Tuesday.

He's critical of former LU president Dominic Giroux for allowing problems to accumulate during his time, and of current president Robert Haché for choosing to put the university into insolvency.

"I think the people that have let us down the most, in actual fact, is this present board," Gordon said.

Putting the university into insolvency has destroyed the school's reputation, he said. Haché should have done the hard work himself, laying out the dire circumstances to all stakeholders and coming up with a recovery plan.

"As mayor, when a problem arose, I dealt with it and I usually found a way either solve it or to change things to make things either better or not as bad," Gordon said.

That's a more difficult path, but he said it would have preserved the school's standing. Instead, the school chose the insolvency route, a quicker way to resolve the crisis, but one that creates mistrust and divisions, causing "people to lose confidence in the institution."

"They had a huge problem that was leftover by other boards," Gordon said. "Rather than say to those professors at that point, look, we have a big problem and you have to come to a boardroom and we're going to talk about it ... Instead they sat down and became an echo chamber and they decided to (declare insolvency)."

When the two-campus medical school was founded, Gordon said they approached Laurentian about founding a separate foundation to handle donations, but the university resisted.

Now, money donated to the medical school could be swallowed up during restructuring, if it hasn’t been spent already.

"I do not trust these people anymore," Gordon said. "They can't tell me, you know, where the money went."

He said the province needs to step in and grant NOSM university status so it doesn't get "dragged down" by Laurentian's insolvency.

"This school is in danger of being pulled down by what has happened," Gordon said. "But this is the people's medical school – it belongs to northern Ontario. It's not Laurentian's and it's not Lakehead's."