Dominic Giroux shown in this file photo, is the former president of Laurentian University. Petition organizer Patrick Crowe says Giroux should step down in light of Laurentian’s financial woes. Giroux served as Laurentian president before moving to Health Sciences North. John Lappa/Sudbury Star/Postmedia Network John Lappa

A Sudbury resident is calling on Dominic Giroux to step down as president and CEO of Health Sciences North, after details of his role in Laurentian University’s financial downfall were revealed last month.

In July, local filmmaker Patrick Crowe started a petition to voice his concerns about Giroux’s ongoing employment with the hospital in light of what happened at Laurentian. Since then, more than 300 other community members have signed on in support of Crowe’s demands for Giroux to be replaced.

“I’m sickened by the spectacle of the good-ole boy meritocracy of our city, failing upwards without any accountability for very significant errors of judgement,” said Crowe.

The Sudbury Star reached out to Health Sciences North for comment but did not receive a reply.

While personal matters put the petition on the backburner for a few months, Crowe said the release of the Auditor Generals’ report about Laurentian’s problems in November compelled him to take up the cause once again with renewed energy.

“(The report) very squarely identifies responsibility of the unravelling to an ill-considered capital building campaign that started under the reign of Dominic Giroux,” said Crowe. “We’ve come to know more about the errors of judgment that were made. This gentleman who was involved in making a lot of these decision somehow secured himself a sinecure as the director of a hospital.”

According to Crowe, Giroux’s appointment to the hospital denotes a “complete lack of normal process,” and “special standards being applied to a favourite.” 

When Giroux was first appointed to both Laurentian and HSN, he was criticized for his lack of administrative experience within each respective field, something Crowe notes previous local health care administrators, had.

In 2021, Giroux made $368,948, plus $12,813 in benefits as hospital CEO. Reports also say he made another $80,000 as president and CEO of the Health Sciences North Research Institute.

The report also said that in the spring, the hospital board renewed Giroux’s contract for five years.

When asked if Giroux’s conduct in his current role raised any concerns, Crowe said it wasn’t relevant to the need for accountability.

“It doesn’t matter if he’s suddenly become the best administrator,” he said. “The circumstances are so egregious that it demands for him to remove himself from this position if he truly cares about the public that he serves. The faculty at a renowned university can lose their jobs without having done anything wrong, without severance or any benefits. I don’t see why he should be accorded even more special treatment.”

The petition demands that Giroux be removed immediately and replaced with a qualified administrator with expertise in healthcare for northeastern Ontario. While Crowe doesn’t have a specific goal for signatures, he said a previous campaign for a separate issue garnered support from more than 3,500 community members.

He said he expects a similar number of people have the concerns here.

“There is a responsibility to the public to manage their institutions responsibility,” said Crowe. “The stakes are too high. The health care needs of over half a million people across northeastern Ontario are in danger. Can we really gamble upon Mr. Giroux having learned his lesson about reckless financial decisions and just hope it’s going to work out?”

Report details Giroux’s conduct at Laurentian 

In November, Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk released her report of Laurentian University, which painted damning picture of the conduct of senior management. Giroux, who was president from 2009 to 2017, was at the centre of a massive capital spending campaign, despite the university’s already sizeable debts.

Three major projects were approved during his tenor, including the $20.6-million East Residence, the $5.9-million Cardiovascular and Metabolic Research Lab, and the $44.5-million school of architecture. He was also a key proponent of the campus modernization campaign, which ended with a price tag of $59 million.

“In spite of the increasingly poor financial condition of the university, the administration continued to pursue major capital expansion instead of addressing the accumulating annual financial deficits,” said Lysyk.

Overall, Laurentian invested $168 million in capital projects from 2009 to 2020, without consideration for their long-term sustainability and the risks associated with the rapid growth in debt.

In 2013, Giroux supported a proposal to delay the plan to eliminate accumulated debt from 2019 to 2028, the report said. Giroux, who was then president and vice-chancellor, said the proposal was “definitely a signature moment,” and helped approve a financial bonus for the administrator who suggested it.

He was also responsible for the idea to keep the debt accumulated from a new residence building off the books, the report concluded.

Said Lysyk, “This policy change was based on a recommendation from the president, who indicated that without making the debt policy less restrictive, Laurentian would not be in a position to propose a new student residence on campus and stay in compliance with the policy.”

Throughout his tenure, senior administrators at Laurentian were paid more than legislative restrictions allowed. From 2010 to 2020, salary costs rose by 75 per cent, only declining in 2018, after Giroux had left. In 2014, they went so far as to change the job titles of seven executives to avoid legislatively imposed salary caps.

Lysyk also noted that Giroux’s departure from Laurentian in 2017 was also an expensive endeavor for the university.

“The former president had an unusually advantageous 2014 employment contract,” she said. “It afforded him one year of paid administrative leave at full salary for each full five-year term completed and the right to eventually return to Laurentian as a full professor at the 90th percentile or higher of a full professor’s salary, despite having never worked as a professor.”

The Local Journalism Initiative is made possible through funding from the federal government.

By Mia Jensen, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Jan 05, 2023 at 00:15

This item reprinted with permission from   The Sudbury Star    Sudbury, Ontario
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