Enbridge grant to fuel school district’s trades centre study

Coast Mountains School District is receiving $123,000 from Enbridge Northern Gateway to study a possible northwest trades training centre

The Coast Mountains School District will be using money from Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipelines to study the viability of a regional trades training centre.

The board voted to accept $123,000 from the company at its January 29 meeting, meaning the study should be underway in the coming weeks.

Provided establishing a trades centre makes sense and if it can then be financed, it could be in operation by the 2015/2016 school year, documents presented to the board indicate.

Now-closed Thornhill Junior Secondary has been tagged as a probable location.

The school district had first asked the provincial government for money for the study but was turned down and so then sought out corporate financing, said school board chair Art Erasmus.

“We tried the government and the government said ‘we don’t have any money’,” Erasmus said. “Lo and behold, somebody offered us some money and we’re not reluctant to accept money to do a feasibility study to see whether we can get this thing off the ground for the education of our kids.”

But that doesn’t mean the school board is endorsing Enbridge’s business, he said, in referring to the school district’s corporate sponsorship and donations policy. It was created last fall in anticipation of the district doing more business with the private sector.

The corporate donations policy states that accepting donations from businesses and companies “does not imply that we will support their business or buy their product,” said Erasmus. “That was one of the discussions – does this follow that policy, that we are not endorsing Enbridge. They’re providing funding but we’re not endorsing their business.”

But the board did endorse Enbridge Northern Gateway’s request that the company be able to acknowledge publicly that it provided the school district with money.

“That we endorsed,” Erasmus said. “That’s how business works. You don’t do it for nothing.”

He said he wasn’t worried about the public perception of the board accepting money from Enbridge which wants to build a pipeline carrying Alberta crude to a marine export terminal at Kitimat.

“This is a feasibility study,” Erasmus said. “Now, will somebody potentially interpret what we’ve done here, sure. But that happens with all of the decisions we make.”

The board works to make sure that what they do is appropriate, Erasmus continued.

“We have policies in place that protect the kids from blatant advertising,” he said, noting a situation in the fall when a company wanted to take photographs of students doing activities the company helped the district finance. “We said ‘there’s no way we can do that’.”

Meanwhile, the district is hiring someone to conduct the study, which will examine the viability of a specialized training centre that will focus on employment skills.

The study will “support the development of a business plan that would enable the involvement of government ministries and corporate partners to move forward with concrete plans of action,” reads the corporate sponsorship request sent to Enbridge Northern Gateway and signed by district trades coordinator Carol Leclerc late last December.

The district first began discussions with the company in June, said superintendent Nancy Wells.