Northwest Community College board appointments made

New board members have NDP flavour

Northwest Community College (NWCC) has had to cancel a meeting of its governing board this month due in part to vacancies not yet filled by the provincial government.

The board is made up of 12 voting members – eight provincial appointees and four named from within the college itself but, so far, three of the provincial spots are vacant.

Those missing three appointees combined with absence by existing board members who could not make the Feb. 16 meeting, meant there was no quorum, said college communications director Sarah Zimmerman.

“It’s now been rescheduled,” she said of the meeting, noting that the next one is March 24.

“We await word from the government as to who those members would be,” Zimmerman added of the vacant provincial board spots.

The college is one of hundreds of institutions, agencies and commissions over which the provincial government has legislative authority and, in acting on that authority, makes appointments to their governing boards.

And by tradition, governments are known to name people who either have connections to the governing party in some fashion or who are aligned with the governing party’s political thinking.

In the case of the NWCC board, two former BC Liberal candidates who were first appointed in 2010 had their terms expire the end of December.

Prince Rupert resident Herb Pond ran unsuccessfully for the BC Liberals in the North Coast riding in the 2009 and 2017 provincial elections and Donny van Dyk from Terrace was the party’s unsuccessful candidate for Skeena in the 2009 provincial election.

Both were named to the board in 2010 and served three two-year terms, which is normally the maximum but both then had their terms extended one year to the end of December.

Terrace resident Lucy Praught was named to the board the end of December 2014 but resigned in September 2016. She has also served as president of the Skeena BC Liberal constituency association, played a key role locally in the May 2017 provincial election for the BC Liberals and ran for the BC Liberal party leadership before dropping out in the early going.

For its part, the new NDP government has made two appointments so far, Nicole Halbauer from Terrace and Shannon McPhail from Hazelton.

Halbauer was an unsuccessful candidate for the NDP nomination for the Skeena riding for last May’s provincial election and is now the president of the party’s Skeena riding constituency association.

McPhail is the executive director of the Hazelton-based Skeena Watershed Conservation Coalition, a group which has cast a critical eye on resource development. It was part of the effort to stop the placement of the now-shelved Pacific NorthWest LNG project on Lelu Island.

She was, for example, a key figure in stopping exploration for coalbed methane in the Klappan area (also called the Sacred Headwaters) to the north.

And she’s been a strong proponent of French immersion programs in the school district, playing a significant part in opposing the district’s move last spring to limit the program in area schools.

Halbauer and McPhail have one-year terms, running out the end of Dec. 2018.

Three previously appointed provincial board members remain on the board, Ernie Dusdal from Terrace whose current term finishes the end of December, Paul Bjorn originally from Terrace and now living in Prince George whose current term is scheduled to finish the end of October and Bill Parmar from Prince Rupert whose current term is to finish the end of December.

The college’s chair of its First Nations education council, the chair of its education council and its president also sit on the board as nonvoting members.


Editor’s note: the original version of this story contained errors which have now been corrected. Shannon McPhail is the executive director of the Hazelton-based Skeena Watershed Conservation Coalition and not the Terrace-based SkeenaWild Conservation Trust as first indicated.
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