Northwest Community College turns down Enbridge student bursaries

The one-time $15,000 donation was for six bursaries of $2,500 each

NORTHWEST Community College has turned down a $15,000 student bursary donation made by Enbridge, the company which wants to build the Northern Gateway pipeline to pump Alberta crude oil to a marine export terminal at Kitimat.

The donation, made up of six bursaries of $2,500, was first announced by the college March 3 and 71 applications for the money were received by the middle of last week.

But that was before the college board, in a March 21 meeting, reversed the original decision to accept the money.

A two-sentence statement released by interim college president Denis Caron provided no explanation as to why the money was returned.

“At its regular monthly meeting on Friday, March 21, the NWCC Board of Governors passed a motion to return a donation of $15,000 to Enbridge. As a result, the NWCC board will be reviewing its donations policy,” read the release.

Even before the board met, the college came under criticism for the wording contained in its March 3 press release announcing the money.

The wording, a description of the project provided by Enbridge, was removed after college vice president Dave O’Leary said he received emails and several phone calls, the latter from college employees.

Prior to the board meeting, O’Leary said the original wording should not be taken as an endorsement of Enbridge or its Northern Gateway project.

He said the college does not take positions endorsing projects or positions by companies or others providing it with money or services in kind.

He said the college will only accept money or services if it comes with no strings attached.

“We’ve had occasions where someone has wanted to [provide money] and has been pretty specific and we’ve said ‘no,’” O’Leary continued.

He noted that Enbridge was a sponsor of a recent regional skills competition held at the college.

After receiving the emails and phone calls, O’Leary said he contacted Enbridge and was asked to remove the project description.

“They didn’t want to be seen to have an effect on the intent of their donation,” he said.

The six bursaries, to be distributed based on need, were for trades, technology, science or environmental studies students. It’s not known if the six students chosen were informed they had been selected prior to the March 21 board meeting.

The Northwest Community College Students Union, which met with O’Leary after the wording had been removed and before the college board met, did question the release, saying Enbridge provided the money after a deadline for bursary provisions had passed.

“We are not opposed to bursaries but we are opposed to NWCC publicizing comments that are not balanced on behalf of any corporation or group, and specifically projects or companies that are this controversial,” said union organizer Mikael Jensen.

“The college acted far too favourably by giving them special coverage of their bursary, upon missing the deadline.”