Last month‘s vote by the University of Guelph’s Board of Governors to divest from fossil fuel companies was the fiscally prudent move according to the financial committee. But while the committee was sure that the U of G would suffer no fiduciary consequences to divestment, there has been a different kind of loss for the university as a result. Martha Billes, the chancellor of the U of G has quit, and she say’s it’s because of the divestment vote.
“It is with a heavy heart that I inform our U of G community that Martha Billes has decided to step down as chancellor,” said U of G president and vice-chancellor Franco Vaccarino in a statement.
“Martha has been a devoted ambassador for the University, enthusiastically supporting students and working hard to represent the University to government and to the public. We appreciate her many contributions, both as chancellor and as a proud U of G alumna,” Vaccarino added.
Billes was definitely not proud of the Board of Governor’s decision to divest. At the meeting last month, Billes was one of three members to vote against motion. She agreed with comments made by one of the Board’s other no votes saying she was voting against the move because of the current precarious economic situation for the oil industry. She was also displeased with the message that divestment was sending.
“If it weren’t for Canadian oil development, many, many of the advantages across this country would never have happened,” Billes said. “Eastern Canada has not necessarily been loyal to the west, but the west has been loyal to Canada. I believe in sustainability, and I believe in gradually moving away from our huge dependence on oil and oil byproducts, but to make such a solid statement against an industry that has been paying the bills for many, many years, I find untenable.”
Billes was the ninth chancellor in the history of the University of Guelph. She is the controlling shareholder of Canadian Tire, and her father was the company’s founder. Billes offered no comment in the U of G’s media release.
“Martha’s relationship with U of G is longstanding, and her connection and affection for the University remains strong. We appreciate the many positive things she accomplished during her tenure and wish her all the best,” Vaccarino said.
The U of G senate will oversee the selection process for the next chancellor, and they will be releasing the details of that process in the days and weeks to come.