Former president strikes back at UBC

Plus, Wilderness Committee wins in court and B.C. entrepreneurs buck up

Document drama
Former UBC president Arvind Gupta released a statement today defending himself against the assertions made in documents accidentally released by the university. “What was published is a one-sided representation of what transpired in the months prior to my resignation,” he wrote.

On Monday, UBC released 861 pages in response to freedom of information requests about the sudden departure of Gupta in August 2015, just over a year into his five-year term. While most of those documents were heavily redacted, a sharp-eyed Reddit user found a PDF file with a very revealing set of correspondence between former board chair John Montalbano and Gupta.

On Thursday, the Globe and Mail reported that Gupta now regrets his decision to resign. He also spoke to the Early Edition’s Rick Cluff. In a statement released through his public relations representative, Gupta explained that he made a commitment as president to make UBC one of the top universities in the world. The following is an excerpt from the statement:

That goal meant substantial change including a rethinking of priorities and refocusing on the academic mission. And change can make some people uneasy. If it didn’t, it would be called the status quo. So, it is no surprise that not everyone at the university embraced this vision and the required actions. That said, the assertions in the released documents, were not based on facts or evidence given to me at any time.

Still, I attempted to work in a collegial manner which is the hallmark of every well-governed university. Unfortunately there was never any formal review of my performance, or outreach by the Board to the broader university community. This would have allowed both the UBC Board and myself to assess my first year accomplishments and the scope of the work ahead.

This past summer it became clear to me that I did not have the support of the full Board and, as such, felt I had no other option but to resign in the best interest of the university. It is my sincerest hope that I, with leading UBC scholars, will carry on this important work on behalf of UBC, British Columbia, and Canada.

Wilderness win
A B.C. Supreme Court judge has dismissed a defamation lawsuit filed by Taseko Mines against an environmental group which had published articles on its website criticizing the New Prosperity Mine proposals.
The ruling dismissed Taseko’s claims and awarded the Wilderness Committee court costs as well as extra costs incurred as a result of the lawsuit. “We are thrilled with this result,” said Gwen Barlee, national policy director with the Wilderness Committee. “We stood our ground and now we’re vindicated.”
The judge found that all of the criticisms of the project, contained in five articles, were “fair comment.” One of the articles stated that the proposal “threatens to poison tens of thousands of fish, pollute the eco-system of Fish Lake and the headwaters of a river network that supports the world’s largest run of wild salmon and imperil an endangered population of grizzly bears.”
On this point, Mr. Justice Funt wrote: “The New Prosperity Project would cover an area of approximately 25 square kilometres in the Fish Creek (Teztan Yeqox) watershed. As noted, this is a wilderness area. Taseko’s proposal for New Prosperity contemplated the loss of approximately 20,000 square metres of fish habitat. The TSF would cover a large area and would also seep. The proposal also recognized that the Fish Creek watershed was grizzly bear habitat. With these facts, the Court finds that a person could honestly express the opinion set forth in the stated impression.”
He also called the punitive damages sought by Taseko Mines in the case “an economic threat.” “In the context of a defamation action, seeking punitive damages may serve to silence critics.”

Future bright
About three-quarters of small and medium-sized Canadian business owners intend to invest in their enterprises in 2016, according to a report by the Business Development Bank of Canada. The largest growth in investment intentions was in B.C. and the Territories, where 14 per cent more entrepreneurs reported intentions to invest over the previous year.

“While Canadian entrepreneurs are wary about the state of the economy, they appear generally optimistic about the future of their business,” said Pierre Cléroux, chief economist and vice president, research at BDC. “It is encouraging to see small businesses remain focused on growth and productivity in spite of a challenging economy.”

Canadian entrepreneurs plan to invest a total of $111 billion in their businesses in 2016, an amount similar to what was invested in 2015.