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County sees value in supporting AU advocacy

Keep Athabasca in AU gets another cash injection
Athabasca County decided to stand with the Town of Athabasca and put another $15,000 toward the Keep Athabasca in Athabasca University campaign to extend the work at least until the provincial government tables a budget. File

ATHABASCA — The Keep Athabasca in Athabasca University (KAAU) committee now has more time, following an additional contribution from Athabasca County. 

At their regular meeting Jan. 11, councillors considered a letter from the local advocacy group requesting an additional $15,000 to help fund lobbying efforts with the provincial government. 

“Town council has also decided on $15,000 in support,” said reeve Brian Hall. “Residents in the community (also) contributed in excess of $10,000 since the last request.” 

In the letter, committee chair John Ollerenshaw pointed out there has been significant progress including discussions with the minister of Advanced Education Demetrios Nicolaides and the goal is to keep lobbying at least until the provincial budget is tabled. 

“I did get a report from (Town of Athabasca) mayor Rob Balay that they’re getting close to the finish line which is good news,” said Coun. Natasha Kapitaniuk. “So, the finish line ideally would be when the (provincial) budget comes down.” 

It is hoped in the budget there will be incentives for AU to keep more than 40 or 50 staff working on-site at the Athabasca campus and reverse much of their near-virtual model. 

“The goal, of course, is to influence the government to provide some direction to the university,” Hall said. “And sadly, only really the government has the power to direct the change that’s necessary.” 

The new request comes after receiving $7,500 from each the town and county in 2021, plus the money from community members like AU professor Alex Kondra who donated $7,500 of his own at the Dec. 21 Town of Athabasca council meeting. 

“The spend is a lot of money on one hand but it’s also virtually nothing relative to the economic impact and I would hate to have that last $15,000 be what causes us to stumble,” said Hall. 

Heather Stocking

About the Author: Heather Stocking

Heather Stocking a reporter at the Athabasca Advocate, a weekly paper in Northern Alberta. Heather covers all aspects of the news in and around Athabasca and Boyle as well as other small communities.
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