June 18th, 2021

Layoffs at MHC after province pulls grant

By Medicine Hat News on February 2, 2021.

The potential of creating a superboard for post-secondary education in Alberta has led to five months of limbo for the chair's seat on the Medicine Hat College board of governors.

The recent cancellation of provincial government grant funding to Medicine Hat College resulted in more than a dozen people being impacted by layoffs on Monday.

Sandy Henderson, dean of student services and registrar at MHC, says two and a half full-time positions (three people) were laid off and between eight and 10 people in part-time and contract positions.

The provincial grant was about $200,000 and had been in place for many years and renewed annually. It had supported “two entities” – the Alberta Sports Development Centre SE (ASDC) and the Be Fit for Life Centre – said Henderson. He estimates funding for the Be Fit for Life Centre had been in place for decades and the ASDC for 10 years.

“These organizations are hosted at the college and we employed staff to support them,” he said.

It was in the last two weeks that MHC was advised by government that the funding would be cancelled, effective immediately. Henderson says it was not possible for MHC to continue these programs without that provincial grant.

The facilities at MHC used for these specific programs were not used exclusively for them, he explained. The space and equipment will continue to be used for other existing initiatives. Some aspects of the ASDC and the Be Fit for Life Centre activities took place in the community as well, not only at MHC.

Cypress-Medicine Hat MLA Drew Barnes says he wasn’t aware of the change to grant funding.

“I did not know this funding had been cut,” said Barnes.

While it is necessary for government to ensure there is value for tax dollars, Barnes believes there should have been some local decision making involved. Physical fitness and mental health are closely linked and cutting funding to physical fitness programs is of particular concern, he says.

The News requested comment from the province about the grant funding cut but there was no immediate response on Monday.

Henderson did not have information immediately available on the length of service of those who were laid off. He says he was aware of one position that was relatively new but could not say how many years the others had been with MHC. There were no alternative positions that could be offered to those laid off, he said.

“They have certainly provided value to the college and to the community so we are sad to see them go,” said Henderson.

“We are going to see what we can do to try and offset this loss but for sure it is difficult.”

The transition for those who were laid off Monday will take place Feb. 12, said Henderson.

The impact on students may not be as noticeable immediately. Henderson said so many programs at MHC have gone online during the pandemic.

“Obviously with COVID there is no sports being allowed at this time,” said Henderson.

The provincial government has not notified MHC of any other funding or grants being discontinued, he said.

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