New Brunswick

Nominee pulls out of Top 20 Under 40 competition because Enbridge Gas a sponsor

Krysta Cowling was thrilled to make the short list of nominees for Greater Moncton's Top 20 Under 40 list, but on Tuesday she withdrew her name after finding out Enbridge Gas New Brunswick is one of the sponsors.

Krysta Cowling says she can't participate in event sponsored by company 'actively involved in climate change'

Krysta Cowling has withdrawn from the Greater Moncton Top 20 Under 40 competition, which recognizes young leaders. She said she cannot accept recognition from an event sponsored by Enbridge Gas New Brunswick. (Vanessa Blanch/CBC)

Krysta Cowling was thrilled to make the short list of nominees for Greater Moncton's Top 20 Under 40 list, but on Tuesday she withdrew her name after finding out Enbridge Gas New Brunswick is one of the sponsors.

"I felt like I morally and ethically couldn't take part in an event where I'd be receiving … an award knowing that that award is paid for by a company that is actively involved in climate change," the 29-year-old said.

Cowling is the former executive director of La Bikery Cooperative and former business immigrant services co-ordinator at 3+ economic development corporation.

In addition to her concerns about climate change, Cowling said pipeline projects are "working against" reconciliation efforts with Indigenous people. 

Collectively we have this voice and we have this power and we really are on this precipice of change.- Krysta Cowling

She also pointed to the negative impact that so-called "man-camps," built for pipeline workers in rural areas, have on nearby communities and the threat they pose to local women.

"So it's a collection of those reasons that I felt that the recognition that an award like that would bring was not worth it to the greater community." 

John Wishart, CEO of the Greater Moncton Chamber of Commerce, said the idea behind the Top 20 Under 40 event was to put a spotlight on younger people who are "making our community a better place to work and live."

John Wishart, CEO of the Chamber of Commerce for Greater Moncton, said the list of 40 finalists represents a cross-section of leaders who deserve to be heard. (CBC)

He said the Chamber of Commerce will carry on with the event but supports anyone who chooses to withdraw their name from the list of 40 finalists.

"The fundamental reason to have this event is to give each of these individuals a platform to be seen, heard and to continue to challenge the status quo and change our community for the better," Wishart said.

Finalist Jesse Kerpan said he will still attend the event on Wednesday night but admitted he is also conflicted.

Jesse Kerpan, a finalist in the Top 20 Under 40 competition, wants to start a tradition of Greater Moncton funding its own celebrations of rising leaders. (CBC)

In a Facebook post, Kerpan, who is a member of the Hub City Young Professionals Network, instead offered a solution for future events.

"I'm going to pledge $100 to the next edition of Top 20 Under 40 so that NO corporate sponsors will be needed: the community can fuel its own celebration of its champions."

Enbridge responds

 In a statement, Enbridge Gas called Cowlings's portrayal of pipeline projects "grossly inaccurate" and "unfortunate."

In this June 29, 2018, file photo, pipe used to carry crude oil is shown at the Superior terminal of Enbridge Energy in Superior, Wis. (Jim Mone/Associated Press)

"Enbridge works extensively with communities to source local and Indigenous labour whenever we undertake a project and to address any concerns these communities might have," wrote Jesse Semko, senior adviser of corporate communications.

Semko went on to say that in most cases Enbridge doesn't use work camps for pipeline projects and tries to work with "campgrounds, hotels and motels along the route" to accommodate workers.

'It's starting a dialogue'

Cowling has been surprised by the "incredible momentum" her decision to withdraw from the Top 20 Under 40 event has created. 

She knows of two other finalists who have withdrawn their nominations, has heard from "countless" ticket holders who no longer plan to attend and said other organizations have told her they will be dropping sponsors related to the oil and gas industry.

In a statement, the Greater Moncton Chamber of Commerce said it supports the right of people to choose not to be part of the Top 20 Under 40 event, but the event will carry on with the support of sponsors. (Greater Moncton's Top 20 Under 40/Facebook)

"It's starting a dialogue and it's creating a conversation," Cowling said.

"It shows that collectively we have this voice and we have this power and that we really are on this precipice of change."

The Top 20 Under 40 will be revealed on Wednesday night at the Dieppe Arts and Culture Centre. The event is a partnership between the Chamber of Commerce for Greater Moncton and the Hub City Young Professionals Network.

with files from Information Morning Moncton

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