Canadian Tire heiress Martha Biles has resigned her position as chancellor of the University of Guelph in a dispute over the University’s investment policy. Martha Billes was vocal against an April 22 motion approved by the university’s board of governors that halted investment by part of its $32.4 million endowment funding fossil fuel reserves.
“It is with a heavy heart that I inform our U of G community that Martha Billes has decided to step down as chancellor,” Vaccarino said in a release, confirming that the resignation was “prompted” by divestment.Billes, a controlling shareholder of Canadian Tire Corp., was named the university’s ninth chancellor in 2017. She was reappointed to a second term only in late 2019.
“I remain a passionate champion of the University, proud of their tradition of quality and excellence,” Billes said in a statement released by a Canadian Tire spokesperson. “For over 40 years, I have been an investor in business ventures including the oil business in my home city of Calgary and my family business, Canadian Tire Corporation,” the statement continued. “My decision to resign as Chancellor was prompted by the incompatibility of my business interests with the Board of Governors’ decision to divest from fossil fuel companies in its endowment portfolio.”
Vaccarino insisted in the university release that there was no bad blood. “Martha’s relationship with U of G is longstanding, and her connection and affection for the University remains strong,” the president said. “We appreciate the many positive things she accomplished during her tenure and wish her all the best.”
Martha Billes was educated at the Macdonald Institute, a college that was one of the forerunners of the University of Guelph. Hamilton’s Lincoln Alexander was the longest-serving Chancellor at Guelph, serving from 1991 to 2007.