In 2005, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed between the British Columbia Ministry of Advanced Education and NIDMAR to establish a new global center of excellence and degree-granting educational institution. The signing of the agreement followed months of negotiations with government. Initial support for the proposal came from key business, labour and government leaders across Canada and around the world. At the signing, the Minister of Advanced Education declared, “We will support the institution by providing technical assistance in establishing it as a private degree-granting institution in the province of British Columbia.”
In 2006, Western Economic Diversification Canada announced an investment to NIDMAR to develop a business strategy for the proposed world’s first special purpose, degree-granting educational institution dedicated to occupational health and safety, disability management and rehabilitation studies. Together with matching funds from NIDMAR, the funding was slated for development of a business strategy to determine workplace safety and occupational health priorities through a national consensus obtained from leading employer, labour and government organizations. At the announcement of the grant, Jerri New, President of the Canadian Office and Professional Employees Union and from Trevor James, Vice President of Human Resources for Canfor, who in praising the initiative said, “This is a natural and right evolution for NIDMAR.”
In 2007, the Pacific Coast University for Workplace Health Sciences Act, proposed and advocated by NIDMAR, passed third and final reading in the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia with unanimous bi-partisan support.
Introduced as a private bill by MLA Ron Cantelon and seconded by MLA Scott Fraser, the initiative was a true bi-partisan effort.
MLA Ron Cantelon said that supporting the university seems to happen automatically once people are aware of the status quo. “Three hundred thousand people in BC are of working age, but 55 percent of them are not in the workforce…they are just not working when they could be.”
Supporting the bill on behalf of the official opposition, MLA Scott Fraser explained, “Passing this bill represents the formal dismissing of partisanship between labour and industry…This kind of example was already laid out for us. There is a unity factor that seems to come with NIDMAR. We see it at the level of the board of directors – it’s cooperation between groups that don’t always see eye-to-eye on issues, and they’ve obviously all come together on this.”
NIDMAR’s Wolfgang Zimmermann noted that from its inception, the university had enjoyed an ever-increasing number of key supporters, whether they’re front-line workers, executives or key decision-makers from across all stakeholder groups and the political spectrum in Canada and around the world. “Consensus has been key all along, and will continue to be essential as we move forward. All of the proponents involved have recognized the value and potential impact of this initiative, while advocating its goals and objectives.”
In 2009, the Government of Canada announced that PCU-WHS would be the recipient of a $1.65 million grant under the Knowledge Infrastructure Program. The announcement was made by Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper on August 5. MP for the Alberni Valley area, Dr. James Lunney said, “It is particularly satisfying to me to see this project established on Vancouver Island and in the city of its origin after years of advocacy. Pacific Coast University will ensure Canada’s leadership role is recognized and will be a hub for improving services to injured workers around the world for years to come.”
Another important announcement that took place in 2009 was that of the City of Port Alberni, which donated a 3.5-acre parcel of land with spectacular views of Mount Arrowsmith and Vancouver Island’s Beaufort Mountain Range. “This is a big day for us. We’ve been involved with this for a long time,” said Port Alberni Mayor Ken McRae. “The City provided the land for Pacific Coast University because this is where it all began.”