City of White Rock Coun. Grant Meyer has raised concerns with White Rock Farmers’ Market vendors wearing politically inspired T-shirts during market hours.
During a council discussion Monday about approving the market for the 2018 summer season, Meyer said a prospective politician – whom he did not name – suggested that the farmers market had become “quite political over the last little bit.”
“I had never really thought of it like that,” Meyer said. “Vendors wearing T-shirts and etcetera, some of those things going on. That is one of our biggest polling stations right in that area.”
Meyer said one of the concerns brought up by the resident was that if voters are seeing political T-shirts for eight weeks leading up to next year’s Oct. 20 civic election – and then go back to the same place to vote – it may be an unfair advantage.
“Is that fair? Especially being that the city does sponsor the event,” Meyer said.
Coun. Helen Fathers, who as the market’s manager excused herself from discussion, later told Peace Arch News the market is not city-sponsored.
She said the reason why the market is a council issue is because any event that operates on Miramar Plaza has to have council approval, “even though the market pays all the fees to the city, and the market pays all the fees to the strata.”
During Monday’s discussion, no member of council or city staff noted the farmers market is not a city-sponsored event.
City CAO Dan Bottrill noted next year will mark the first time that the farmers market will be in operation during a local government election. He said that if a vendor booth has a “political bent,” then that would “probably require some conversation with the farmers market to ensure if council was concerned about that and wanted to place that as a condition.”
But Meyer said the concern was more about vendors wearing election T-shirts.
Coun. Lynne Sinclair said freedom of speech is something that “we all take very seriously in this country and want to protect… But, I think the point you’re raising is one at an organizational level, that the farmers market remain neutral in the sense of not promoting one candidate over another when it’s a city-sponsored event.”
Meyer told PAN Wednesday that political-T-shirt-wearing by vendors is not his personal concern but that of a resident. He said he’s following his “duty as a representative to make sure their voices or concerns are heard.”
Council voted to discuss the issue at its next meeting.