File photo                                White Rock Farmers Market vendors pose no threat to political process according to a report from city manager.

File photo White Rock Farmers Market vendors pose no threat to political process according to a report from city manager.

‘No concerns evident’ on politicking at Farmers Market – Bottrill

Suggested political influence of T-shirts rejected in White Rock CAO’s report

Operations of the White Rock Farmers’ Market on Miramar Village Plaza will have no impact on the civic election campaign in October.

That’s the conclusion of a review by chief administrative officer Dan Bottrill, which will be presented to city council on Monday.

Council had deferred consideration of the market’s use of Miramar Plaza next year on a motion from Coun. Grant Meyer, who said an unnamed “prospective politician” had suggested that market vendors or participants wearing political T-shirts might unduly influence voters during the campaign.

In his report, Bottrill notes that the shift of local government elections from November to October (White Rock’s is scheduled for Oct. 20) means that the farmers market will be, for the first time, operating during an election campaign.

But, he says in the latest report, “a review of the matter indicates no concerns evident in this regard.”

Bottrill says he found that following conversations with market representatives that they have “no desire to have political organizations as part of their vendor complement.”

Further, he adds, the market would not be operating at a time that voting is actually taking place, so therefore would not stand any chance of violating the Elections Act.

He also notes it would be undesirable to attempt to limit the expression of ideas on social or political issues by market participants.

“This is a right that all of us enjoy in this country and it would be inappropriate, and illegal, to attempt to impose any restrictions on an organization or individuals participating in this event,” Bottrill says in his report.

In raising the issue at the Nov. 20 council meeting, Meyer had wondered whether political activities during the farmers market would be “fair – especially being that the city does sponsor the event?” – something which had since been contradicted by Coun. Helen Fathers, who had excused herself from the council conversation as she is also the manager of the farmers market.

“The fact of the matter is that there’s no in-kind sponsorship from the city,” she later told Peace Arch News. “The market pays all its fees, there’s no money from the city. I don’t know what to say – we’re self-sufficient and proud of it.”

Bottrill’s report, however, maintains the city is technically a sponsor, as it is part of a committee – including Bosa and the Miramar strata council – that manages use of the Miramar public plaza space.

The city sponsors the event to the extent that it approves which organizations may use the plaza, Bottrill argues, while the city gives some services-in-kind, including power from its community centre in the Miramar building and the use of outside community centre washrooms.

Bottrill does acknowledge in his report, however, that “there is currently no financial sponsorship from the City to the Farmers’ Market.”

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