Council declares door open for some declarations, for now

Municipal councillor Duncan McMaster attempted to put a kibosh on declarations last week but his fellow councillors refused to close the door on local festivity support.

According to the district’s website, council has made three declarations so far in 2014: May was declared Child Find’s Green Ribbon of Hope Month, May 25 was declared Missing Children’s Day, and April was declared Daffodil Month as part of a Canadian Cancer Society initiative to “show that we’re all united in the fight against cancer.”

Council has steered clear of other declaration requests this year, as they did when they chose not to accept a request from the BC Salmon Farmers Association to declare Aquaculture Awareness Week in September.

During last week’s regular council meeting, McMaster brought forward a motion for council to “no longer issue declarations,” and nix all requests.

“We get requests for a lot of declarations, but we never actually do anything to recognize that,” he said.

Council balked at the idea of automatically saying no to declaration requests from locals but agreed to limit declarations from out-of-town organizations.

Coun. Al Anderson supported McMaster’s motion to deny declarations.

“Unless you’re going to do something, it’s kind of meaningless,” Anderson said.

Coun. Dorothy Baert agreed that declarations are not always fruitful, but argued some declarations help support local festivals and events.

“I’d just hate to see the door close entirely on that,” she said. “I don’t want to just say a blanket ‘no.'” She cited Tofino’s Oyster Month in November as a way for council to support the community’s annual Oyster Festival.

Mayor Josie Osborne said she had researched how other municipalities handle declarations and that some deny all requests while others leave the door open for locals or out-of-town organizations who present to council in person.

Baert supported Tofino adopting the latter strategy.

“I’d like to keep that door open for declarations of community events to help empower the message about whatever it may be,” she said.

“I think it’s a tool to support local effort and I don’t want to see that (lost). I’d rather find a way to craft a motion to support local organizations.”

Coun. Cathy Thicke agreed that hearing local requests, or requests made to council in person, could be valuable.

“In the spirit of supporting entrepreneurs in our town I really like this idea,” she said.

Thicke sought to amend McMaster’s motion to include a provision for supporting local events but Osborne suggested more time was needed to draft such a policy.

Council unanimously defeated McMaster’s original motion but planned to bring a new motion forward at a future meeting with the idea of keeping at least some declaration requests on their agendas.

reporter@westerlynews.ca