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Jun. 2, 2020 | Tuesday
Editorials and Opinions
Letter: Council should reject chamber request
File photo.

Dear editor:

When Niagara-on-the-Lake’s infrastructure – roads, sidewalks, wastewater treatment system, parking spaces – are already being used beyond their capacity, and residents will almost certainly be hit with a municipal tax increase in 2020, it makes no sense for council to give the NOTL Chamber of Commerce an advance of $15,000 to attract more tourists to town.

The chamber says it needs the funds to rent and setup a booth at the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair in Toronto next month, plus pay for parking and accommodation costs during the 10-day run of the annual exhibition.

Its goal is to attract more tourists to NOTL in the winter, and to increase the number of participants in winter events such as the Candlelight Stroll and ice wine festival. This, when the Candlelight Stroll, in particular, is already so crowded with tourists that several local residents I know have stopped going to the event.

It’s concerning that the chamber’s request came to council at the last minute. The Royal has been an annual event since 1922 and from 1997, when the Enercare Centre was completed, a large exhibition area has been available to vendors and organizations wishing to rent and setup booths. So why did the chamber wait until two months before this year’s fair to request funding? Where is the business plan that demonstrates a positive return on investment for the town funds that the chamber wants to spend?

The decision of the committee of the whole to recommend approval of the chamber’s funding request also raises questions, most notably: Did the committee evaluate the request against the objectives established for NOTL in the town’s strategic plan and against other funding priorities? Did it consider the impact on 2020 municipal taxes? And did it stop to consider the risks/benefits and costs of supporting an effort to bring more tourists into the community?

I believe that funding requests such as the chamber’s should only be considered by NOTL in years when the town can provide them without reducing the level of services it provides to residents or raising taxes, and only in exceptional circumstances. It’s time for council to set funding priorities and stick to them.

Terry Davis