Early in December, Campbell River city council approved the donation of $20,000 of its leftover 2019 contingency budget to support Loonies For Loggers, an Island-wide initiative by two ladies to make sure those affected by the recent forestry industry strikes and curtailments were at least fed.
The labour dispute between Western Forest Products and United Steelworkers Local 1-1937 is now heading into month eight, so Coun. Ron Kerr, who proposed the last donation from council that was passed, brought forth a request for another $10,000 to be put towards the same cause on Monday night.
He almost didn’t even get it put on the table for discussion, however, as the motion hung in the air for some time before finally being seconded by Coun. Kermit Dahl, “for discussion.”
“This strike has been going on now for going on eight months in the North Island, and (the last donation) wasn’t just a Christmas-feel-good gesture, it was also a message to the forestry community that we support them in this hard time,” Coun. Kerr says, defending the motion. “This is an emergency, short-term event that needs out support, and, unfortunately, there’s no one else right now that can fill the roll this organization does.”
The rest of council, however, felt that it wasn’t right to keep giving money to Loonies For Loggers when there are many organizations within the community who aren’t getting the same kind of treatment.
Coun. Claire Moglove pointed out that while she certainly appreciates the work Loonies For Loggers is doing, she couldn’t support any more money going their direction from the city.
Moglove says there is a clear set of criteria that has been set by council to determine how they give out money to charities and non-profits, like they’d done earlier that very evening when they approved the first round of the new Social Grants program. That program asked agencies to apply to the city for funding for upcoming projects and would then be vetted by a committee and approved once per year. Two of the criteria for those grants, Moglove points out, are that the organization be a registered charity or not-for-profit society, and that they provide financial statements.
“To provide more funding to an organization that don’t meet that criteria, I just can’t support,” Moglove says, adding “there are many, many organizations within this community that are in need, and people, in general, have the right to make their own decisions about who they provide their donations to. Even though we have gone down this path, if we go to much further, we’re in a position of usurping the general public’s ability to choose what charitable organizations they want to donate to.”
That seemed to be the consensus around the rest of the table.
“I was very proud to be part of this council when we gave that $20,000 before Christmas,” says Coun. Michele Babchuk, “but I can’t help but think that there may be opportunities for advocacy around this issue that we may be able to assist with, which may require some finances, and this isn’t an unlimited pot of money.”
Even Coun. Kermit Dahl, one of the staunchest supporters of the forestry industry on council – he donated his company barbecue trailer and time to a fundraiser just this past weekend that raised over $11,000 for Loonies For Loggers, in fact – says “they’re not really looking for more money.”
“I would agree that putting our money towards advocacy will do a lot more for them at this point,” Dahl says. “Getting them back to work will do more than giving them another box of food. Loonies for Loggers has enough money right now to do another whole Island run of food like they did in December. They’re not looking for more money. They’re looking for us to help be part of the voice that will help find a resolution.”
The motion was defeated soundly, with only Coun. Kerr voting in favour.