Should city taxpayers be paying for nutritional programs for young parents?
One of the great new hip things popping up in neighbourhoods throughout Metro Vancouver these days are farmers markets. They first caught on with chic urbanites in Vancouver proper, but are increasingly showing up on city streets and parking lots throughout the burbs. In New Westminster, City Hall approved the establishment of a new farmers market a couple of years ago and it’s quickly become a popular place to shop for fresh produce and meet your neighbours every week. My family has shopped there numerous times and we all agree it’s a great addition to the community.
When I read The Record newspaper last week, it was hard to miss a front-page story about the market and how it’s going to re-open again this year. Prominently featured in the story was the fact the City of New Westminster was providing a grant of $10,000 to help support the market and young parents.
The program is a partnership between the New Westminster Farmers Market (NWFM), Shiloh-Sixth Avenue United Church and the City. It provides 60 young parents (mostly young moms) with $15 coupons to buy products sold at the market. The hope is they will use those funds to buy locally grown produce and increase their nutritional intake. The program was originally funded by the Province of BC, but they ceased funding it in 2010 after they went through a round of budget cuts.
As much as the program sounds beneficial, I have to ask why the City of New Westminster feels it is their responsibility to be funding these types of programs with scarce property tax dollars. Funding a nutritional program for young mothers seems like something that should fall within the mandate of either the provincial/federal governments who have much deeper pockets than the City of New Westminster.
Whatever happened to the days when cities used to worry about building curbs, installing street lamps and making sure the sewers work? Today there doesn’t seem to be a program that falls outside the mandate of cities like New Westminster. Whether it’s homelessness, nutrition, chicken coops, outer space treaties...you name it, a city near you feels that they need to dabble into these policy areas.
Meanwhile, taxes in the City of New Westminster (and most other major centres in Metro Vancouver) continue to far outpace the rate of inflation. Perhaps it’s because cities can’t say no to programs that, although they have a lot of merit and benefits, should be funded by senior levels of government who have the mandate and the capacity to support them.
It’s going to be hard to take cities seriously when they cry poverty over a lack of funding when they continue to pay for programs that clearly fall outside their core mandates. I can attest to the fact there are a number of “core” programs and initiatives the City could have used that $10,000 to fund, but chose to subsidize a nutritional program instead.
It may be early days yet, but I can’t help but think that property owners in New Westminster will one day wake up and say that their tax dollars need to be more wisely invested. We’re in an election year, so who knows, maybe that dialogue might start up in a few months or so.
What do you think? Should cities be using property taxes to be funding programs like those in New Westminster? Let us know by leaving a comment or voting in our online poll.
NOTE: The Royal City Farmers Market is open every Thursday, rain or shine, from June 9 to Oct. 6 from 3 to 7 p.m at Tipperary Park, just East of city hall. The market also holds winter openings: The next two are scheduled for March 12 and April 19 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Holy Trinity Church.
-Post by Daniel