Market re-shuffle in Qualicum Beach

Downtown business association pulls the plug on Thursday night market

Amid the debate over a new Wednesday night farmers’ market in Qualicum Beach — which was approved — the Thursday night street market has been cancelled.

A Qualicum Beach town council public forum on the proposed Wednesday night “top- up” farmers’ market was thrown a loop by Qualicum Beach Downtown Business Association’s David Wood.

Citing “a clear lack of leadership on behalf of this council (which) brings into question if this council’s integrity is in danger of being breached,” Wood said, “effective immediately, the QBDBA is cancelling our Uptown Summer Market.”

Wood, who oversaw the market for the QBDBA, was the first to speak at the forum Monday night, reading from a prepared statement condemning council’s decision-making process.

Calling council’s consideration of the proposal “a clear miscarriage of good governance practice,” he said council had already made a decision on the farmers’ market and was now acting in bad faith by reconsidering.

Qualicum Beach Farmers’ Market (QBFM) organizers had requested permission to close Veterans Way to expand their popular Saturday morning market to a Wednesday evening, food only, mid-week market.

Manager Mimi Shewchuk explained that the Thursday market started at 6 p.m., meaning it was too late for that night’s grocery shopping, leaving only one day, where an earlier Wednesday market could supply people for three dinners before Saturday.

But the QBDBA worried about the impact. “There are a limited number of vendors, in a sense we’re competing for them,” Wood told The NEWS in June. “Having a market on another night could draw away much of our success.”

As a compromise council restricted the proposed Wednesday market to fresh local food, which the QBFM then said was too restrictive.

Organizers planned to move to school district property to avoid the restrictions, but it turned out the business licence was only good for Veterans Way, so they ended up before council again, everyone talking about finding a compromise.

On Monday night, Coun. Neil Horner said he had planned to suggest a compromise — that the farmers’ market not start their Wednesday market this year and next year the QBDBA join them on Wednesday nights.

“But it appears they took their ball and went home,” he said of Wood, who left the room after reading his statement.

Shewchuk said it was interesting that Wood said they were seen as the “bad guys,” because the QBFM also felt people saw them as the bad guys. Horner quipped they shouldn’t worry, “clearly we (council) are the bad guys.”

“I don’t understand… all we’re about is getting food out there to people, making good food available,” Shewchuck said. “There was nothing negative about it.”

A member of the audience read from a survey the town sent out with 195 responses from business owners. Thirty per cent said the farmers’ market had a positive impact on their business, 59 per cent said there was no impact and six per cent said there was a negative impact.

Fifty seven per cent said they’d support a Wednesday food-only market on Veterans Way. Twenty one per cent would neither support or oppose.

Some people commented that there are plenty of ways to get farm food including numerous markets throughout the region, grocery stores and at the farms themselves.

QBFM president Lorne McCallum, said as a farmer and businessman, he’s the only one responsible for his success, that it’s up to each business owner to make their price and quality competitive.

In light of the surprise cancellation of the potentially competing market, council passed a motion allowing the Wednesday farmers’ market to go ahead, as a food-only market on Veterans Way.

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