Patronage allegations levelled at Qualicum Beach town council meeting

Discussion about the town's ad buying policies became heated

Qualicum Beach Coun. Barry Avis brought a motion forward to see the town split advertising dollars between the two local newspapers, but Coun. Bill Luchtmeijer called the move “just one more political patronage deal” at Monday night’s council meeting.

Avis said he wants to “ensure there is equity in the issuance of the town’s advertising funds and that notices be split between the two local newspapers, the Oceanside Star and the Parksville Qualicum Beach News.”

However, Luchtmeijer said “I think this motion shows a complete lack of faith in our town staff’s ability to evaluate the effectiveness of our ad dollars.”

Luchtmeijer went on to say the motion, and lack of discussion, ignores the merits of cost, circulation and even editorial bias.

“In my neighbourhood the Oceanside Star isn’t delivered and it hasn’t been delivered for many, many years so if we’re going to evaluate one paper versus the other don’t you think we should do it based on how effective the town can be in our communications policy?” asked Luchtmeijer rhetorically.

Moreover, Luchtmeijer questioned the Oceanside Star’s election coverage.

“I know that the Oceanside Star has provided a lot of free publicity during the last election for Coun. Avis and Coun. Horner to the exclusion of everyone else and after last month’s advisory planning commission appointments, and now this motion, a person might come to conclude this is just one more political patronage deal being proposed by councillor Avis on behalf of his political supporters,” Luchtmeijer said.

“I have faith in our staff, their ability to do their jobs and the policies and communications strategies in place in the town, I therefore will not support this motion.”

Avis retaliated saying the motion “has nothing to do with favouritism.”

“If you went by the town’s purchasing policy all of it (advertising) would be done through the Oceanside Star because their prices are better, in fact, and I didn’t want to go that far to say it should all be done through the Oceanside Star,” said Avis. “I’m just saying that it should be equal.”

He called both local newspapers “a credit to our community” adding they “report on different matters, sometimes in different ways.”

Avis called it “practical” and “sensible” to support both publications equally.

The motion was deferred back to staff who was directed to revisit the town’s purchasing policy to ensure equity of advertising funds. A staff report is expected at the March 23 meeting.

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