The aircraft themed play structure is the subject of a crowd funding project adopted by North Saanich Council for installation at Jubilee Park. (District of North Saanich)

Crowd funding for North Saanich park coming up short so far

On March 27, the North Saanich District Council became the first Saanich Peninsula municipality to embrace crowd funding when it passed a motion to engage Wayblaze Crowd Sourcing to raise funds for an aircraft themed climbing structure to be installed at Jubilee Park.

Although it’s the first time a local municipality has embraced the concept, it is not a new idea.

At it’s core, the concept of crowd-funding is simple. Until recently, it involved a person, group, or corporate entity launching an appeal directly to the public for funds to be used for a worthwhile cause or business idea.

Harnessing the power of the internet, the appeals transcended the crude methods of the past (remember telethons?) and went directly to tens of millions of potential donors.

But in recent years, at a time when municipal budgets are stretched to the limit and where priorities may place even a worthwhile project near the bottom of the funding list, the crowd funding concept has increasingly been embraced by municipal governments.

In Europe and the United States the practice has become commonplace, although it has faced some push-back from people who feel they have a right to expect roads, parks and other components of municipal infrastructure without having to divert their charitable giving to what some feel they have already funded through tax dollars.

Still, a host of home-grown web platforms and companies touting the idea have sprung up across Canada, and now one of those companies, Wayblaze, has been engaged by North Saanich to raise funds for the completion of Jubilee Park.

The park project was first approved by Council in August of 2015 but despite some generous donations from a Canada 150 grant from the federal government ($60,100), Viking Air ($25,000), VIH Aviation Group ($6,000), Victoria Airport Authority ($5,000) Coast Capital Savings ($2,500) and Sea Span Ferries ($500), the park development project was still some $44,000 short of the amount needed to complete its first two phases.

Then, on March 6, Council heard a presentation from Rob Barrs and David Van Seters regarding the civic crowd funding platform they had founded called Wayblaze. After studying the proposal, council agreed to try the concept that would see Wayblaze take the initiative to try to raise funds in return for a 5 per cent commission on every dollar raised.

“Personally, I wanted to make sure that a minimal amount of tax dollars would be used in this project so when the concept of crowd funding was presented to Council, I was in favour of it,” explained Councillor Jack McClintock.

He added that, although he was aware that taxes could have been used for the project, this method served to provide an indicator of public buy-in for the project.

Councillor Jack Thornburgh, who seconded the motion to adopt the crowd funding attempt, admitted he might not be able to philosophically defend the initiative, but said that it was a way of funding what was what he called an “add-on project” that otherwise might not receive money in the short term.

“It really is a matter of priorities and even if we take some flak for this approach, if it’s useful and beneficial it will have been a good idea,” said Thornburgh.

The idea, however, seems to be falling flat. The crowd funding page established by Wayblaze (wayblaze.com/fundable_projects/help-us-build-this-aircraft-themed-childrens-playground-at-jubilee-park/) showed only eight backers for the project for a total of $610. That leaves them $43,390 short of their goal.

(A request from Black Press for comment from Wayblaze received no response.)