Coun. Zeb King said council is not acting fast enough to help individuals struggling with economic effects of COVID-19. (Black Press Media File)

Coun. Zeb King said council is not acting fast enough to help individuals struggling with economic effects of COVID-19. (Black Press Media File)

Central Saanich councillor criticizes colleagues for being too slow with grants

Coun. Zeb King takes peers to task after council rejects his notice of motion

One Central Saanich councillor feels council is not acting fast enough to help those struggling with the economic effects of COVID-19.

Coun. Zeb King made that comment after council voted against his notice of motion that would have asked staff to consult with the Farmland Trust Society (FLT) about using some of the $3.45 million the municipality received through a joint federal-provincial program designed to help municipalities deal with the effects of COVID-19.

“This is certainly not a rapid response to helping the needy and it fails to show leadership on the part of the [council],” he said. “Instead, the council wants to punt this to a slow staff allocation process that might provide $7,500 max.”

King suggested individuals need help now, not later.

Couns. Carl Jensen, Gordon Newtown, Niall Paltiel, and Bob Thompson voted against the motion with Coun. Chris Graham absent.

King acknowledged the society can apply for funding up to a maximum of $7,500 and only once council has formally approved a larger pot of $50,000 for grants. King had pushed for a large figure.

Council earlier signed off on language that would allow non-profits to apply for support. Staff told the public at the time that the municipality had developed these figures on the basis of its own grant-in-aid program as well as developments in other communities with the addendum that groups can apply for more than $7,500 subject to council approval. A motion by Newtown to lower the limit to $5,000 failed.

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While King encouraged the society to apply, he added that he would have liked to have seen a “grander vision to help people by helping FLT in a bigger way.”

The self-described mission of the society includes “producing food for those in need” among other goals. The central mean of this mandate is the ‘field to plate’ initiative that sees the growing of food on Newman Farm for what King’s notice of motion describes as Greater Victoria’s “most vulnerable, including people struggling with homelessness, mental health challenges, substance use issues, the working poor, and impoverished elderly.”

Opponents of King’s motion did not comment on the substance, but rather the process. Newtown wondered why council should ask staff to talk with the society before any prior application and Thompson said he would have voted for language that asked staff to inform the society. Jensen argued that King’s motion would have politicized the process around the grant.

“Are we going to extend the courtesy [of reaching out] to every non-profit in Central Saanich?” asked Jensen.

King pointed out that council had approved the application process before his notice of motion. It should have appeared before council more than a month ago, but a snow storm cancelled the Dec. 21 meeting.

Mayor Ryan Windsor encouraged groups to apply for the funding.


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wolfgang.depner@peninsulanewsreview.com