It remains unlikely that Family Day events will go ahead in the downtown core, suggesting that 2022 will be the second year in a row that the holiday will be scrapped due to COVID-19.
The Downtown Business Association (DBA) had requested that city council include a $2,000 fee for service in its upcoming budget for the association to host a family-themed event on Feb. 21, but council voted down the request at its regular meeting on Monday, Jan. 24. The DBA had asked for a second fee for service in the same amount for a Canada Day celebration, which council also denied.
In both instances, council and staff highlighted concerns about the on-going pandemic.
Speaking against the fees for service, councillor and DBA-liaison Christine Thompson said, “We don’t even know if we can have those events,” qualifying that she would support the association’s fee for service requests toward operational costs and an outdoor market to run this summer.
Senior staff then explained that pandemic restrictions would make it difficult for the city to host something for Family Day.
“Until things are more clear regarding COVID and what our opportunities are, that would be a last minute event if we are to host it,” Chief Administrative Officer Duncan Redfearn said.
Corporate Officer Daniel Drexler said there was money in the city’s events budget for such an event, but then echoed Redfearn’s point.
“Currently, with the COVID situation, I can’t see Family Day happening … If we do something, it’s going to be something small, hopefully downtown,” Drexler said.
Speaking to The Gazette Thursday, Jan. 27, interim DBA chair Susan McDougal said she understood council wasn’t in a position to fund public events.
“We wanted to bring families downtown to enjoy things. One of things I wanted to do was to have schools involved and have kids submit short statements about what family means to them and we could maybe have awarded prizes for winning submissions.
“But that’s not going to happen and, given what is happening right now, that makes sense,” she said, adding that she and the DBA hoped kids and parents would still use Feb. 15 to reflect on the meaning of family.
The DBA meanwhile hopes to put on a Canada Day celebration if circumstances allow, according to the interim chair.
Coun. Thompson said in a separate interview with Gazette that the DBA’s outdoor market won’t repeat last summer’s Market on Market initiative. Market Avenue will remain open this summer, while a “Market Square” will be set up on Third Street between Market and 72nd avenues, she said.
The DBA hasn’t finalized plans for its upcoming Market Square, although its fee for service request said parking disruptions would be minimal.
Council voted Monday to fund the DBA’s requests for $8,500 in combined operational costs and for the upcoming Market Square.