A spokesperson for a Central Saanich Christmas market questions the decision to postpone its third and final event.
Lorea Tomsin, board president of Peninsula Country Market, does not understand why the municipality postponed the organization’s Winter Market scheduled for Nov. 28, pointing to the status of farmer markets as an “essential service” under the provincial state of emergency.
“Nothing has changed,” she said. “There are no other markets being cancelled.” Central Saanich describes the move as a postponement rather than as a cancellation.
Organized by the Peninsula Country Market at Centennial Park, the market held the first of three scheduled editions on Nov. 14, followed by a second on Nov. 21. Saturday’s would have been the third and final one under the initially announced schedule.
Tomsin said the markets so far have been a success drawing in excess of 600 visitors over four hours, while strictly following COVID-19 safety guidelines.
Vendors had also been planning for another market in Central Saanich later in December, planning now on hold. “If we can find another locale, we will go there,” Tomsin said.
Britt Burnham, the municipality’s manager of community services, acknowledged that while farmer markets can still take place in the province, the Emergency Operations Centre makes decisions about park use to ensure the best interest of public safety. Officials at Central Saanich’s EOC informed market organizers Monday evening – asking for understanding while expressing hope to work on future dates.
“This was one of those decisions, which we did not take lightly, but the district’s EOC believes it is a responsible decision considering we are experiencing the highest numbers of COVID-19 cases to date in the region,” she said.
Burnham also pointed to provincial documents spelling out the powers of municipalities to interpret provincial health orders.
The change comes after provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced several new measures designed to fight the COVID-19 pandemic on Nov. 19. She also issued several appeals urging British Columbians to think about what difference they can personally make, language Burnham referenced in explaining Central Saanich’s decision.
“While we get through the next few weeks, in which time we hope to see an improvement locally, the district is supportive of the provincial health officer’s ask to all businesses and organizations that we all take to heart the intent of recent orders, which is to reduce the opportunity for social interactions as cases are spreading in the community,” she said.
Burnham said she hopes that the community would be able to enjoy the market in a safer environment in the future, adding that the municipality has offered to make the park available again. The municipality had made the park had made the park available to the group at no cost.
Tomsin said the organization has not made a decision about the municipality’s offer, but expressed concern about the potential effects of the postponement on relations with the municipality, noting that the market is “looking for people who are more accountable and whose protocols are fair.”
She also accused staff of over-stepping their authority. “If you step over Bonnie Henry, you are stepping over your authority,” she said.
According to Tomsin, Coun. Zeb King plans to raise the issue of staff’s actions with the rest of his colleagues. King could not be reached for comment, but the Peninsula News Review will update this story.
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