Victoria city councillors voted to continue having their lunches catered, despite some internal disagreement.
On Friday during a special budgetary meeting, Coun. Marianne Alto put forward a motion to remove a line in the budget which allocates $10,000 per year for council’s lunch.
“Council members have referred at various times that this is going to come down to nickels and dimes… We’ve fought a little bit over $1,800 when it’s come to different allocations,” Alto said. “I don’t think it’s reasonable for us to allow the taxpayer to pay for our lunch when in any other circumstances, when people want to get together in the workplace to provide the opportunity for collegial interaction, they bring their own brown bag lunches.”
Council began having catered lunches in May 2019, and since then approximately $8,000 has been spent on council and staff, prompting Coun. Charlayne Thornton-Joe to support Alto’s motion and call out whether the $10,000 was even accurate.
City staff confirmed $10,000 would likely not be enough, since it has cost approximately $1,000 per month to feed both council and senior staff members.The need to feed both parties came after council reduced breaks from 30 minutes to 15 minutes.
“We don’t get a break, we don’t get a chance to get some fresh air,” said Thornton-Joe. “In the past we used to walk, go out and get some lunch, spend some time and be refreshed to come to meetings. Now we’re making decisions exhausted and not having time to think.”
Coun. Ben Isitt opposed the idea, saying it’s especially important to “break bread” with people in meetings, especially where it is culturally important such as for Coast Salish meetings.
“Those are totally different [meetings],” Thornton-Joe replied. “When you’re inviting guests and adding food for contribution as a welcoming, especially in certain cultures, it’s important…. but there’s a difference with this.”
Isitt insisted that in a councillor’s role, food made a difference.
“It’s atypical work; it often involves long hours, often involves substantial overtime with no additional compensation, and it also involves stress,” he said.
Coun. Sarah Potts argued that the “zero-waste” lunches were actually contributing to local businesses.
“We need to review our privilege when making this decision and not just feed this perspective or this perception of fat-cat politicians getting these perks, because everyone knows how much we make,” Potts said. “Honestly for me, the lunches do make a difference.”
Council voted six-to-two to reject the proposal, keeping lunches catered for the ongoing future.