City seeds farmers market

| Business, Government |
A woman checks out some of the fresh flowers at the Halifax Farmers Market in this file photo. (INGRID BULMER / Staff / File)

The proposed Halifax Seaport Farmers’ Market is $1 million closer to reality after a funding boost from regional council.

The manager of the waterfront market, slated to go next to Pier
21 and expected to cost roughly $10 million to develop, said the
one-time grant will also help in ongoing negotiations with the federal
government.

"I’m ecstatic," Fred Kilcup said in an interview Wednesday morning,
after spending most of the previous night awaiting the outcome of
council’s debate.

Last year, the province announced $2.25 million for the project, but
the funding was contingent upon the market securing funding from other
partners, he said.

Now, the market — which has already received $1.1 million from the
Halifax Port Authority and $760,000 through its own investment co-op —
will look to the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency for $2 million.

"They were all looking to one another to ensure that all three (levels of government) would part of the package."

Councillors made their decision well past 11 p.m. Tuesday. The vote was 15-7.

"There was a lot of bickering," Coun. Dawn Sloane (Halifax Downtown) said Wednesday morning.

The councillor says she’s a proponent of "buy local" and would like to see Haligonians buying Nova Scotian products.

While the market dates back to 1750, just after the founding of
Halifax, it’s been in the historic Keith’s Brewery buildings on Lower
Water Street since 1982.

"It has a wonderful ambience, but it’s tight in there," Ms. Sloane
says of that complex, where every Saturday shoppers can buy from more
than 200 vendors selling meat, fish, fruit, vegetables, baked goods,
crafts and local wine.

The move to the new facility will also permit daily openings — not
just Saturdays — bringing it more in line with markets across the
country.

It will also ensure that the municipality has a showcase for the
farmers and craftspeople who come from every corner of Halifax Regional
Municipality, which is as large as Prince Edward Island.

One rural councillor says that was a selling point with him.

"In my mind, I felt it was a good opportunity to mend the
rural-urban split," said Coun. Steve Streatch (Eastern
Shore-Musquodoboit Valley) said in an interview Wednesday.

"This is a project that benefits everybody in this municipality, so
it’s an opportunity to use the differences to build bridges of
understanding."

Last summer, councillors turned down a request from the market for
funding because it’s not in their mandate to give such organizations
money.

Coun. Sue Uteck (Northwest Arm-South End) asked city staff to try to find a way to help fund the project.

This week, staff came back to council with a new Community Facility Partnership Fund.

While the money set aside in the program is a one-time amount
earmarked in the 2008-09 budget, the program could be used every year
to provide "broad community benefit" at council’s discretion, a staff
report says.

The program has Ms. Uteck’s vote.

"This is a good news story for the farmers’ market and HRM," Ms.
Uteck said Wednesday. "In keeping with our economic, cultural,
environmental and immigration strategies, the market aligns itself
perfectly with our goal of uniting our communities and providing
opportunities for new vendors in the urban core."

Others had concerns.

Coun. Andrew Younger (East Dartmouth-The Lakes) said Wednesday he
has some questions about the new program and its first recipient
because there was no "open call" for groups to apply.

"Basically, we’re giving a $1 million grant from a newly formed grant program without inviting applications," he said.

Another organization might be more worthy, he said, but there would
be no way of knowing because there are no parameters set down for the
awards process.

"It certainly gives the impression that you have a program created
to fund this specific project, and the optics of that are really bad,"
he said.

Mr. Kilcup, who spent part of Wednesday happily informing vendors
that the city funding had come through, hopes a tender for the project
will be issued in early fall.

He’s hopeful that construction could get underway by December.