The most committed and longest serving member of the Hamilton Farmers’ Market Board of Directors is resigning in “protest of an avoidable crisis forced upon the Hamilton Farmers’ Market during the pandemic” as City Council refuses to support the market vendors using federal COVID funds to support vendors.
Eric Miller’s resignation letter states the Council have created a crisis in the Market by voting 13-1 to deny COVID rent support to vendors.
Miller was the Chair of the Market Board, who still committed to the Market through years of turmoil and long hours of meetings as a citizen volunteer.
Hamilton City Council is one of the few municipalities in Ontario to not support municipal tenants. Only Ward 7 Councillor Esther Pauls voted to support municipal tenants.
Mayor Fred Eisenberger voted against supporting the vendors, who are now facing possible evictions from the Market. Vendors have until Wednesday January 20 to agree to pay full 2020 rent or be evicted. This includes vendors whose businesses are closed by provincial COVID orders.
The Mayor’s Task Force on Economic Recovery is calling for a “moratorium on commercial tenant evictions” and call for an expansion of government relief programs. (Page 12)
Ward 2 City Councillor Jason Farr has issued no statements on his website, social media, or newsletter regarding the situation at the Market. By convention, the Ward 2 Councillor sits on the Market Board of Directors. Farr does not sit on the Board.
City Gave Rent Reduction, Retracts and Demands Full Back Rent
In a memo dated June 26, 2020, from the Market Manager, who is a part of the City Manager’s Office, the City stated it would reduce rents by 75% for April, May, and June 2020.
This memo was aligned with the actions of other municipal governments and the intent of federal COVID funds given to the City of Hamilton. The City of Hamilton has a fiscal surplus in 2020 from unspent federal and provincial COVID funding.
Miller outlines the options which were available to City Council – use COVID funds or allow the Farmers’ Market Board to use its reserve funds to provide rent support.
Council will vote Wednesday to accept the resignation.