City birthday celebration causes councillor debate

Setting up a celebration of Penticton’s birthday is not as straightforward as you might think for what would seem to be a feel-good item.

Setting up a celebration of Penticton’s birthday is not as straightforward as you might think for what would seem to be a feel-good item.

At their Sept. 8 regular meeting, Penticton city council ended up debating a recommendation from the Tourism Development Task Force that the city set up an annual celebration in April to celebrate the city’s incorporation.

“The intent is to recognize not only the City of Penticton’s birthday, but also to create a festival atmosphere in the shoulder season, which April would be,” said Coun. Judy Sentes. She noted that the Rotary Club’s Pioneer Tea and the One World Festival, sponsored by the South Okanagan Immigrant and Community Services, already happen at that time of year.

“They are well established and they are willing to bring them forward into the month of April,” said Sentes. “The intent is to take the concept of celebrating the birthday of Penticton and making it a whole weekend of activity in the shoulder season.”

Coun. Andre Martin, who originally proposed the idea in June, said he was disappointed when staff came back with a report on his original motion that there was no funding available for a birthday celebration.

“I think there could have been an opportunity there for staff to find some money. We seem to find money pretty easily in the last couple of months here in some big projects we needed to shift dollars from,” said Martin.

There was also some disagreement about the date being celebrated. Martin said his original intention was to celebrate Penticton’s incorporation — Dec. 31, 1908 — not its 1948 re-incorporation as a city.

“I do have to correct my fellow councillor that with the advice of our corporate officer, it is the District of Penticton that was incorporated at the end of the year. The incorporation of the City of Penticton is in fact in April,” said Sentes.

However, according to the City of Penticton website, the city was incorporated on May 10, 1948, which agrees with the Province of B.C.’s official geographical place names database. According to the province, Penticton was incorporated as a district municipality on Jan. 1, 1909 and reincorporated as a city municipality in May 1948, not April.

Martin was also concerned the motion, which mentions that Canada Day and B.C. Family Day, should continue on in the previous format, would be giving organizers of those events special treatment.

These groups were warned, he said, about the city’s determination to wean them off the grant process.

“If we carry this the way it is, they would basically be getting carte blanche to do as they have done in the past,” said Martin.

Sentes said the committee heard from Canada and B.C. Family Day organizers that it was a minimal cost to put the events on, as the birthday celebration would be.

According to Sentes, the Rotary Club doesn’t require any assistance for their celebration, and economic development officer Colleen Pennington indicated she would support the SOICS One World festival from her budget.

“It really is not going to be a significant drain,” said Sentes.

Mayor Andrew Jakubeit threw his support behind the motion, stating that despite including Canada Day and Family Day in the motion, both events would still be subject to the grant process and council’s desire whether to fund them or not.

“In fairness, Canada Day and B.C. Family day are kind of important days and we do come together as a community,” said Jakubeit.

Council passed the motion to create a birthday celebration 5 to 1 with Coun. Martin voting in opposition. Coun. Tarik Sayeed recused himself due to conflict of interest.