Corporate sponsorships for North Cowichan municipal buildings controversial

Communities the size of North Cowichan have the potential to raise up to $1 million a year from corporate sponsorships

Communities the size of North Cowichan have the potential to  raise up to $1 million a year from corporate sponsorships, according to Brent Barootes.

Barootes, president of the Partnership Group – Sponsorship Specialties, told councillors in the Municipality of North Cowichan on July 20 that corporate sponsorship is a $1.6-billion a year industry in Canada, and the money from it can be used to lower municipal taxes and fund community programs.

But he acknowledged there is significant opposition to corporate sponsorships in many communities, and a number of speakers at the meeting who spoke against the concept in North Cowichan proved the point.

Barootes said if the municipality chooses to move forward with a corporate sponsorship program, it would have the ability to tailor the program to meet the needs of the community.

“The municipality could build policies to determine who it would want to do business with in regards to corporate sponsorships, and how to deal with questionable companies,” he said.

“As well, if it’s done right, it would not be just about naming rights [on public buildings, parks and facilities], but about the interaction between the community and the companies. A true corporate sponsor engages with the community, and establishes common goals and objectives with the people who live in the area to make it a better place.”

The Municipality of North Cowichan has been seeking public input on a proposal to raise revenue by offering the private sector sponsorships and naming rights on municipal properties.

In a meeting in June, municipal staff provided council with a list of 15 municipal properties that could potentially be open to sponsorships and name changes.

The list includes Crofton Pool, Fuller Lake Arena, the Cowichan Sportsplex and the Sports Hall of Fame.

It’s not the first time the issue of corporate sponsorships and their impacts on the community have been dealt with in the Cowichan Valley

The most prominent example of corporate sponsorship is the Island Savings Centre, renamed for Island Savings Credit Union when the company donated $1 million, delivered in $100,000 per year increments that go towards programs and services.

But many at Wednesday’s meeting spoke against expanding corporate sponsorships in the community.

Bernie Jones, from the Chemainus Residents’ Association, said residents have expressed a number of concerns, including having the community inundated with even more corporate ads, the loss of community identity and the possible political influence the sponsoring companies may have over municipal issues.

“Members of the association have made it clear that they are not in favour of this,” Jones said.

Council will make a decision on corporate sponsorships at a future meeting.