Finance committee OK's new management scheme for struggling markets

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Finance committee OK's new management scheme for struggling markets

Finance committee OK's new management scheme for struggling markets

A new, arm's-length corporation overseeing Ottawa's ByWard and Parkdale markets is one step closer to reality after city council's finance and economic development committee approved the new management structure at a meeting Tuesday morning.

The corporation would be responsible for the outdoor vending operations at both markets, as well as the 25 indoor tenancies at 55 ByWard Market Square and the seven tenancies located in the parking garage at 70 Clarence St.

Local producers Gerard Rochon and Andy Terauds argued that any new management structure should focus on getting rid of resellers and allow only local farmers to sell at the markets.

"They're called farmers' markets for a reason … it should be farmers they are supporting," said Terauds, one of the forces behind Ottawa Farmers' Market.

However city staff said the board of directors of the new non-profit corporation would decide who could sell at the market based on public opinion, not proximity.

Markets struggling, report finds

According to a staff report the two markets have been declining and both have struggled to attract new vendors, with the ByWard Market increasingly being taken over by restaurants and bars.

"In recent years, the two markets have simultaneously experienced the challenges of attracting local producers, losing retiring vendors, and competing with the city's flourishing farmers market movement," the report notes.

The report makes a business case for the new corporation, arguing it would be more nimble and entrepreneurial than the city's regulatory staff that currently oversees the markets. 

Staff also argue a separate management structure would result in better financial health for the markets, even though having a non-profit corporation operating the markets carries more inherent risk than having them run directly by the city.

The report found that under current management, the markets would continue to lose money and have an estimated deficit of $110,000 by 2020. But under a municipal services corporation, staff estimate the markets would run deficits in 2018 and 2019 before turning a small profit of $15,000 in 2020, which it could then reinvest in the markets.

The move still requires approval by full council.