Corporate sponsorship idea questioned?

If sponsorship is to become a major revenue source, what sway will these companies hold over local government?

As you may have heard, North Cowichan is currently considering a proposal that could ultimately lead to the municipality selling the naming rights to our public facilities to large corporations.

The proposal is to spend more than $50,000 to conduct an “inventory asset valuation” that will determine the sponsorship value of more than a dozen of North Cowichan’s facilities including the Cowichan Aquatic Centre, Fuller Lake Arena, Maple Mountain Bike Trails, Friendship Trail and the Crofton Seawalk.

We are also considering hiring specialists to negotiate the corporate sponsorship agreements that would typically be five years, with longer agreements for the most lucrative assets.

Could this proposal lead to North Cowichan renaming our facilities the “Tim Hortons Cowichan Aquatic Centre,” the “Enbridge Maple Mountain Trail,” or perhaps the “Wal-Mart Friendship Trail”?

If sponsorship is to become a major revenue source, what sway will these companies hold over local government?  It is a fair question, and a frequent concern when large corporations sponsor public institutions.

How far will corporate sponsorship go?  Will North Cowichan eventually move down the path of many U.S. municipalities where corporate ads are featured on the sides of fire trucks and police cars, and in some cases, even fire hydrants and manhole covers?  How about selling the naming rights to roads and bridges?

Clearly we need new revenue sources to reduce our dependence on property taxes, which can be a regressive form of taxation; however, stamping corporate logos our public facilities is not the way to accomplish that.  There are proven alternatives functioning extremely well in other jurisdictions.

In this day and age we are bombarded with corporate advertisements on television, radio, newspapers, magazines, Internet, highway billboards – with much of it using sophisticated techniques to target children.  Increasingly corporate ads are invading our public spaces including our schools.

We need spaces where we can escape the constant barrage of ads and simply be citizens rather than consumers.  There comes a point when enough is enough.

What do you think?

The municipality will be deciding on this proposal in the coming days.  The next North Cowichan Council meeting is Wednesday July 20 at 1:30 p.m.

Please send your input by e-mail to council@northcowichan.ca. or attend our upcoming Council meeting and speak on this matter during the public input period.

Rob Douglas is a councillor with the Municipality of North Cowichan