December 2, 2021 (3 Minute Read)
Bowman Insults Non-Profit Sector for his $1 Million Dollar Pet Project: A Barn Raiser
(Photo: 1900s Barn Raising in Chinguacousy Township, Robert McLeod, Peel Region Heritage. Overlapped with Councillor Jeff Bowman)
During the 2022 Budget deliberations, which will establish the amount of property taxes residents and businesses will pay, Councillor Bowman insults all non-profit services…except one. The one exception is the Friends of Historic Bovaird House (FHBH), for which he is a member of the Board.
City Councillor Jeff Bowman told his Council colleagues that not-for-profit groups regularly don’t do anything or do not contribute to the City “in any way” during last Monday’s Budget Committee meeting.
“This [the Friends of Historic Bovaird House] isn’t a regular not-for-profit group that doesn’t do anything or doesn’t contribute to the city in any way,” Bowman declared. “They certainly don’t cost the City anything.”Councillor Jeff Bowman
In addition to the insults, Bowman failed to disclose, that the Bovaird House project has indeed already cost taxpayers.
The Real Cost to the Taxpayer
The Councillor’s offensive comments were said during a discussion on a proposal for the City to borrow and spend $1 million in taxpayer funds to rebuild and restore the Robinson Barn at the historic Bovaird House property. The barn, originally located in Caledon, was purchased and deconstructed in 2016 by the non-profit Friends of Historic Bovaird House (FHBH).
The material is now stored on City property. According to a city staff report presented earlier this year, the barn’s deconstructed components are being stored at the City’s Sandalwood Public Works facility in “sea cans” and “tarps”. It also mentioned that “the condition of the existing materials is unknown to staff” and that “rodents and the weather pose a risk of deterioration and damage”.
As 2022 budget talks resumed yesterday, city staff reminded Councillors that they have already spent $160,000 on a consultant, for the design and approvals to reconstruct the barn. Staff then disclosed they would need an additional $800,000 for the reconstruction. However, costs may escalate, as the barn needs to be constructed to today’s building code (such as requiring accessibility access, fire prevention measures, and reinforced beams). Further, staff reported “…there will likely be significant
replacement and restoration of materials required.”
With budget pressures related to road construction, transit, and other essential government services, Councillors spent hours debating the barn raiser project. With a looming $1.1 billion budget on the horizon, building priorities have been blurred.
City Budget Priorities
Beyond Bowman’s put down of the non-profit sector, the value proposition of borrowing $1.0M in taxpayer funds to reconstruct a deconstructed barn is also in question.
At least one Councillor is questioning the value of borrowing $1.0 million in taxpayer dollars to rebuild and restore the barn.
“I’m wondering why are we going into debt for this barn,” Councillor Rowena Santos said during the Budget Committee proceedings. “Can the non-profit organization [Friends of Historic Bovaird House] not apply for grants to help put this barn back together?”
Speaking of her colleague Councillor Paul Vicente’s experience in viewing the deconstructed barn materials, and the corresponding staff report, Santos commented on the concern that many of the heritage components would need to be replaced with new materials.
“If that’s the case, how heritage is this going to be if we need to reconstruct it with new wood,” Santos added.
The Value of Non-Profits
It is unclear at this time what Bowman considers a “regular not-for-profit” or why he believes they don’t do anything or don’t contribute to the city in any way. The non-profit sector in Brampton and the surrounding area is vast and includes essential organizations focused on diversity and inclusion, poverty, affordable housing, advocacy for seniors, economic development, addictions, arts, sports and others.
The support of the various non-profit sector in Brampton is priceless.
In fact, Bowman’s comments run contrary to the position of the City of Brampton. The City recognizes the contributions and services offered to the local community by the non-profit sector and provides significant financial assistance to broaden its reach. Programs include the COVID-19 Recovery Fund for Artists, Marquee Festivals and Events Fund, Sports Tourism Hosting Program, or the Advance Brampton Fund that supports the non-profit sector broadly in supporting community needs.
Heritage is important, however reconstruction of a barn from Caledon is not a priority. The Friends of Historic Bovaird House need to raise the funds for the barn raiser, and not rely on taxpayers to borrow money ahead of other priority community needs.
In the past, a barn raiser was a community event, not a government enterprise.