Canada Day parade a no-go after Kinsmen drop support

  • Council   Thursday, June 9, 2022   Matt Harris & Spencer Seymour

The City of Stratford and the Kinsmen Club of Stratford have gotten nowhere in their dispute over an approved parade route for the Canada Day parade and, as a result, the Kinsmen have pulled their support of the event.

Originally, the City opted to change the parade route during a meeting last month when they cited a desire not to include any Connecting Link routes along the parade route. Then, at a special council meeting held on Monday, June 6, Stratford councillors opted not to reconsider their earlier decision and maintain their plan to have the Canada Day parade use only local streets, and that no future parades be permitted on Connecting Link roads – including Huron Street, Ontario Street and Erie Street, with the exception of allowing Remembrance Day services to use that area.

In order for the vote to reconsider their earlier motion, Council would have needed a two-thirds majority of the whole council to approve. Councillors Cody Sebben and Jo-Dee Burbach were absent from the vote, while Councillors Kathy Vassilakos and Danielle Ingram voted in opposition.

The decision to not revisit this issue led to the Kinsmen informing the City they would no longer be backing the Canada Day parade. Kinsmen member Bob Malcolmson said he wasn’t surprised by the decision made by council but did express his frustration and disappointment with it.

“The unfortunate thing about this was that the motion to reconsider needed to pass just so they (council) could open up discussion about it again – I knew as soon as Councillors Vassilakos and Ingram voted against the motion that things were dead in the water,” he said. “The best (alternate) route that was proposed by the Kinsmen was never discussed , so as far as we are concerned the Canada Day parade is done.”

Continued from front

Malcolmson went on to say the other events for the day – the concert and fireworks scheduled for the Stratford Education and Recreation Centre (SERC) are still on track to happen, and he pointed out that reports the Kinsmen had pulled their support from the Santa Claus parade were premature.

“The CAO (Joan Thompson) said that we had pulled out of both parades, but so far we’ve only indicated that the Canada Day parade is the one we’re pulling out of,” he said. “The club is very disappointed, as we’ve been doing this parade for a quarter-century now. It doesn’t bode well for a city to do what Stratford has done. The Kinsmen just wanted to have the discussion and talk about the parade route that the club preferred for safety reasons, and they didn’t do that.”

Councillor Vassilakos explained in the following quote submitted to the Times her decision to vote against reconsidering the resolution.

“There wasn’t a material change in information, presented at the meeting, from the original staff report to support reconsideration. The safety concerns with the closure of provincial highways remain. The organizers of the parade were given a number of viable options using city-controlled streets. It is very unfortunate that they were not amenable to changing the route after the original council decision, however, I am hopeful that discussions with city staff will continue.”

Councillor Ingram also voted against reconsidering the motion and gave the following statement to the Times.

"I did not support the motion to reconsider because I was fairly certain that one of the mover or seconder had not voted in favour of the original motion. Not having been present at the original meeting, I was not certain and being that it was a recorded vote, I was waiting for a member of Council present to question this. When it was not questioned, and I did not have confirmation in front of me I voted in opposition to avoid supporting an offside motion. I've since confirmed with the clerk's office that I was in fact correct and one of the two members of Council had put forward their name incorrectly."

Councillors Burbach and Sebben weren’t present at the most recent meeting. On May 9th, Sebben posted this to his Councillor Facebook page.

”Though I opposed, Council voted tonight to no longer allow parades on Ontario Street, Erie Street, or Huron Street. This means both the Canada Day and Santa Claus Parade will no longer be able to drive the routes they have for many years. I will continue to oppose this change at the next meeting, and was able to add an amendment that this change be reviewed in 2023.”

The route the Kinsmen have proposed would see the parade run from St. Patrick Street (with staging taking place on Worsley Street) to Erie Street, then Ontario and turning onto Downie Street before finishing at the Cooper Site. It was a concession they made in light of the ongoing construction limiting the use of Huron Street. The City had three suggested options in their initial staff report, but this route was not among them.

A press release from the club issued on June 7 reaffirmed their stance on withdrawing support from the parade but making it clear the other events would not be affected. Asked if the resolution, which Sebben pointed out is just for one year before its set to be reviewed in 2023, will be an issue going forward, Malcolmson was left asking his own questions.

“This is beyond comprehension, as many places I have lived and worked have had parades through the downtown core,” he said. “Yes, the resolution is only for one year, but the Kinsmen have to ask now, ‘where does this leave us?’. That’s something we can’t answer right now.”