Mississauga Councillor Has a Bone to Pick With Ribfest

The annual Mississauga Rotary Ribfest (MRR) has just concluded, and according to the organizers, it was a smashing success. No doubt they are already planning for the next one.

But while it’s easy to see that Ribfest is popular, not everyone—including some Mississauga city councillors—are on board with the celebration of meat, meat and more meat (especially when attendees are required to pay for admission on certain days).

As far as admission goes, you may have noticed that, unlike in previous years, this year’s Ribfest had a $2 admission fee. Natalie Hart, the head organizer for the MRR, told insauga.com the $2 was important for the following reasons:

(The $2 entry fee) is to support our overall fundraising goals. As a fundraising event we are not eligible for municipal grant programs. Instead of asking for fee reductions from City Hall (thus all taxpayers would be “paying”) we approached City Council for a pilot where the attendees helped us with the infrastructure costs of the event.”

The controversial notion of charging for admission was raised last year and Rotary was allowed to proceed.

In keeping with the user policy much of the city has been built with, it helps us to maintain key objectives like our organic recycling and complete electrical and water hook ups for instance without compromising the charitable impact the event is capable of. A tangible example of that would be the successful Ridgeway Basketball Courts funded in partnership with MLSE foundation and Jump Start along with Mississauga West Rotary,” says Hart.

It sounds reasonable right? One Toonie is all that keeps you from indulging in mouth watering ribs. But apparently, one Mississauga city councillor has raised objections, in fact, seemingly for the whole idea of Ribfest itself.

Ward 4 Councillor John Kovac was pretty much the accidental politician when he first got elected in a multi-person by-election in 2015, squeaking by with 17 per cent of the vote. He hasn’t been causing much controversy over the last two years, but neither was he really standing out and defining issues that he wanted to take the reins on.

But now with the Mississauga Ribfest taking place on Celebration Square, it seems Kovac is speaking out—loudly and clearly.

I do not and will not support any group’s request to gate-off the entirety of Celebration Square and charge an admission fee to the tax paying-public,” Kovac told insauga.com. “The Square was built for and paid for by the taxpayers and needs to remain always open and accessible to the public.”

Kovac takes issue with the fact that the Square—which was funded by taxpayers—is blocked off for close to a week,

Celebration Square has been fenced off for nearly a week during the operation of RibFest. For residents living within the downtown, where outdoor amenities and green space is already limited, the Square is looked at as a kind of communal backyard and it has been tough on them and their families (and small children) to have it closed during this time of the year, especially the splash pad.”

Kovac also argued that a dangerous precedent is being set.

Did Council also not set a precedent, by allowing one group the privilege of closing-off our Square and being able to charge an admission fee? I can assure you right now that I have heard from other event organizers who, similarly, would like to charge an admission fee, claiming that they too are charitable and give money to charities. Celebration Square was not built as a ticketed-event venue but as our town square, which is why I had feared Rotary’s initial request and why I believe we would head down a ‘slippery slope’ by allowing them and no other group the ability to charge admission.”

Kovac also takes issue with what he believes to be distasteful signage.

Finally, there is something distasteful about having statues of pigs and large garishly-animated vendor displays on our town square, right next to the front doors of City Hall. I find them cruel, some of these depictions, and it’s insensitive in general to make light of the misery and suffering of animals for human consumption.”

This sounds like a rarity for me to give praise to a municipal politician, but I am going to commend Councillor Kovac for speaking his mind quite bluntly. He seems to have found some footing on the issue of the usage of public spaces in his ward as of late, such as recently receiving kudos from some of his council colleagues for bringing in a soccer field in the City Centre area.

What he is saying about Celebration Square, which was already paid for by taxpayers, being fenced off and requiring an entry fee may resonate with those residents and families who actually live next to the Square and who frequently use it, especially during Free Movie Nights on Thursdays. As for what he said about pigs, some people are quite passionate about animal cruelty and you have to respect that.

With such passionate views about the welfare of animals, perhaps Councillor Kovac could be in line for an endorsement from PETA?

Some of you out there might agree with him. Do you think the $2 fee to get into Ribfest was reasonable? What’s your stance (if any) on the depiction of pigs and other animals at Ribfest?

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