News / Winnipeg

Winnipeg moving towards becoming a fair trade city

Not only is the city behind 22 Canadian jurisdictions in achieving the designation, but it also lags behind Gimli, Brandon, and soon, Selkirk.

Anna Paulse enjoys a fair trade latte from Cafe Postal in Winnipeg. The availability of fair trade goods around the city from small and large businesses is one requirement Winnipeg already meets for official designation, but political support is still needed.

Lyle Stafford/For Metro

Anna Paulse enjoys a fair trade latte from Cafe Postal in Winnipeg. The availability of fair trade goods around the city from small and large businesses is one requirement Winnipeg already meets for official designation, but political support is still needed.

City councillors may not always give a second thought about the origins of their mid-meeting 'cuppa, but within a month they could enjoy it more knowing it was ethically sourced. 

That's because the wheels are in motion to see Winnipeg designated a fair trade city, which means it supports a system that influences international trade practices towards greater social and environmental sustainability. 

A motion from Coun. Jason Schreyer produced a report before the city's executive policy committee (EPC) meeting Wednesday that discussed what exactly would be needed for the official "fair trade town" designation. 

Donna Dagg, a member of the 15-person Fair Trade Winnipeg Steering Committee that launched in 2014, told the EPC most of the requirements have actually already been met, and the last missing piece is in the committee's hands. 

A fair trade city requires a steering committee, demonstrable availability of fair trade products, support for fair trade education, community support, and "political support."

"We meet the first four requirements," Dagg said. "We are here today to show our support for a motion to endorse an application and obtain the last of our requirements: Political support." 

In order to show true political support that would give the city official designation, administration would need to adjust its purchasing practices for municipal food services to ensure all coffee, tea and sugar is certified fair trade. 

The city would also need to identify future goals for sourcing other fair trade certified products, designate a council or staff member to participate in the monthly steering committee meetings and publish fair trade campaign information on the official Winnipeg.ca website. 

If the city obliges, it will join thousands worldwide and become the 23rd in Canada, joining other major municipalities it lags behind like Edmonton, Vancouver, Toronto and Ottawa.

Even in Manitoba, "we have both Gimli and Brandon that have received fair trade town designations… and Selkirk is on the cusp," explained Dagg.

The City of Selkirk is a fair trade workplace already, offering fair trade coffee, tea and sugar for employees and guests, and is just in the process of checking some of the other requirements off their list. 

And even though the City of Winnipeg isn't officially on board yet, Winnipeggers seem to be. 

Dagg cited two Probe Research studies, the most recent of which was conducted in April 2016 and involved 1,000 survey calls. 

The survey showed 55 per cent of Winnipeggers found fair trade certification a "compelling rationale for procurement," 67 per cent of people "were inclined to pay a premium for fair trade products," four-in-ten noted the consumption of fair trade options on a regular basis, and 50 per cent "were interested or very interested in being offered fair trade products in their work places."

Despite Dagg's support of a motion to endorse the steering committee's official designation application, with knowledge the city would hold up its end of the deal, the only motion on the table Wednesday was to merely accept the report for information. 

Coun. Cindy Gilroy couldn't support that motion because she felt the fair trade designation is "more than just symbolic" and the city should act now.

"It's saying that we're going to pay fair wages for our coffee, tea, and sugar here at the city, and I think that's something we should be moving forward with," she said. 

The rest of EPC agreed in principal, especially since staff noted there is no significant cost associated with the plan, and so they voted to hold the matter over for 30 days, after which they may craft a motion to actually act on the report. 

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