Is Fair Trade fair?

At least one of the business owners in town is frosted over the recent insert in the CH.  It was geared to people in the Maritimes and titled “Live like a Tourist” with the subtitle “Things to see and do off Highway 101” and featured a number of towns — Windsor, Hantsport, Grand Pre, Avonport, Wolfville, Port Williams and beyond to Annapolis Royal hoping, we presume, to get visitors from outside the Valley to visit. So what’s wrong with that? We saw the insert too and noticed the difference between our submission and others, so when a business owner complained to us, we knew why.

Wolfville’s was the only one which had a subtitle for the town ” A Fair Trade Town“. Wolfville  gives 1/4 page to Randall House museum but doesn’t mention that it isn’t open yet, nor does it say when it will open!! While other towns generally featured public sites or community wide events in their copy in combination with paid ads from businesses, Wolfville had a full 1 and 1/4 pages centred on Fair Trade. This included a long discourse on a Weekend in Wolfville contest which involves submitting a photo using a Just us Product or answering a Just Us question.  The prize involves the participation of Just Us Coffeehouse (in Wolfville but ALSO Grand Pre) and a few other selected businesses, including the Gaspereau Winery outside of Town and the Farm Market. In addition there is a  1/4 page COLOUR picture of Just Us Coffee which can only be considered an ad for the Just Us coffee shops. Meanwhile we presume the Clay Ground had to pay for its smaller ad in the corner of the same page.

Apart from what we and others see as unfairness in the focus, which seemed to favour some businesses over others, we had other questions about the text. Take for example this statement:

...the use of Fair Trade products in Wolfville is consistently growing…

Is it really? We would like to see some evidence of that. Anybody tracking this since 2006? Numbers please. Perhaps it could be put on the AIMS report card.

Among the goals:

-The availability of Fair Trade Certified products in  shops and cafes. [If anything  “availability” has been reduced. Does the Coffee Merchant offer it anymore? Acadia?]

-The support of local workplace, faith-based groups, schools and other local groups. [What faith-based groups? The churches?]

-A demonstrated interest by the media and general public. [Spontaneous or initiated by the Town?]

-The promotion of ethical and sustainable consumption. [What does this mean?]

We suspect these political goals do not have the wholehearted support of the general populace of Wolfville in terms of real action; what we see is tokenism. We think this attempt to impose a certain ideological colour to the town is a mistake. It projects only an image, a false one, which does not reflect reality. No wonder so many businesses come here expecting a certain response and are disappointed.

There was also a focus in the piece on “buying local” and “supporting our farmers.” Do you see the irony? If  readers elsewhere in the province took this to heart they would stay at home and support their local businesses and farm outlets not  “Live like a tourist” and visit ours!

Who was responsible for this “promotion” ? The Town Rec. Dept? The Mayor? The WBDC has to bear some responsibility. Did every B&B in town and every drinking establishment have the opportunity to participate in the “Fair Trade contest?” Or were only a few favoured ones approached? Is there any attempt to measure the effectiveness of this kind of promotion? Does ideological copy of this sort attract people to our town or does it turn them off?

So many questions. So few answers.

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9 responses to “Is Fair Trade fair?

  1. Weave Shed

    When Fair Trade came to town there were a number of business asked to join, I was not one of them. For 27 years the Weave Shed has supported local artists has only bought locally, we believe that we have always traded fairly with our artists. Why were we not asked to join FT, I don’t know but to quote the mayor in an e-mail he said “It’s not about a bunch of stuff made in sweat shops” nothing in my shop is made in a sweat shop, and I don’t know how he would know this since I don’t remember ever seeing him in my shop. Buying local in Wolfville seems to mean buying at the Farmers Market.
    I feel that people everywhere should be treated fairly.
    Fair trade is a case of the Emperor’s New Cothing, no one wants to tell it like it is. I am. Why now, because I am closing my shop and have nothing left to loose. Karen Harrison

    • Mayor Stead quote: “I don’t know but to quote the mayor in an e-mail he said “It’s not about a bunch of stuff made in sweat shops” nothing in my shop is made in a sweat shop, and I don’t know how he would know this since I don’t remember ever seeing him in my shop.” Has a copy of this e-mail been published?

  2. Doing Fair Trade, OK. Crowing about it, well that was yesterday’s political gimmick…

    If I understand WW and Karen correctly, our political lord and master has made Fair Trade, well, unfair?

    Personally, I think we’d do better to just give people a good time rather than scare them off with morality crusades. I might have to soak a few suds at the Anvil while I figure this one out.

    • If we’re really serious about this, why don’t we identify those who don’t practice so-called “fair-trade” ? Are we to imply that those who aren’t on the so-called “fair-trade” list are in some fashion un-fair trade? Is it a matter of them that is and them that ain’t?

  3. Brian, when you figure it out let me know. It is just a very clever marketing scheme, for those in the clique.
    Most people don’t have a clue what and who are fair trade.

  4. With the amount of vacant retail space increasing in Wolfville day by day, I think the Town should encourage its use by our local Farm Market and other fair-traders. The space will be empty for at least the entire summer if not longer — might I guess the entire tourist season — which presents a wonderful opportunity to attract visitors. Empty space + opportunity means that everyone wins! Of course, to be completely fair, we would need to give each landlord a tax holiday. Why not give everyone a tax holiday for the summer? This could work!

  5. “The Trading Fair” Perfect!