The city will pay about $6,500 this year to cover Hamilton’s various Easter egg hunts, although some say it sets a bad precedent for community groups using local parks.
City council voted 11-3 Wednesday to cover insurance and park rental fees for about 11 hunts across Hamilton this year. The hunts are innocuous and fun for families, proponents say, and are held by volunteers who can’t afford to hold them otherwise.
“I look at this as a big chocolate fest, but that’s me,” said Brenda Johnson of Ward 11 (Glanbrook).
One group of volunteers in her area, she said, was going to have to pay $500 for insurance just to hold the event. The entire event budget is $1,500. “That’s 30 per cent on top of their budgets, and they simply could not do it.”
John McLennan, the city’s manager of risk management services, had concerns. The city’s insurance only covers injuries or property damage related to city property or the actions of staff. It doesn’t cover, for example, choking, food contamination, fights or concussions, like two kids knocking heads while racing for the same egg.
Sam Merulla, Ward 4 (east end) councillor, said waiving the fees seems innocuous on the surface, but it’s not.
“I want to support it,” he said. “I celebrate Easter. But if every group came forward with every event that uses a park, we’re going to open a floodgate. I don’t think it’s good policy.”
There are 11 groups that hold Easter egg hunts. Covering the insurance for all of them will cost the city about $2,000, said Mike Zegarac, acting city manager.
The rest of the money comes from waiving park rental fees.
It’s not new that the city does this, but usually, council approves waiving rental fees one by one, passing a motion for each event. This one is a blanket motion that waives it for all of them.
Brad Clark, Ward 9 (upper Stoney Creek) said the Wednesday motion takes care of the most pressing need — to figure out a solution by Easter on April 21.
“The Easter bunny is coming,” he said. “We need to be sure that he, she, they can deposit the eggs and everyone will be safe.”
“An Easter egg hunt isn’t religious. Easter’s religious. The egg hunt is just a lot of fun for a lot of people going out and picking up chocolate.”
How they voted
In favour of covering insurance and rental fees
Jason Farr (Ward 2), Chad Collins (5), Tom Jackson (6), John-Paul Danko (8), Brad Clark (9), Maria Pearson (10), Brenda Johnson (11), Arlene VanderBeek (13), Terry Whitehead (14), Judi Partridge (15), Mayor Fred Eisenberger.
Maureen Wilson (1), Nrinder Nann (3), Sam Merulla (4).