The debate between the brick and mortar restaurant owners and street vendors has re-emerged in downtown Fernie. In attempting to seek a solution, the debater, however, must consider the principles on which the Canadian government and economy are built: democracy and capitalism.
These two principles permit any Canadian, landed immigrant, or foreign guests who meet the Canadian criteria to be able to establish a legitimate business.
No seller of property, landlord, or government agent may use discriminatory measures to hinder or prohibit the entrepreneur’s endeavours.
Embodied in the capitalistic/free enterprise system is competition. The success of a business relies primarily on the provision of goods and services that prove to be in accordance with the need and demand of the public or a clientele. Consequently, an entrepreneur must be in tune with the need and demand of its customers, provide quality at a price a customer is willing to pay, balance income with costs, and make a profit so as to pay his costs and earn a livelihood.
In the competitive, capitalistic/free enterprise system, the opportunity of achieving either success or failure is part and parcel of the system. Success is the aim; however, failure may result if those previous business requirements aren’t met.
At times, competition may be unfair. A competitor may undercut another business, exercise unscrupulous acts, or exert undue pressures. Although he may succeed by these means and become prosperous in the immediacy, most likely he will acquire an unfavourable reputation that can prove to be detrimental later.
Under the capitalistic/free enterprise system, there is no debate between the brick and mortar restaurant owners and street vendors. In all cases, the customer ultimately determines the success or failure in accordance with the need and quality of goods and services. The argument that street vendors deter from the brick and mortar restaurants has little credence or statistical evidence. The two businesses are very different from one another and cater to different clientele with different needs.
If, indeed, a brick and mortar restaurant owner experiences less profits and perceives the loss is due to the nearness of his competitor, the brick and mortar restaurant owner can elect to improve or change their product to draw a different and/or larger clientele or move to a different location.
No brick and mortar restaurant owners, either individually or as a group, however, can alter the bedrock of Canadian principles by pressuring government officials to grant special privileges to remove competitors for any reason.
If the City Council should comply with the grievance of the brick and mortar restaurant owners in downtown Fernie in order to prohibit street vendors or any other business so deemed to be in competition with them, the council will have succumbed to a special interest group.
The issue is not a debate between the brick and mortar restaurant owners and the street vendors. The issue is about whether or not the City Council will permit a special interest group, the brick and mortar restaurant owners, to persuade the council to exclude the rules of democracy and capitalism/the free enterprise system to benefit special interest.
Carolyn Woodfine,Fernie, B.C.