CORNWALL, Ontario - City councillors are mulling a plan to regulate the use and establishment of donation boxes in Cornwall, as local charities brace themselves for an onslaught from for-profit groups looking to gain a foothold here.
Councillors are considering new rules which will prohibit the establishment of these bins on a lot without a principle building, public property or any abandoned or closed property like a parking lot or industrial area.
The move is being applauded by Alyssa Blais, executive director of the Agape Centre in Cornwall - a soup kitchen and food bank that is fearing for the future should for-profit agencies begin collecting donations from local people.
"I really want them to pass the bylaw," she said. "They're really not helping not-for-profit charities."
The fear among some, suggested Coun. Elaine MacDonald Monday night, is that many non-profit groups can be put out of businesses by for-profit agencies that have the resources to launch massive donation campaigns.
“They are capable of engaging in economies of scale whereby they make a huge amount of money," she said.
Blais said to this point the bottom line at the Agape Centre hasn't been damaged, but "definitely in the future" that could be an issue.
The items donated to local agencies like the Agape Centre, The Salvation Army, Big Brothers and Big Sisters are local agencies which maintain donation boxes are sold in local thrift stores - the profits from which are used to fund services for local people in need, including through the operation of social programs.
City officials indicated Monday night some for-profit groups are installing donations boxes that do not clearly indicate the profit nature of their enterprises, nor do they fund local services.
Coun. Elaine MacDonald suggested the boxes are being left in some cases with no permission from the property owners.
She spoke with one property owner recently who suggested he has called the owners of the box four times to have it removed - yet it remains.
“When I spoke to him today he said please come and get it and throw it," she told city councillors. “But he is powerless and very frustrated – he can’t even cut the grass on his property.”
Coun. Andre Rivette suggested the city should force agencies to register the bins with municipal officials so that their location can be more effectively policed.
"We need to get a handle on this," he said.
MacDonald said in some cases the bins from for-profit groups have logos of charities placed on their facade.
But in specific cases the logos are national charities, not local, and even then representatives from those Canada-wide agencies want nothing to do with the bins.
"It looks like we have charities competing with charities here - and that's not the case," said MacDonald.
Councillors have asked city administrators to prepare a report on the subject.
Other communities in Ontario, including Ottawa, have bylaws that govern the use and placement of donation bins.