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London councillors debate plowing match bid for 90 minutes, defer to staff

City politicians spent 90 minutes Monday night debating whether London should submit a bid to host the 2020 .

The last-minute proposal from Coun. Bill Armstrong evolved into the strategic priorities and policy committee voting 12-3 in favour of expressing an interest to host a future plowing match, but only after they received more details from city staff.

Councillors Jesse Helmer, Mo Salih and Jared Zaifman voted against the motion.

Debate ranged from those who felt it was a waste of time to others who believe London doesn’t do enough to promote its rural side.

“It’s just frustrating to sit here and listen to talk and talk and talk about, in my mind, essentially nothing,” said Zaifman.

The Ward 14 councillor, who missed a significant amount of time due to a concussion in 2016 and says he’s still recovering, said the prolonged debate made it hard for him to follow along.

Mayor Matt Brown pushed back at the notion council was wasting its time.

“I would encourage every councillor that has an idea to bring it forward and do it at committee, this was great committee work from my perspective, we had a great debate,” he said.

Ward 11 Coun. Stephen Turner voted in favour of looking into the possibility of hosting a future plowing match, arguing London should do more to highlight is agricultural roots.

“It’s something we don’t talk about a lot. When we take a look at some of the conflicts we have as an urban municipality, but we’re really an urban-rural municipality and we don’t spend enough time focusing on our rural component,” said Turner.

Tourism London cautioned against chasing the event, saying the city doesn’t have the necessary expertise to pull it off.

Ward 4 Coun. Jesse Helmer argued London should allow a smaller municipality host the event.

“What I’m very reluctant to do is to get involved in something that goes to rural municipalities, smaller municipalities that frankly could use the economic impact that comes from hosting one of these events. There are a lot of events that we can host in the city of London that they can’t host,” he said.

Time wasn’t in London’s favour. Councillors started debating the issue on Monday but organizers of the event want to select a host community for 2020 next week.

Councillors were told a $100,000 bid fee would be necessary if they were to proceed. The event also carries a budget that runs between $2.5 million and $3 million, although the majority of that is paid for by the Ontario Plowmen’s Association and other partners.

London last hosted the International Plowing Match in 1928.

This year’s event was held in Walton, east of Goderich in Huron County. Now in its 100th year, the IPM has become a must-attend for high-profile politicians. The leaders of all four of Ontario’s political parties attended, as did Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

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