Kitchener waives city policy for RIM's BlackBerry 10 launch

Kitchener is allowing RIM to decorate its downtown core and public square to celebrate the launch of its BlackBerry 10 smartphone, despite a policy which would normally forbid such a practice by a corporation.

Rule forbids private companies to promote on public space

Research In Motion is seen as one of the biggest contributors to Waterloo Region's success as a major tech centre. (Berthold Stadler/dapd/Associated Press)

Research In Motion will be using Kitchener's downtown core to celebrate the launch of its new BlackBerry 10 smartphone on Jan. 30, despite a municipal regulation stating that private companies may not use publicly owned property for self-promotion.

RIM is putting up banners in the Ontario communities of Kitchener and Waterloo, where it is based, to promote the much anticipated BB10. There will be skating parties and refreshments.   

'You can't just make changes to the rules.'—John Gazzola, Kitchener councillor

"It’s our way of saying thank you to loyal BlackBerry supporters in our own backyard," said RIM community manager Renata Rusiniak in an email to CBC News.

Decision not unanimous

Although the decision to make an exception for the company was passed by council, it did not escape criticism.

Coun. John Gazzola voted against the move, saying although he recognized what RIM has done for the city, there were other important companies who wanted to use banners in the past that were turned down.

"You can't just make changes to the rules," said Gazzola. "What values do rules have if you make all kinds of exceptions to them?"

Gazzola was the only member of council to vote against the proposal. The rest voted with Coun. Berry Vrbanovic, who brought the motion forward.

"If we look at how much this company has done for the community and how important this launch is globally, it only makes sense for us to be supportive of it," said Vrbanovic.

Game changer

In an editorial published in the Waterloo Region Record, the daily newspaper addressed the debate over RIM's use of public space, saying that Kitchener should stand behind the tech firm for all it has done in the community.

"RIM is not like other companies in Waterloo Region. It is special and because of this, special treatment for it is justified," the article said.

'It just makes sense for us to be supportive of RIM.'—Brenda Halloran, Waterloo mayor

It goes on to note that without RIM and its investments in the community, Kitchener-Waterloo would not be recognized as a world-class centre of new technology and innovation. 

The company employs thousands of workers in the Waterloo Region. It is also responsible for establishing other key institutions in the area, such as the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics, and the Centre for International Governance Innovation. RIM is also well known in Waterloo Region for supporting many philanthropic efforts. 

"There are very few companies that have had the kind of influence over this community in terms of the local economy," said Kitchener Mayor Carl Zehr.

As for the use of banners in public space, Zehr called it a "very, very small gesture to assist in their launch."

A prototype of RIM's BlackBerry 10 device shown by RIM president & CEO Thorsten Heins. (Eric Risberg/Associated Press )

There was no debate over banners in Waterloo, as the city does not have a defined policy for corporate use of public space.

"It just makes sense for us to be supportive of RIM and to allow them to put their banners up," said Waterloo Mayor Brenda Halloran. "We believe in RIM."

The BlackBerry 10 is largely seen as a make-or-break device to help the Canadian tech firm stay competitive against Apple and Android smartphones.