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Last Minute Grant Cuts Hamstring Ottawa Festivals

Ottawa (Michel Rathwell from Cornwall, Canada [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons)
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OTTAWA, Ontario (CelebrityAccess) — Last minute cuts to provincial festival subsidies have forced a number of high profile Ottawa music festivals to make cutbacks in the face of budget woes.

According to the Ottawa Citizen, Celebrate Ontario, which provides funding to festivals and events in the province as part of an effort to encourage tourism, cut their grants by more than $7 million this year.

Festivals that were impacted by the cuts include the TD Ottawa Jazz Festival, which last year received $290,000 in grants, was left out in the cold in 2019.

Catherine O’Grady, executive producer of the TD Ottawa Jazz Festival, told the Ottawa Citizen that the festival had received a grant from the provincial government every year since it launched and had been anticipating the funding for 2019.

“I had discussed our project with the (ministry’s) program manager ahead of time, who confirmed that the project was a sound idea and had tourism draw potential,” O’Grady told the newspaper.

Other events impacted by the cuts included Glowfair, a free music and arts festival which takes place in downtown Ottawa on June 14 & 15. Christine Leadman, executive director of a local bank which organizes the free music festival, told the Citizen that the festival was forced to implement budget cuts after they failed to receive an anticipated $100,000 grant.

“When you’re planning these events, you have to make commitments,” Leadman told the Ottawa Citizen. “If you’re a good business person and you want to be a respected festival operator, you honor your contracts and pay your bills. This is bad business practice when you do something like this two weeks before the event.”

The Citizen reported that Brett Weltman, a spokesperson for the province’s ministry of touring, said that the funding cuts were made to focus on new and emerging events.

“We made sure to provide funding to those festivals and events that demonstrate a clear return on investment, respect for taxpayer dollars, and we’re focused on increasing tourism in the province of Ontario,” Weltman told the newspaper.

“We are happy to see that events like Glowfair and Ottawa Jazz Festival have become very successful in their local communities due to past Celebrate Ontario grant funding. With this year’s record-breaking Celebrate Ontario program, we want to make sure that new and emerging events have the opportunity to create a lasting legacy in their communities,” Weltman added.

Local festivals that did receive grants from Celebrate Ontario include the Ottawa International Writers Festival ($52,000), the Ottawa Children’s Festival ($98,000) RBC Bluesfest ($250,000), SouthAsianFest ($24,937), Latin Sparks Ottawa ($33,438), CityFolk ($250,000) and the Ontario Festival of Small Halls, which brings concerts to Eastern Ontario venues ($61,500).

Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson pledged to make a last-minute bid to see the grants reinstated and has requested a meeting with Nepean MPP Lisa MacLeod, the provincial government’s minister of children, community and social services.

“If you’re going to make cuts, at least give these organizations fair notice,” Watson told the Citizen. “Don’t cut $294,000 from the jazz festival two weeks before they open, or take $80,000 from Glowfair a week out. And the tulip festival, which is already over, lost $60,000. It’s really disappointing.”

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