The Harrison Festival Society has won a small victory in the form of a provincial gaming grant that will keep the annual summer festival alive for at least one more year.
When the festival's latest three-year agreement had ended on March 31, new rules meant the popular event was no longer eligible for gaming grants.
"We are going to put on the best festival we can this year because we do have a bit of a rainy day fund," festival director Phyllis Stenson said in January.
"But after that we are done." The BC Liberal government cut the amount of gaming grants issued from $156 million down to $120 million amid cutbacks in the 2009-10 fiscal year. That amounts to about 12 per cent of the $1 billion in gaming revenue the province receives.
That was the same time adult arts and culture organizations were eliminated from the gaming grant program.
When Christy Clark was sworn in as Premier, she restored $15 million in cuts to the gaming grant program, putting it at $135 million for 2010-11. That $135 million will be distributed annually "into the future," according to the Ministry of Community, Sport and Cultural Development. Last year, the government appointed former Kwantlen Polytechnic University president Skip Triplett to conduct an independent review of gaming grants, which was completed and handed to government on Oct. 31, 2011.
The government sat on the report into 2012, and when it was finally released, Stenson learned that once again arts organizations would be eligible for funding. Just this month festival organizers learned they would receive the gaming grant for this year. Because of different fiscal years, this means the grant covers half of 2012 and half of 2013.
The money for the Harrison Festival of the Arts doesn't ensure long-term stability, according to organizers, but it means the festival will be held in 2013, something that was in jeopardy as recently as a month ago. While the news is certainly good for festival fans and organizers, the issue of ongoing funding continues.
Since 1989, the Harrison Festival of the Arts received $80,500 a year to put on the popular event. While the festival continues to be eligible for funding, gaming in British Columbia rakes in more money every year. But with more organizations applying for funding, and groups that once shared $156 million now share $135 million.