Provincial election temporarily impacts cultural grants

In the absence of an approved budget, some cultural organizations must wait for their full payment.

For some Nova Scotian cultural organizations, the upcoming election means short-term belt-tightening and long-term uncertainty over their programming schedules and budgets.

"No one's grant has been postponed," explains Michael Noonan, communications for Nova Scotia Tourism, Culture and Heritage. The usual jurying processes and panel assessments are taking place and grant payments are being made to organizations, but "what we have to operate under as a department in the absence of an approved budget by the legislature, we're limited to spending 50 percent of last year's budget. Up to 50 percent of what had been authorized under last year's budget as a department.”

This means that organizations such as Music Nova Scotia will be affected. According to executive director Scott Long, MNS will have to wait to receive the full amount of money—they're expecting 50 percent now—for their last round of the juried Export Development Program for Music. A partnership with the Culture division, the EDP administers a series of grants given to musicians and music industry professionals. According to their website, “$300,000 is distributed in a cycle of four deadlines. The focus of this investment is on Nova Scotians who are traveling or marketing outside of the province in various territories and with assorted export projects.”

For some organizations with big summer events, the timing couldn’t be worse, although Noonan says that the department is aware of the situation. “So that means under some circumstances that they can't give the full amount right now, but I know that what the department is attempting to do is to make sure that any organization who has an activity taking place during the summer months, like the Atlantic Jazz Festival...they are working their allocations in such a way that they would get 100 percent of last year's funding upfront at this point, so it would hopefully lessen any kind of difficulty they may face trying to put on an event,” he says. “The Culture division is looking at circumstances like that and trying to arrange the grant payments in such a way that anyone who really does need that 100-percent payment upfront right now they are able to fulfill that. But no one is being denied money at this point. It may come in two installments."

According to Sarah Watling, director of Jazzeast, organizers for the Atlantic Jazz Festival, which runs this year from July 10-18, the non-profit's biggest annual expenses and revenues come from the festival; so basically the two will balance each other out. But what is more worrisome is that the organization bases their annual budgets on "understood and expected increases" in funding. Like many non-profits that rely on a variety of sources for operational funding (grants, corporate sponsorship, fundraising), strategies are laid out for the next two to three years. And those budgets were based on the current government’s promise to double provincial cultural funding to $16.4 million by 2010-11. But a new government means a new budget, which could, according to Watling, keep their funding as status quo, or, as a worst-case scenario, see it decreased. And as my very smart boss Kyle Shaw pointed out in his editorial (along with a very handy chart), you can see that no other provincial legislature has sat less. So god only knows when that new budget will be passed, and how many other organizations will be affected.

Last week we posed a series of cultural platform questions to each of the candidates in the Halifax Citadel Sable Island riding—the location of most of the province's largest cultural organizations, e.g. Symphony Nova Scotia, Atlantic Film Festival, Art Gallery of Nova Scotia—to get a better understanding of their position on cultural affairs and funding. The answers are coming in now, so I'll get those up later today.

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