Caribana stiffed by feds and province, but golf and tennis get a bundle

Caribana stiffed by feds and province, but golf and tennis get a bundle

Better luck next time: Caribana denied funding (Image: A. daSilva Photography)

This is starting to look like a trend: a major Toronto cultural event loses out on government funding and has to basically pass a hat to keep the shindig going: in May it was Toronto Pride, and now it’s Caribana. The annual festival of Caribbean culture applied for and was denied funding from both Ottawa and Queen’s Park. The Toronto Star, which has stepped in to sponsor Caribana, reports that organizers are taking this in stride.

Buoyed by such glittering statistics, this year’s organizers were confident they would be able to secure up to $600,000 in additional government funding, both from the federal government’s Marquee Tourism Events Program — which gave Caribana about $416,000 last year — and the province’s Celebrate Ontario fund, which organizers hoped would boost Caribana’s bottom line by about $300,000.

But much to [Joe] Halstead’s surprise, Caribana was passed over by both programs this year. To make matters worse, an annual Heritage Canada fund that gives Caribana $100,000 was scaled back to $40,000 this year — all of which have left organizers scrambling to find alternative funding sources.

“(We were) disappointed, very disappointed, and we made that known to the funders,” Halstead said. “But we decided to move on. There’s no point dwelling on lost causes.”

A look at some of the other events that did get funding from various federal and provincial sources is illuminating: Caribana was asking for $300,000 from the province and didn’t get it—but the RBC Open golf tournament did, as did the Rogers Cup (both getting exactly $300,000). Meanwhile, this year’s Honda Indy was kind of a bust but still got more than $700,000 from the feds in the name of tourism. (Gary Goodyear is the minister responsible, but we’re too mature to make a spare tire joke.) And these are just events in Toronto this summer.

The fact that Ottawa’s Marquee program was funding only two events this year in Toronto has been known for a while, but the snub from the province is a bit unexpected, especially considering that they coughed up last year. Other events getting provincial dollars include the Collingwood Elvis Festival ($75,000), the Downtown Oakville Jazz Festival ($40,000) and Barrie Caribfest ($40,000).

Caribana’s organizers are hopeful they can still shake some money out of Ottawa’s pockets, but it’s a mystery that it’s even necessary. We knew that this city can’t get enough of golf, but subsidizing a bank-sponsored golf tourney while the region’s premier Afro-Caribbean event goes begging could be a marketing problem if nothing else—never mind what the festival brings in for Toronto.

• Caribana: Cash-strapped, but promises to still deliver [Toronto Star]