The Week — March 31

No gaming for arts groups, Luminara snuffed out, early elections predictions

It's a cuts-happy week, as the arts and fan-favourite festivals like Luminara lose their legs

Playing with the arts

While Premier Christy Clark’s announcement that the provincial government would be restoring $15 million in gaming-grant funding — which was slashed significantly under Gordon Campbell — was met with much fanfare last week, we couldn’t help but be left with a couple of questions.

The press release boasted that “the restoration of funding will bring over 500 organizations back up to historical funding levels,” but neglected to mention whether adult arts and culture groups, which were entirely cut off from gaming funds in 2010, would be able to access the cash.

Turns out the answer is no — or at least, not yet.

“Funding priorities for 2011 and 2012 are currently the same as for this year,” says a spokesperson for Ida Chong, the minister of community, sport and cultural development. “Adult arts and culture groups are ineligible under the province’s existing funding priorities. The premier has announced that a gaming commission will review grant levels and eligibility requirements, so looking forward, that could change.”

Fingers crossed that said commission comes to recognize that grown-ups need their arts and culture, too.

—Amanda Farrell-Low

Illuminate no more

For anyone who hasn’t heard the news yet, the Victoria favourite Luminara Festival will not be returning this year — or ever, at least until additional funding comes through.

The festival, which was produced by Inter-Cultural Association of Greater Victoria and lit up Beacon Hill Park and the streets of Victoria for the past 11 years, lost a mass of funding in 2010 cuts. The group decided to forge on with a new format last year, which saw the festival go from a one-day park extravaganza to a once-a-week evening event throughout municipalities in the city. Unfortunately, funding fell through again this year, and organizers decided it was time to make the cut.

“I think people knew from last year that we were struggling, but we are sad not to be doing the festival anymore,” says Karin Scarth, festival director at the cultural association. “Without Luminara taking up that energy, though, a lot of other ideas are starting to open up.”

Scarth says the association is planning an event with Intrepid Theatre and the Fringe Festival in August, and another event with the Gordon Head Rec Centre in September. Other activities could be in the works, too, funding pending, of course. She says that people often don’t understand why a festival like Luminara costs so much money — especially when it appears so community-driven. In fact, the association lost almost $15,000 on last year’s festival, both in supplies and wages. Scarth says that while the official fest will not carry on, any municipality wanting to do their own lantern event is always welcome to ask questions and help of the association.

“As much as we love Luminara, we have to face the fact that this isn’t something we can produce anymore,” Scarth says. “Change is good. It can be difficult and painful, but it’s also what creates new life and vibrancy in a community.”

And the winner will be…

Once again, it’s time for our favourite game show, Elect Your Next Prime Minister! With your contestants, The Conservatives, who seem to be riding on air, The NDP, who have lost touch with their voting base, The Liberals, with so much baggage it’s hard to see who’s carrying the load and, oh yes, The Greens, who are a little too much for everyone. Who will win? Who’s to tell. Keep those dials locked — you’re in for a few surprises. At least that’s the sentiment of our favourite political watchdog Dennis Pilon, political science guru at University of Victoria.

“The media and critics push this view that voters are apathetic, but I don’t think they are,” says Pilon. “A lot of people have just lost faith that they can really influence the political system, and that’s much different from apathy.”

Pilon notes that B.C. has traditionally seen a polarization of Conservative and NDP voters, whereas the federal Liberals have rarely succeeded in our province. Still, Pilon believes that this election we could be in for some surprising treats, especially as the Island is now home to one federal leader, Greenie Elizabeth May, for the Saanich-Gulf Islands riding. “I really think Elizabeth May stands a good chance, and I’ll tell you why: she’s come at this election with a long-term strategy, she’s moved to the riding that best supports her party, she’s got a legion of young excitable volunteers on the ground, and she’s pointing her entire election campaign at this riding,” Pilon says.

Pilon says he doesn’t expect anyone to knock out Victoria NDP MP Denise Savoie, though he does see the Conservatives scoring a safe 13 to 20 seats around B.C.

“Each party has little pockets of support around the province, but I really hope we see some events derail those advertiser-driven campaigns to see some votes based on the merits of the candidates themselves,” he says.

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