News / Calgary

Calgary councillors hold back $2M in extra funding for arts resiliency

Arts group says the companies they represent are in danger of shutting down if no funding is found by the City of Calgary

Calgary's councillors weren't keen on giving $2 million to help with struggling art companies without a further look into whether its worthwhile.

Metro file photo

Calgary's councillors weren't keen on giving $2 million to help with struggling art companies without a further look into whether its worthwhile.

Although the city's trying to get creative in economic stimulous funding, Calgary's creative sector won't see the funds their groups need for at least another month.

On Monday, some councillors were divided on the merits of forking over $10 million in funding for an Economic Investment Fund and $2 million for 10 of Calgary Arts Development Authority's groups who are in dire need of the funding, and may shutter if they don't get it. 

In the end, council opted to give out their millions for the investment fund, but held back on the $2 million pot until a deep-dive report in July. 

Coun. Diane Colley-Urquhart wasn't OK with the government stepping in and giving cash left and right for the economy.

"What you're getting down to here is what role does government play, or different orders of government play, when your'e trying to stimulate the economy," said

"One of the statements in this report was that we have to intentionally manage the economy. And I'm certainly of the view that that isn't government's role."

She said contacts in some industrial sectors are telling her they've already privately invested in stimulating the economy.

"If we go down this slippery slope of the expectation being there that this is what government should be doing," said Colley-Urquhart. "More handouts, so on and so forth, that really concerns me a lot."

Coun. Druh Farrell said the city needs to be taking an active role in economic development. 

"We haven't done that historically, we've simply waited for our economy to bounce back," said Farrell. "We need to take active measures in order to attract new industry and talent, and that takes effort on the city's part."

Farrell said in most other cities the funding they fork over is often more than $100 million to stimulate the economy.  

"We need to be creative, we need to be nimble, we need to bring a team of experts together to identify risk and opportunity. We don't have a history of doing that."

Coun. Brian Pincott spoke out against delaying funding for the arts. He said it's not the city's role to come up with business cases for Calgary Arts Development funding because there are boards in place to do so.

"There's an urgency, there's an imperative here," said CADA president Patti Pon. "When we look at the financial strength of the 10 cornerstones there are five who are in positions of insolvency within the next 12 to 36 months. That is not a story we want to be dealing with." 

Pon said infusing money now will allow the city to keep what organizations they have instead of waiting for them to fall apart, which would cost more job losses and cash to fix. 

"I don't think that's a smart way to use public dollars." 

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