Manitoba promises $10M to Inuit Art Centre, $8.75M to aviation museum

The long-awaited Inuit Art Centre funding announcement from Manitoba's provincial government was finally made on Tuesday — but is $5 million short of what was originally promised.

Funding amount is $5M less than previously promised by the NDP government

The $65-million Inuit Art Centre will be built at the corner of Osborne Street and St. Mary Avenue and connected to the Winnipeg Art Gallery by bridges on all levels. (Rendering by Michael Maltzan Architecture)

The long-awaited Inuit Art Centre funding announcement by Manitoba's provincial government was finally made on Tuesday — but it's $5 million short of what was originally promised.

In November 2015, the then-NDP government committed $15 million toward the construction of the centre at the Winnipeg Art Gallery, but the NDP was swept out of office five months later by the Progressive Conservative Party.

Newly minted Premier Brian Pallister then placed most of the NDP's funding commitments under review.

On Tuesday, Sport, Culture and Heritage Minister Cathy Cox announced $10 million would be contributed over five years.

The federal government has already offered $15 million while the City of Winnipeg is providing $5 million.

"This is a milestone moment, with all three levels of government on board, along with donors, stakeholders and supporters," said WAG director Stephen Borys, who didn't talk about the $5-million shortfall but did say the WAG will seek more donations.

"This collection belongs to all Manitobans and we're grateful to the province, a steadfast and invested partner. While we continue to fundraise, today brings the Inuit Art Centre closer to reality."

Winnipeg Art Gallery director Stephen Borys talks Tuesday about the provincial funding announcement. (CBC)

The WAG holds the world's largest public collection of Inuit art — more than 13,000 pieces — which is to be put on display in the upcoming $60-million Inuit Art Centre.

The 40,000-square-foot centre will be built at the corner of Osborne Street and St. Mary Avenue and connected to the WAG by bridges on all levels.

City, NDP weigh in

Mayor Brian Bowman called the centre "a transformative project" and declined to criticize the province for clawing back $5 million from the NDP promise.

"Each government is going to make their own decisions and I respect that," he said.

Bowman said he didn't know if the province's pledge is new money or whether it will be diverted from other city projects.

"We've raised that question and hope to hear back soon."

Later Tuesday, a spokesperson for the Municipal Relations department said the $10 million isn't part of basket funding to the City of Winnipeg, but comes from the Strategic Municipal Investment Fund.

The province committed money to the Inuit Art Centre today but it's $5 million short of what the previous NDP government promised. 1:47

NDP Leader Wab Kinew said his party "fought hard" to get the Pallister government to make good on the $15-million commitment from 2015. Committing $5 million less to the project, combined with cuts to the Manitoba Arts Council announced in the 2017-18 budget, "make it clear the level of commitment this government has to the arts," Kinew said.

"We're pleased to see pressure has forced Pallister to finally join the group of public and private players funding this project," Kinew said in a statement.

"It's a little disappointing that Pallister was unwilling to fund the total commitment that was made to the Centre and the arts community it will support."

Path to reconciliation

Borys said the Inuit Art Centre — which will also house the WAG Studio art classes — will "enhance education, create jobs and training opportunities, boost tourism, and further highlight Manitoba as an international cultural destination."

He also said it will offer "a path to dialogue and understanding" as Canada and Manitoba continue to work toward reconciliation with Indigenous people.

"It will be a platform for Inuit, who use art as a voice and language to celebrate their stories with the world, for generations to come," Borys said.

Funds for Royal Aviation Museum

The government also announced that it will contribute $8.75 million to the Royal Aviation Museum for its new location.

Another $1.25 million will be made available next year if private donation targets are met, the province said.

The proposed 105,000-square-foot museum will be located at the Winnipeg James Armstrong Richardson International Airport and will feature nine exhibition galleries, a kids centre, library, and workshop, among other facilities.

The current location, on Ferry Road near the Winnipeg airport, opened in 1984.

"The museum will tell the stories of early aviation, showcasing our renowned collection of bush planes and will be a signature cultural attraction in our community, offering a window into the future of aerospace," said Helen Halliday, president and CEO of the museum.

"This funding is a welcome spark to move our project a big step forward."

The federal government has already promised $1.2 million to the museum, which will be on Wellington Avenue across from the bus terminal. Halliday expects to break ground on the new building in spring 2018 and to open it in 2019.

In a news release, the province said the museum projects were funded after undergoing assessments "to ensure they meet criteria for return on investment and value for money."

Heritage Trust program

The province also announced a new program to support small and medium-sized museums and archives throughout Manitoba.

The new Heritage Trust program provides $5 million over three years to create endowment funds within local community foundations.

"Just as major attractions are important to our province, so are our smaller museums, archives and heritage organizations that carefully preserve our history and provide educational opportunities to visitors," said Municipal Relations Minister Jeff Wharton.

"We are working with heritage organizations and community foundations across the province to create stable, long-term funding to maintain these important community infrastructure assets."

The province will enter into a three-year agreement with The Winnipeg Foundation to work with Manitoba's other 54 community foundations to administer the program.