New culture fund welcome, but Manitoba museums still need basic operating assistance: exec director

A new $100 million three-year fund announced this week for arts, culture and sports is welcome, says the executive director of the Association of Manitoba Museums — but it doesn't solve a problem many museums have with finding money to continue their operations.

$100M capital, events fund doesn't address operational costs: Association of Manitoba Museums director

The Canadian Fossil Discovery Centre in Morden, shown here in a file photo, is among the museums that could benefit from new capital funding for arts, culture and sports organizations, says the executive director of the Association of Manitoba Museums. But Thomas McLeod said museums also need help with long-term operational funding. (John Woods/The Canadian Press)

A new $100 million three-year fund announced this week for arts, culture and sports is timely and welcome, says the executive director of the Association of Manitoba Museums — but it doesn't solve a problem many museums have with finding money to continue their operations.

Premier Heather Stefanson took to the Bourkevale Community Centre soccer field on Monday afternoon to officially launch the new community fund, which will offer $34 million in the first of its three years to provide grants to organizations for large capital projects.

"We need to make sure that we increase the funding and the capital funding for those projects, so that they can be there for not just next year or the year after, but really for decades and generations to come," she said.

In addition to major capital projects, the fund will offer money to arts, cultural and sports organizations for community celebrations as well as small capital projects and other special initiatives, the province said earlier this week.

"It's very exciting," said Thomas McLeod, executive director of the Association of Manitoba Museums. The capital funding could prove to be especially timely for museums taking on bigger capital projects, like the Canadian Fossil Discovery Centre in Morden, he said.

"This [provincial] government has done extremely well," with some types of funding, McLeod said, pointing to endowment funds worth $1.4 million each for seven Manitoba museums announced in 2020.

But museums would like to see more programs geared toward funding their operations, he said — something many struggle with, especially after the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Museums are so grateful to be open again and to see the public," after pandemic restrictions forced them to close, McLeod told CBC's Weekend Morning Show guest host Bryce Hoye on Saturday.

But "sustainable operational funds … in the heritage sector are really something that still needs to be addressed."

Thomas McLeod, executive director of the Association of Manitoba Museums joined guest host Bryce Hoye on the Weekend Morning Show to discuss new funding announced this week by the provincial government to aid Manitoba's museums, galleries and other cultural centres as they continue to get back to pre-pandemic operating levels.

Funding is available through the provincial Community Museum Grants Program, he said, but some community museums get small amounts through that.

"In one way, a small museum is very grateful for any support they get," he said, and a $2,000 or $3,000 grant may go a long way for a volunteer-run community organization.

But "when you look at the realities of what it costs to heat a place or keep a place operating, $3,000 doesn't necessarily go that far," he said.

He's heard positive reports about an uptick in visits to Manitoba museums recently, but customer traffic is not yet back to pre-pandemic levels.

"Like the tourism industry, I think it's going to take a little more time."

Community groups can apply for new fund

Last month, McLeod and Gordon Goldsborough, the president of the Manitoba Historical Society, told CBC News that the government had not increased funding for the eight heritage agencies that serve the province — including their agencies — for nearly 20 years.

"We're getting less than we used to get, at the same time as we're being asked to do as much or more than we used to do," Goldsborough said in the June interview.

Both looked to Manitoba's western neighbour for ways to better help archives, museums and heritage organizations thrive.

Proceeds from Saskatchewan Lotteries — the provincial marketing organization for lottery tickets — support culture and heritage initiatives in that province like museums, archeology, archives, local heritage parks and associations.

Those agencies in Saskatchewan get eight to 10 times the money than their Manitoba counterparts, McLeod said in June, and he hopes the province will return to the idea of setting up endowments for local heritage organizations.

Dancers opened a press conference on Monday, where Premier Heather Stefanson announced a new $100 million fund to support arts, culture and sport organizations in Manitoba. Thomas McLeod, executive director of the Association of Manitoba Museums said many museums struggle with operational costs and would like to see more programs geared towards that. (Ian Froese/CBC)

During Monday's announcement about the new fund, Premier Stefanson and Sport, Culture and Heritage Minister Andrew Smith stressed that all community groups are eligible to apply for grants through the fund, with the first intake opening in August. 

Stefanson said in her tours of the province, it is clear that many facilities are in dire need of repair.

"Rising costs are affecting all Manitobans," she said at Monday's news conference. "This fund will help organizations continue to provide affordable sport, culture and heritage opportunities across the province."

The deadline to apply to the fund is Aug. 16.


Ozten Shebahkeget

Online reporter

Özten Shebahkeget joined CBC Manitoba in 2021 through the inaugural Pathways program. She is a member of Northwest Angle 33 First Nation who grew up in Winnipeg's North End. She holds a master of fine arts in writing from the University of Saskatchewan. You can reach her at

With files from Bryce Hoye


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