Ontario reverses Ottawa festival funding cuts to the tune of $790K

The Ontario government is changing its mind about how much to fund festivals this year, and events in the Ottawa area are getting another $792,000.

$800K being handed out elsewhere in Ontario and 'a bit more' in Toronto as well, minister says

Three weeks before the Ottawa Jazz Festival began, it found out it wasn't getting a $290,000 grant it had expected based on previous years. Now, the festival is getting $250,000. (Matthew Kupfer/CBC)

The Ontario government is changing its mind about how much to fund festivals this year, and events in the Ottawa area are getting another $792,000.

After the Celebrate Ontario grant program cut funding to a number of festivals across the province last month, Tourism, Culture and Sport Minister Lisa MacLeod told CBC News late Thursday that an additional $792,000 is being divvied up among a number of festivals in Ottawa.

So far, it's been announced that the Ottawa Jazz Festival is receiving $250,000 and the Tulip Festival is receiving $69,000.

Elsewhere in Ontario an extra $800,000 is being handed out, and in Toronto, "a bit more money as well," MacLeod said in an interview by phone.

More announcements are expected in the coming weeks.

Nepean MPP Lisa MacLeod took over as Minister of Tourism, Culture and Sport in late June following a cabinet shuffle. (CBC)

Don't expect to keep getting funds, minister says

After she took over the ministry in a cabinet shuffle in late June, MacLeod said she was able to take a second look at festival funding across the province because the government hadn't committed to spending the entirety of its envelope, and some events hadn't spent the full amount they'd been awarded.

"The fund was not at capacity and therefore I was able to review a number of applications that had been previously rejected from the former minister," she said.

MacLeod said the ministry is considering changes to how funding is allocated, but want organizers to prove their events are worth the investment and not simply expect they'll keep getting funding year after year.

"I don't want to have an entitlement-based process where just because a festival received a significant amount of funding one year, that it would [continue]."

Catherine O'Grady, executive producer of the Ottawa Jazz Festival, said they were in a difficult financial position before this latest funding announcement was made. (CBC)

'A pretty significant scare'

In early June, a few weeks before the Ottawa Jazz Festival began, organizers were told they would not be receiving a $290,000 grant they had applied for and expected based on commitments made in previous years.

Catherine O'Grady, the festival's executive producer, told CBC Radio's All In A Day on Thursday that when she found out the funding was coming after all, she initially thought it was a cruel prank. 

"At the time of the call, I was wondering what toonie I would use to pay which bill," she added. "We had already spent and invested money in the marketing strategy."

Catherine O'Grady is the executive director of the festival. 8:32

Going forward, they're not going to assume the grants are coming.

"We have all had a pretty significant scare. I don't think the funding is going to be a reliable source of income for us," she said.


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