Culture minister defends sending money to district

District of Mission receives $75,000 for its 120th anniversary

B.C.’s minister for community, sport and cultural development said her staff set aside money for Mission’s 120th anniversary celebrations before the district asked for it because they knew it would eventually request funding.

Ida Chong said the ministry knew the milestone was coming up and contacted the district to ask if Mission planned to mark the anniversary.

“Once they said they were,” she said, “we knew they would eventually get to us, and so we set the dollars aside.”

Chong was responding to criticism last week from the NDP about $800,000 her government spent to help fund local anniversary celebrations — money that was available to municipalities without an application process.

The $800,000 comes from the remainder of the $10 million 2010 Sport and Arts Legacy fund, most of which was sent to the BC Arts Council (BCAC) two years ago to disburse to arts and culture groups that applied.

The NDP critic for arts and culture, Spencer Chandra Herbert, has questioned the minister in the legislature about where the remaining monies from the Legacy fund have been spent. Chong has said that a complete list of funded projects will be available in the Public Accounts records of the legislature in early July.

“This is not how government should be awarding millions of dollars of public money.

“There should actually be a stated desire for the funds and criteria on how to get them rather than just the minister’s whim,” Herbert said.

The BCAC does a good job, but they can only jury certain kinds of activities and events, said Chong.

“What happens when somebody comes and has an idea for something else? They don’t have the ability, because of their mandate, to provide that.”

Each city eligible for part of the $800,000 will decide how to spend the money but the province will ultimately determine whether the funds were properly allocated to arts and culture.

Chong said the money “isn’t for a big birthday cake or balloons,” but is expected to be spent on legacy projects and supporting arts and culture.

The district has planned to allocate $35,000 to the Clarke Theatre for equipment upgrades, $30,000 to arts and culture grants (which will be awarded in September after an application process), and $10,000 for the actual 120th community celebration on Sept. 29.