Carnival in critical financial state – Jennifer Hirlehey

Jennifer Hirlehey

Jennifer Hirlehey, chair of the Festival Management Committee (FMC), producers of the Toronto Caribbean Carnival, told a gathering of officials and mas’ aficionados at the official launch of the event last week that its financial state “has become critical.”

In her welcoming address at the launch, she noted that putting on “the greatest show in the world,” as she described the carnival, is “very, very expensive.”

“Revenues earned from the various events are not sufficient to put on the carnival “and “government funding has decreased year over year,” she pointed out.

Hirlehey said “we have sent letters to politicians and government officials and made television and radio appearances calling for increased and emergency funding.

“However, it seems that our call for increase in funding from federal, provincial and municipal governments have fallen on deaf ears. Despite our repeated and urgent calls for emergency funding we have heard nothing but…silence.”

“And when we do hear from individuals from the various levels of governments, we hear kind words, words of support, words of understanding.

“But,” she noted, “words are useless to us. Words without action and financial support are hollow.”

“Our community must demand that their elective representatives, their members of parliament, get into the arena, stand up and advocate for real action and financial support to the Toronto Caribbean Carnival,” she said.

Hirlehey told the gathering that the mandate of the FMC “continues to be the promotion of Caribbean Culture and Diversity.”

“We celebrate our culture through music, mas’, dance and food,” she said.

But she noted that “this year the FMC has taken the bold step of setting our mandate beyond the mas’.

“Our vision is to promote joy, diversity, to provide opportunities and to highlight our community’s talents in business and education.”

She said the Toronto Caribbean Carnival “is not an institution that relies on government funding and gives nothing in return.

“Last year the carnival contributed approximately a half a billion dollars towards Ontario’s GDP and provided $180 million in federal, provincial and municipal tax revenues.

She also noted that “45 per cent of the 1.67 million people who attended the Carnival last year were not from Toronto. Which means that Carnival brings in significant tourism dollars.

“Failing to fund the carnival is like killing the goose that lays the golden eggs,” she added.