Festival Management Committee funding fiasco

Despite claims to the contrary, the Festival Management Committee gives about 5% funding to stakeholders

Carnival Funding

In 1997 bandleaders boycotted the Caribana festival and took the parade “Up North” to Markham Fair grounds. This resulted in the festival being taken seriously by Toronto City Hall and, with the help of Lincoln Alexander, the first significant funding for the stakeholders and the festival was implemented and remains in place to the present time.

Since that first negotiation, those who managed the festival have been using the funding as a tool to keep the stakeholders in their lanes; so much so that in 2002 a Toronto Staff report, dated Jan. 4th 2002 from Joe Halstead, who was then the City of Toronto’s Commissioner Economic Development, Culture and Tourism, submitted the Caribana Financial Report to City Council. The report detailed the financial operation of the 2001 Caribana festival, and included information about the progress of the plan to restructure the Caribbean Cultural Committee, as well as preparations for the 2002 festival.

Council approved a grant for the 2002 Caribana Festival with the following conditions: that a grant to the Caribbean Cultural Committee – Caribana – in the amount of $353,500.00 be approved; that the funding for the 2002 Caribana Festival be paid directly to the Toronto Mas Bands Association for disbursement to the Mas Bandleaders, Steel Bands and Calypsonians.

The schedule for the City of Toronto indicated that funds were to be distributed as follows: Toronto Mas Band Association $245,000.00 to be divided among stakeholders; $108.500.00 to the Caribbean Cultural committee for Site and Event Preparation, Marketing and Promotion, and Insurance $17,789.32

If we were to base current funding on these numbers the stakeholders are entitled to get 69.3% of the city’s funding or $433.125.00 of the $625,000.00 given by the city to the festival.

The funding program changed in 2015 when the bands had to register individually for the parade; since then they have not had a say in what happens with their funding and now with COVID, things have gotten worse.

When COVID struck, all levels of government made the decision that funding would be kept in place, so that when the country reopens, the festival would be ready to go. Therefore, in 2020 the Festival Management Committee received about $825,000.00 from the Federal, Provincial and City governments.

The records show that the FMC distributed less than 5% to the stakeholders. FMC’s original offer to the top four bands was $8,500.00. One of the bandleaders was so disappointed that he decided to share his grant with the other bands. In the end, three “lucky” bands received about $11,000.00 each, while others received much less than $2,000.00.

The Ontario Steelband Association and the Organization of Calypso Performing Artistes (OSA/OCPA) weren’t nearly as lucky; they got nothing, because they did not present a proposal to the FMC. However, this year’s OSA/OCPA proposal for about $80,000.00 was rejected on the grounds that the FMC’s funding was cut by 60%. Therefore the 2019 funding amount of $36,000.00 will be reduced by 60% That means OCPA will receive as little as $12,000.00 for 2021 while the Ontario Steelband Association is not even in the conversation.

Bandleaders told The Camera that about five years ago an (A) bands got $60,000.00; the now get just $35,000.00. The FMC claimed that their funding was decreased. The bandleaders disputed the claim when in a recent meeting they produced a letter showing the true amount the FMC received. The FMC’s representative just laughed and insisted that that was the correct number.

Meanwhile the stakeholders are again considering going “Up North” for a second time simply because, in their view, FMC deceit seem to have no limit. Gone are the days when they could plan based on a guaranteed level of funding. Now it’s virtually impossible to plan, especailly now that funding has been cut by almost fifty percent over the last five years and to almost nothing for the last two years.

However, both the Province and the City told us that the funding have in fact improved over the last five years. According to Pat Tobin, City of Toronto General Manager Economic Development and Culture, the FMC receives $625,000.00 from the City plus $100,000.00 from the province’s Celebrate Ontario for a total of $725,000.00. That represents a holding pattern from 2019-2020, not a 60% decrease. In fact when you add the federal contribution of $100,000.00, the FMC received a grand total of $825,000.00 from all levels of government this year.