The FMC must fund stakeholders the way the city intended

Is FMC being unfair to stakeholders? You be the judge

Joe Halstead

For too many years the festival previously known as Caribana has suffered under the organizations that have been charged with the management of it. The drive to install this current management team was no doubt precipitated in 1998, when bandleaders lead by Louis Saldenah boycotted the Caribana parade and took the fete “Up North” to Markham Fair grounds. That action resulted in the festival being taken seriously by the City; so with the help of Lincoln Alexander and newly elected councillor Joe Mehevic, a deal was made with the bandleaders and the Caribbean Cultural Committee (CCC), which was then the organization that managed the festival.

Since that first negotiation the city, concerned that the CCC was keeping money for itself, decided to pay the stakeholders directly through the bandleaders. This was supported by Joe Halstead, a city commissioner at the time, who, in order to protect the stakeholders he  recommended that Toronto City Council approve a grant of $353,500.00 for the 2002 Caribana Festival as long as the money is paid directly to Toronto Mas Bands Association (TMBA) for disbursement to the Mas Bandleaders, Steel Bands and Calypsonians.

Halstead further insisted that the funds were to be distributed as follows:  $245,000.00 TMBA divided among the mas bands, steelbands and calypsonians; $108.500.00 to the Caribbean Cultural Committee for site and event Preparation, marketing and promotion, and $17,789.32 for Insurance. Halstead had indeed sent a strong message to the CCC that the stakeholders are entitled to get 69.3% of the city’s funding. But it now seems that Halstead do not see fit to do this now.

The Festival Management Committee (FMC), which was put together for a one-year stint at running the festival, seems to have forgotten the original mandate and continues to run the festival for the last 15 years. They have changed from being caretakers to being greedy owners bent on destroying the stakeholders and keeping all the revenues generated by the festival, be it from public funding or sponsorship, for itself – a classic case of the caretakers only taking care of themselves.            

The key difference between FMC and the CCC with respect to running the festival is that when the CCC ran it, things were above board, but the same can’t be said about the FMC. Now everything seems to be “none of the community’s business”. For example, when Pizza Pizza paid $16,000.00 for a sponsorship it was on the front page of the community papers; when they got a $250.000.00 for a presenting sponsorship from Tele Globe Canada, that also made the front page. But the CCC never took title sponsorship because it said the festival was worth more than money.

When the FMC took over, the first thing they did was to sell the title sponsorship to Scotiabank, but they did not see it fit to inform the community or the public of the sale or the price. Unfortunately, the community did not understand what title sponsorship meant because they thought that Scotiabank now owed the festival and that it was no longer the property of the community. Needless to say, this did not enhance the image of the hapless Scotiabank nor the FMC. A lot of goodwill was lost.

After the Scotiabank debacle, the title sponsorship was sold to a light porn website. Some said it “pimping out” the community. Again, the amount of the sponsorship was not disclosed. The news, which came out in dribs and drabs, indicated an amount in the range of $250.000.00 – $600,000.00 and everything in-between.

City Councillor Mehevic said that the city trusted Halstead to do the honest thing. The City must be surprised to see that the man who insisted that the CCC be kept in line would turn around and do worse by stakeholders.

Since 2015, when the bands had to register individually for the parade, the FMC made over $100,000.00.  Now it seems that this extra money excited them enough to tempt them to keep it all for themselves. They are supposed to be caretakers of the festival not bullies. You may notice that no names were used in last week’s article because everybody is talking but none would have their names called for fear of retaliation by the FMC.

For COVID, governments in Canada made it clear that all funding will stay in place for such events, so that when the country reopens, the festival would be ready to go. The FMC knew that, and although they will not be presenting a parade, they got just what they applied for; that is why they must fund the stakeholders at the same level as if they were having a parade.  FMC seemed to have based the decision not to fund stakeholders at “normal levels” for 2020 and 2021 because their expenses were lower as there were no parades during COVID.  We wonder if the City would have granted $625,000.00 to FMC had they been asked about the FMC’s expenses when there is no festival.  

Instead the FMC reduced funding to the stakeholders to 5% instead of the usual 69 percent of the City’s funding and other levels of governments contribution. Giving stakeholders 5 percent of the funding makes no sense. One has to wonder if the FMC understands that without the stakeholders there’s no festival, and that taking form the community just to enrich oneself and other private entities is selfish and stupid.

The FMC inherited an event that should be working for the community not for a handful of people. By now the festival should have its own facilities that the Caribbean community can call its own. Instead we own nothing while the FMC distributes a paltry $11,000.00 to three “A Bands” and $2,000.00 to each of the rest. This will not help them be ready when the society opens at the end of COVID.

Halstead chose not to pay the Ontario Steelband Association and the Organization of Calypso Performing Artistes (OSA/OCPA) anything for 2020. And they will pay them just 40% of $36,000.00 for 2021.  

Bandleaders said that about six years ago A bands got $60,000.00; now they get $35,000.00. For this year and the previous year, the FMC should pay an A bands at least $45,000.00 (B) bands.  $29,000.00. Funding for the Steelband and Calypsonian should be no less than $45,000.00. This means that stakeholders should receive $420,000.00 of the $625,000.00 or 67.2 percent of the city funding. This is approximately 2.1 percent less than what Halstead ordered the city to do in 2002.

Given the treatment that the FMC has given bandleaders it may be time to go “Up North” again because the bands are aware that the Funding from the city has improved over the last ten years but it has not been shared with the stakeholders. The facts seem to point to a cash grab by the FMC rather than the City investing in the festival. Halstead should remember the reasons why the festival was “taken away” from the CCC and do the right thing by the current stakeholders.

To date, the facts are that the FMC received a total of $825,000.00 from three levels of government, the City, the Ontario Government, and the Federal Government.

All the stakeholders ask is that the FMC honour the deal that it made in 1998. They say that what was done in 2002 does not look good on Mr. Halstead.