IN THE LEDGE: Is help on the way for the North Thompson Fall Fair, or not?

(Image: North Thompson Fall Fair, Facebook)

Debate in the B.C. Legislature today (May 20, 2021) between Greg Kyllo, Karin Kirkpatrick and Peter Milobar of the BC Liberals, and Melanie Mark, Minister of Education, Skills and Training:

G. Kyllo: For more than 120 years, the Interior Provincial Exhibition, the IPE, has been an attraction bringing thousands of people to the communities of Armstrong and Spallumcheen. It honours the region’s rural and agricultural experiences, providing a glimpse into the past and showcasing a bright future.

But Tuesday, the Premier said that while the PNE would be allowed to apply for a grant as a major attraction, it appears that the IPE will not be allowed. The rules say that you have to be operating year-round and specifically states that events like the IPE are not even allowed to apply.

We haven’t heard a word from the MLA for Vernon-Monashee about helping this very important festival. Can the Premier tell the people of the North Okanagan if the IPE can apply or not?

M. Mark: On Tuesday, the Premier and I announced a significant investment of $50 million. It is a grant. It’s not a loan. It’s for anchor attractions. It’s for those organizations that have large gatherings, which obviously, because of the pandemic, we can’t have right now. Turnstile attractions. There are dedicated funds for the urban sector and the rural and for tour bus operators to facilitate visitors to be going to those anchor attractions.

It’s a significant investment. I encourage the member to support the organization to apply. Decisions have not been made yet. We’ve been completely transparent about our deadline, because we want to get the money out the door to facilitate visitors to be going to those anchor attractions. It’s a significant investment. I encourage the member to support the organization to apply. Decisions have not been made yet.

Please encourage your organizations to apply and our government will be reviewing them and making decisions and announcements in due course.

K. Kirkpatrick: I believe what I just heard the minister say is that events can apply, even though on the website it says they are ineligible to apply. So that’s good news for us.

Very large attractions like the PNE, and the Capilano Suspension Bridge in my riding, are in desperate need of help. Instead, the Premier created a two-tiered system that is not based on need and doesn’t work for anybody. This is what Nancy Stibbard of the Capilano Suspension Bridge says: “We are grateful, of course, for any help, but for businesses our size, we have had no revenue going on two years, and yet we need to pay fixed expenses of around $1 million a month. The allocation does not seem to make sense.”

To the Premier, will he commit today to one program across the province that is needs-based?

Hon. M. Mark: On Tuesday, our government made a significant announcement: $50 million of grants, not loans, to help anchor attractions. I will repeat it: anchor attractions. These are organizations — and I’m not going to name names — but there are a variety of different types of attractions that could apply.

The member opposite isn’t suggesting that the elected minister should be deciding who should get the money. There is a transparent process. There is an invitation for anchor attractions to apply in urban communities and rural, because I imagine that the member opposite isn’t suggesting that all of the money should go to the urban community, because then we’ll be ignoring the rural.

We’re trying to support the tourism ecosystem across the province. That was a call to action from the sector. We are listening and we’re responding with investments to help a sector that we know has been hard-hit.

As the Minister for Jobs, Economic Recovery and Innovation just announced, the restart plan is coming. Good news is coming. This is good news. Encourage your colleagues to apply. It’s a grant, not a loan.

P. Milobar: The minister has been saying since December: “Good news is coming.” What the industry needs is actual tangible action.

Groups like the North Thompson Fall Fair in Kamloops and in Barriere are confused about whether or not they can apply for the grant, just like the IPE is confused, and just like, frankly, the PNE, although the minister and the Premier make it sound like they can apply. When you read the criteria, they’re actually not eligible. But Playland would be, because Playland’s an amusement park.

We have a botched program where some attractions have been denied the funding they need based on nothing more than geography, because other attractions in rural B.C. need more than a half a million dollars, but they don’t get to even apply or ask under this government program because of where their geography is. We have a criteria system that’s confusing and says, “Typically operates year-round,” to qualify. It says you can’t be a festival or an event, but the minister just said you could be. The PNE, like I said, apparently qualifies. Does it or doesn’t it?

Again, is the Premier making this up as they go along, or do festivals and events qualify or not? For the minister to say that she would encourage us to work with our constituents to apply for a grant that no one’s even sure if they qualify for or not, and neither is the minister, it’s a little bit misleading. Does the minister want them to waste their time applying, or will there be a firm set of criteria put out that is not contradictory?

Hon. M. Mark: I know that we can’t use props, but I have the description of the qualifications right beside me. The website is online. It’s transparent. I hope that the member opposite isn’t suggesting that our government isn’t being transparent.

We are inviting anchor attractions to apply for a grant, not a loan. We are clearly outlining what the eligibility criteria is. The member opposite just mentioned that people have been denied. How can they be denied? We just opened up the grant on Tuesday. We just announced $50 million to support the tourism ecosystem.

That is good news, Member. Encourage people to apply. The application is open for grants, not loans. Decisions haven’t been made yet. Please don’t make these conclusions and create fear. This was a call to action. It is going to support, through targeted funds, the tourism sector.

But when the member opposite wants to go back to December…. December 9 I received the report from the Tourism Task Force, and surely thereafter, we announced $100 million in grants, not loans. And to this day ,we have over 3,500 tourism operators that received grants, not loans. To me, that is success.

Source: BC Hansard

About Mel Rothenburger (9116 Articles) is a forum about Kamloops and the world. It has more than one million views. Mel Rothenburger is the former Editor of The Daily News in Kamloops, B.C. (retiring in 2012), and past mayor of Kamloops (1999-2005). At he is the publisher, editor, news editor, city editor, reporter, webmaster, and just about anything else you can think of. He is grateful for the contributions of several local columnists. This blog doesn't require a subscription but gratefully accepts donations to help defray costs.

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