By RON FANFAIR
Government funding for North America’s largest summer carnival has surpassed the one million dollar mark with last week’s announcement that the federal government has committed $416,000 to this year’s festival.
Minister of State for Foreign Affairs (Americas), Peter Kent, said the funding is being channeled through the Government of Canada’s Marquee Tourism Events Program (MTEP) which is an initiative under Canada’s Economic Action Plan designed to provide $100 million in funding over two years for high-profile events.
Other recipients of the funding stream include The Toronto International Film Festival, The Calgary Stampede and The Shaw Festival.
“The funding will make it possible this year to enhance the Scotiabank Caribana marketing efforts nationally and internationally as well as introduce some new programming,” said Kent, who is the Member of Parliament for Thornhill. “This is intended to help create a richer tourist experience during the festival season.
“Toronto, like most other major cities in Canada, relies significantly on tourism and events such as Scotiabank Caribana are influential in attracting visitors from all over the world. The contribution to our economy cannot be over-stated.”
Scotiabank Caribana Festival Management Committee chair, Joe Halstead, acknowledged the federal government’s support.
“There has been a federal deficit in support of Caribana forever,” said Halstead. “In the last three years, we have said the federal government should step up and match the municipal and provincial governments. While it is not quite there yet, it’s a significant change from the attitude they had before. It’s a start and what we have to do now is sustain it.
“We in the Caribana community have waited a very long time for this moment. We are happy that the government recognizes Scotiabank Caribana as a major tourism destination and we thank them for understanding the economic impact of the festival on the city, province and country and the cultural distinctiveness of our event.”
The municipal and provincial governments each provide $475,000 in funding to Scotiabank Caribana which celebrates its 42nd anniversary this year. The event injects an estimated $300 million into the economy, including approximately $30 million in GST that goes to Ottawa.
In addition to marketing the festival in Canada, the United States and internationally, Halstead said the funds will be used to create new programs and enhance old ones.
“We believe that the resultant impact of this contribution today is that artists of the carnival arts, which is really what we do, will be employed and showcased,” he said. “A lot of artists who wouldn’t otherwise be able to display their works, their creativity and their talent will now get a chance to do that, and more creative costumes such as the ones we have here this morning will be designed and showcased by the various ‘mas’ camps and, I will submit, very well displayed by the people who wear them.
“New rhythmic scores will be written and recorded by our steelbands and calypso singers and more visitors will come to our city because we will intensify our marketing and promotional endeavours through various advertising mediums. What was planned this year to be a good Scotiabank Caribana season will now be an even better one because of this contribution by the Government of Canada.”
Halstead also disclosed that some of the new funds will help to support programs that include the development of information kiosks at tourist ‘hotspots’ and entertainment for the public along the parade route.
Scotiabank senior vice-president responsible for Marketing, John Doig and Tourism Toronto president and chief executive officer, David Whitaker, also attended last Friday’s press conference to announce the federal government’s funding increase of $316,000.
Scotiabank recently announced it’s extending its title sponsorship by three years to 2012.
“We have a large presence in the Caribbean and this event is a natural fit for us,” Doig said. “We are committed to supporting the communities in which our employees live and work. The support from the federal government helps acknowledge the importance that this event has. It’s international, diverse and truly world class.”
Scotiabank was recently recognized with Tourism Toronto’s 2009 President’s Award for its involvement in myriad events to promote the city, including its involvement in Caribana.
“One of the most unique events we host is Scotiabank Caribana,” Whitaker said. “It’s amazing, it’s known globally and it’s a wonderful brand, celebration and major attraction.”
The official festival launch takes place on July 14 at Nathan Phillips Square.
In addition to the colourful parade on August 1, other highlights include the Junior Carnival at Yorkgate Mall and the Calypso Monarch finals on July 18 at the CNE Queen Elizabeth Theatre, the Caribana Arts Foundation gala on July 24 at the Liberty Grand Entertainment Complex, the King and Queen Show and Pan Alive at Lamport stadium on July 30 and 31 respectively and De Scotiabank Caribana Lime on Olympic Island on August 2.