Membership organization must run Caribana – Part 2


This article is a continuation of last week’s discussion of the economics of Caribana.  It will address three proposals to turn Caribana into a boost to community economic and social development: a Caribana-controlled community foundation; support for cooperative economics; and corporations must pay to ride the gravy train. Two other ideas were presented last week.

Thirdly, the organization that will be charged with the responsibility of running Caribana should be a relevant force in funding community development projects. Caribana’s pioneers were committed to the goals of building a community centre, providing educational scholarships to young people and advancing other social objectives. These have yet to be realized.

However, when one examines the Calgary Stampede one would quickly realize that the aim of making Caribana a major contributor to community development is not the obsession of an overactive mind. The Calgary Stampede Foundation, an arm of the Calgary Stampede, doles out over $2.5 million per year to youth development projects. The foundation’s mandate also allows it to “support endeavours pertaining to the arts, agriculture, the environment and capital improvement projects.”

A Caribana-directed charitable community foundation should be expected to fund initiatives that build the capacity of the community to fight all forms of oppression, encourage cooperative economic projects in the cultural fields and other arenas, finance educational scholarships, fund festival arts training and development, and promote cultural projects that affirm culture as a weapon of struggle. Carnival in the Caribbean came out of resistance to racist and capitalist domination.

This community foundation should have a broad mandate so as to allow it to make an impact in many areas of community life. When members of the community make workplace payroll deductions to charitable causes, this community development foundation should get the lion’s share of those donations. After all, charity starts at home!

Fourthly, the Africans who created carnival did so in an environment in which their labour was brutally enslaved or exploited by capitalism. Therefore, Caribana should develop a mandate to promote an economic practice that doesn’t support the abuse of labour. It should commit resources to a community-controlled technical assistance and cooperative development organization that would create and/or expanded business organizations that are owned, controlled and managed by the workers – worker cooperatives.

Worker cooperatives need help in areas such as setting up the legal structure, access to financing, education to prepare the worker-members for economic democracy, development of a business plan, and doing a feasibility study. Caribana could even donate funds for the creation of a Chair in Labour Self-management at one of the local universities to further research on worker self-management of industry and commerce. This money would also be used to facilitate the development of courses and educational and training programs for existing and potential worker-owners and students of labour self-management.

In the African community, some of us often looked at certain racialized communities’ business districts or business “success” as models worthy of being copied. It is my belief that the African-Canadian working-class should not seek salvation in business models that continue to exploit labour.

We should not be fooled by the appearance of pan-ethnic solidarity, which the owning classes use to mask labour exploitation and wage-slavery. I am with the late poet, lesbian and feminist Audre Lorde on her assertion that: “The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.” Cooperative economics should be a part of a broad economic justice strategy.

Lastly, the corporations that swallow the lion’s share of the over $400 million produced by Caribana must return a part of that income to the creators of this cultural golden goose. The hotels in the GTA must give more than just rooms to the organizers of the festival.

It should contribute cash through their individual operations as well as through the Greater Toronto Hotel Association (GTHA). According the Ipsos Reid economic impact study of Caribana, about 300,000 overseas visitors participated in the festival in 2009 and spent an average of $901.87 per person. It means that they are spending over $270.5 million dollars into the economy. Overall, Caribana’s patrons spend $101.8 million on accommodation.

Lodging accommodation is by far the largest expenditure of overseas visitor and it was pegged at $311.68 per person. An estimated $68 million were spent by international visitors on the renting of hotel rooms; 73 per cent of them stayed in hotels. The GTHA collects a 3 per cent Destination Marketing Fee (DMF) on guest rooms that are occupied for less than 30 days. That dedicated revenue is used to market and promote Toronto as a tourism destination and its 2009 projected take from the DMF was just over $26 million. The GTHA should give a part of that money directly to Caribana.

The GTHA currently channels that DMF money through Tourism Toronto, which had a budget of $31.1 million in 2010. Interestingly, Tourism Toronto claimed to have spent $100,000 on Caribana out of its Leveraged Coop Marketing Fund (LCMF) in 2009. But it spent $500,000 on Luminato, $250,000 on LGBT Partnership (OTMP), $150,000 on Air Canada’s Luxury Partnership and $100,000 on Just for Laughs Toronto in 2009 from the same marketing fund. And we thought that Caribana, as the jewel in the festival economic impact crown, would have received its fair share of that $1.6 million LCMF in 2009.

The following industry sectors benefit greatly from Caribana and must make financial contributions to it: food and beverage services; retail trade; arts, entertainment and recreation; manufacturing; wholesale trade, information and cultural industries; ground passenger transportation; construction; utilities; and car renting and leasing.

The capitalists and the governments who benefit from the festival are prone to tell workers and the poor that “there’s no such thing as a free lunch” or “you don’t get something for nothing.” Therefore, they will have no difficulty in understanding that they must pay to ride this gravy train called Caribana.

This Caribana meal ticket will now come with a price tag. In all my years in Toronto, I have never heard so many people, who are by no means radical in political opinion, arguing for the cancellation of Caribana to send a message to the governments and businesses that profit from the festival.

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