Arts, Culture and Sport: the things that bring communities together

Heather Stefanson
The Premier’s priorities

“As I have travelled across the province over the past eight months, I can’t help but notice the crumbling infrastructure of so many of our arts and culture and even sports facilities,” said the Premier. “COVID-19 didn’t help, but these assets have been neglected for decades.”

On July 25, she and Minister Andrew Smith announced a $100 million fund to provide aid for the infrastructure of Arts, Culture and Sport. This is part of the Premier’s long-term strategy to breathe life back into Manitoba through encouragement and support for community engagement, investment, and enterprise.

She explained that the previous $25 million Building Sustainable Communities fund established January 17 was a good start to help municipalities and some non-profits, but many small community groups did not qualify – groups such as arts organizations and community initiatives like the Flin Flon arts organizations and festivals, seniors’ organizations, community centres, and ethnic cultural groups such as the Sikhs and others. This new fund will support many more initiatives with a view to continued sustainability and growth in the future.

Minister Andrew Smith and the Premier announce $100 million for arts and culture.

“Many of the arts and cultural sectors have been neglected in the past,” the Premier said. “My goal is to improve the quality of life for Manitobans, making sure there is support to help generations to come.” The Premier recognizes that these improvements will also benefit the tourism industry both for citizens travelling within the province and for those visiting.

It is part of her vision to return Manitoba to the prominent position we for so long held in our country and around the world.

Spotlight on Minister Andrew Smith

The Hon. Andrew Smith is the minister for Arts, Culture and Sport. He is responsible for Travel Manitoba, the Manitoba Centennial Centre Corporation and recently had Liquor and Lotteries added to his portfolio. It is his job to see that the $100 million initiative achieves the goals set for it by the premier.

As we spoke, the minister was on his way to tour the Seagram’s plant where the award-winning Crown Royal whisky is made near Gimli. This is just part of an extended tour of the province that has taken him to The Pas, Dauphin, Brandon, Gimli, Swan River, and most recently the rodeo at Morris to mention just a few of the journeys of discovery he has made to better understand what the province has to offer. The premier is encouraging ministers to go out and get to know all parts of our province to hear firsthand how Manitobans feel, what they need and how they want to see the future develop.

“We recognize the importance of connecting Manitobans with one another and we also see that Manitobans are enjoying the rediscovery of our province. Internal travel has opened up a new appreciation for the entertainment options right here at home,” said the minister. “This sparks a renewed interest in our local attractions provided by arts, culture and sports and this fund will help to renew their resources.”

Not only small community groups can benefit from the fund. The major performing arts can access matching funds up to $5 million to renew facilities continuing the province’s commitment to renew our Arts and cultures sectors. Earlier this year, the premier announced an investment of $7.5 million to help the RWB in its $30 million campus expansion and modernization plan. The RWB is a major ambassador for our province worldwide.

“This new fund will help support, promote and celebrate Manitobans by increasing access to a wide variety of spaces and programing including sport facilities, festivals, museums and galleries.”

He wants to emphasize how important it is to get applications is as soon as possible once the program is launched on August 16. Applications will close on October 31 and it is hoped that some of those who did not qualify for the Building Sustainable Communities Fund will quickly transition their request to the new program. This year, $34 million is available between now and March 31, 2023, with $33 million in each of the following two years. There are three components to the fund: Large Capital Projects which can be funded up to $5 million on a matching basis and can include upgrades to buildings and infrastructure for performance or other cultural or sports activities; Small Capital Projects and Special Initiatives which will fund up to 100 percent of organizational development, training, technology, and the development of volunteers and equipment, enhancing abilities to increase engagement in arts, culture of sports programming.

Prior to running for office, first in Southdale where he was elected in 2016 and then in Lagimodiere where he was re-elected in 2019, Andrew worked in Ottawa for several members of Parliament. He says that while the work at the national level was interesting, he far prefers being in the Manitoba Legislature where he can engage with the folks in his constituency and really grapple with local issues. He is also very interested in new technology and how that might enhance our presence in the arts and cultural sectors.

“I am excited about this new initiative,” he said, recognizing that our province has always punched above its weight in arts and culture. “It will help Manitoba stay ahead of the pack for years to come.”

And that is exactly what the Premier wants to accomplish.