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CBRM proposal for the suspension of artist scholarships by provincial law

A proposal to provide small grants to artists in the Cape Breton regional municipality is on hold.

The CBRM council supports the idea, but the Nova Scotia government is not ready to give municipalities that kind of power.

“In other provinces, they are already running programs like this, so it’s not a radical idea,” said New Waterford director Nelson MacDonald. “It’s something that’s really, really, desperately needed.”

Local artists only need a little start-up capital to launch and grow their careers, he said.

With small grants up to $ 2,500, they could qualify for additional provincial and federal funding.

The COVID-19 pandemic has harmed many artists and arts organizations, MacDonald said, but regardless of the pandemic, new artists need a boost.

Cape Breton Regional Council is not allowed to grant money to individual artists, and the Nova Scotia government has so far shown no interest in changing the legislation to make it happen. (Tom Ayers / CBC)

Similar grants exist in St. John’s, NL and some municipalities in Ontario and British Columbia, he said.

“We have a lot of people with a lot of ideas who haven’t been able to work in the past two years,” MacDonald said. “What better time to launch a program like this than right now?”

In September, the CBRM board unanimously voted in principle to consider awarding $ 50,000 to its regional business network for the project. REN, as it is known, is managed by an island-wide corporate group called the Cape Breton Partnership.

But the municipal government law prohibits municipalities from giving money to private individuals.

CBRM Mayor Amanda McDougall said the plan gained unanimous council approval and that they filed a request for a provincial change in legislation in November, but that did not happen.

“This was really disappointing,” he said. “We have met with every single MLA, we have done everything we can to that end. All we need is confirmation that we can work with a third party or get a ministerial order.”

A group of artists and other officials worked to create a transparent set of funding criteria and an application and verification process, the mayor said.

Distributing the grant money to individual artists through the REN would also provide a level of accountability, he said.

Mayor Amanda McDougall says CBRM should be able to make decisions about how to spend their money to provide the maximum benefit to the municipality. (Tom Ayers / CBC)

“It’s sad. It’s a $ 50,000 increase to one of our existing budgets that could have such a huge impact and it’s so frustrating to be at the municipal government level and not being able to use the money that we think would be the most significant way. . “

The program could also help correct an inequity in provincial government arts funding, MacDonald said.

The Arts Nova Scotia website lists 252 grant recipients for 2021.

Of these, 16 went to artists on Cape Breton Island. Seven were in CBRM, five in Inverness County, four in Victoria County, and none in Richmond County or the town of Port Hawkesbury.

Many of the rest went to artists and organizations in Halifax.

Province to encourage funding applications

Arts Nova Scotia director Briony Carros said in an email that the agency receives more applications from Halifax due to the concentration of artists and organizations in the capital.

The arts funding agency plans to go out across the province to conduct in-person information sessions to encourage questions, he said.

Municipal Affairs Minister John Lohr will not say whether he thinks municipalities should have the power to grant money to individuals, but said the province will negotiate a wide range of issues with municipalities as part of a broad review of legislation. , a memorandum of understanding and an exchange agreement service.

“It’s happening this summer and autumn coming up and literally everything is on the table,” he said.

McDougall and MacDonald both said it could take too long, leaving emerging artists to keep fighting.

“If you think about the artists we could have helped this year with the money, let’s say there are 25 artists that we could have helped this year, well that’s a real shame,” MacDonald said.

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