Coun. Stephen Montague’s attempt to withdraw support for the Strand Theatre project was quickly thwarted at the council meeting Monday night.
After Montague read his motion, which also included a request for Renaissance Brandon to rescind its funding commitment to the theatre restoration project, Coun. Len Isleifson (Riverview) objected.
Two-thirds of council then voted against further consideration of Montague’s motion, which meant the issue was dead. The two-thirds vote included councillors Jeff Harwood (University), Murray Blight (Victoria), Garth Rice (South Centre), Corey Roberts (Rosser), Jan Chaboyer (Green Acres), Isleifson and Mayor Shari Decter Hirst.
Following the meeting, Montague said he was disappointed that his fellow councillors didn’t allow the issue to be discussed around the table.
"It’s pretty sad when we have to take the easy way out," he said. "This council has never had an opportunity to discuss the Strand at our table, that was the opportunity tonight."
The project’s goal, which has been years in the making, is to restore the historic Strand Theatre into a multi-use community performance and arts centre.
Renaissance Brandon has committed $374,000 to the theatre’s revitalization project, pending successful funding applications to the federal and provincial governments.
The Brandon Folk, Music and Art Society submitted a $1.2-million revised proposal Jan. 31 to the Canada Cultural Spaces Fund, and is waiting on a response.
Montague said there has been a "shroud of secrecy" over the project, and wants some answers.
"The level of fundraising that’s been completed, the building and the cost of the restoration project, these are things that the public, who’s been asked to fund this through taxpayer dollars, want to know," he said.
"I’m all for investment in arts and culture, I’m all for the restoration of downtown, but I’m also all for the smart investment of hard-earned taxpayer dollars."
Brandon East NDP MLA Drew Caldwell, who attended Monday’s council meeting, said this type of motion "undermines stability and confidence in the downtown area."
"I’m glad to see council … putting their foot down and hopefully ending this ongoing, almost pathological attack on Renaissance Brandon and the good people who are working to support several hundreds of businesses downtown," Caldwell said.
The province is a partner with Renaissance Brandon, and Caldwell said "when it’s attacked, it leads to questions about other areas that we partner with the City of Brandon."
Caldwell said going against investments in the core area runs counter to the city’s own strategic development plan, the Roadmap for Growth.
"It undermines the city’s own strategic economic development objectives for downtown," he said. "When you’re continuously and recklessly undermining downtown development, you’re irresponsibly impacting hundreds of businesses, you’re irresponsibly undermining the tax base of the city as a whole."
As the Brandon Sun reported last week, a $70,000 fundraising gift-in-kind has been received from three Brandon businesses committed to seeing through the successful redevelopment of the Strand Theatre, which was built in 1917.
Figol Electric, Cogent Construction and Overland Waste and Recycling have come together to undertake interior work designed to open the existing lobby area and allow public viewing access to the theatre.
The $70,000 commitment builds upon an earlier $130,000 contribution by Landmark Cinemas of Canada toward interior stabilization work to prepare the theatre for full redevelopment.
More than 30 community performance and arts associations have made statements of usage to make the Strand Theatre a centre for community arts and entertainment in the Downtown HUB.
Shaun Cameron, Renaissance Brandon board chair, said he was surprised to see the motion to withdraw support for the Strand on the city agenda.
"It’s good ... to see that councillors are willing to wait and see what the federal funders have to say," he said. "I think that’s the best opportunity to see whether the Strand would be successful."