TIM SMITH/BRANDON SUN
The Strand Theatre on 10th Street is shown last week. A Canadian Heritage spokesman tells the Brandon Sun that Heritage Minister James Moore is ultimately responsible for approving or denying the BFMAS request for funding the Strand Theatre’s restoration project.
When a local member of Parliament spoke of withdrawing his support for the Strand Theatre, the Brandon Folk, Music and Art Society decried it as political interference in a bureaucratic decision on a grant proposal.
"This is not a political decision. It’s a decision made by bureaucratic process and unless there’s ministerial intervention at the end of the line, when the minister is supposed to sign off on it, the money is in the program," BFMAS artistic director Shandra MacNeill told the Brandon Sun on Oct. 4.
"We are applying for the program and it gets a bureaucratic process and it’s based on the merits of the project."
However, according to a Canadian Heritage spokesman, that may not be the case.
The spokesman told the Brandon Sun that funding through the Department of Canadian Heritage is "at the discretion of the minister." He added that the funding request is also subject to the program’s terms and conditions that are approved by the Treasury Board. That means Canadian Heritage Minister James Moore is ultimately responsible for approving or denying the BFMAS request for funding the Strand Theatre’s restoration project.
In withdrawing his support, Brandon-Souris Conservative MP Merv Tweed told the Brandon Sun on Oct. 4: "The organization that has been promoting (the Strand Theatre) has not been able to muster up a package that’s appealing to the federal government and I can no longer support, at any level, the time and delay that this has taken."
He has restated that position repeatedly and in public since that Brandon Sun interview.
The BFMAS had applied for $1.8 million from the Canada Cultural Spaces Fund once before, but was denied in March. The group was invited to send in another application with a revised business plan, but as of last week, there had been no second application. Timelines matter, as the $474,000 in Renaissance Brandon funding was initially subject to the participation of the federal and provincial government. While Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger said last Friday that he wasn’t prepared to give up on the project, Renaissance Brandon has a Dec. 7 deadline for the BFMAS to have its funding for the project secured or it would have to re-evaluate its stance.
The official service standards set by Canadian Heritage in the Cultural Spaces application guidelines state that the department’s goal is to acknowledge the receipt of the application within 15 calendar days.
If the BFMAS application was submitted today, the latest that notification could come, if the guidelines are followed, is Oct. 26.
From there, the application is considered and evaluated, with the goal of having a response within 12 months of the receipt of the application. If that application were received today, a response would be expected before Oct. 11, 2013.
From there, if approved, the department’s goal is to issue payments within 28 calendar days of the "successful fulfillment of requirements as outlined in the contribution agreement of the grants award letter."
As of today, there are 57 calendar days — or 40 business days — left before Renaissance Brandon’s deadline expires. If Canadian Heritage acknowledged receipt of the application in 15 days, instantaneously approved the application, got ministerial approval on the same day, had the funding agreement signed by BFMAS on the same day and the disbursement of funds took the maximum 28 days, 43 business days would have elapsed.
The department’s guidelines also state that as part of the project review, "consultations may be undertaken with other federal departments and agencies, other provincial/territorial governments and municipal administrations as well as provincial/territorial arts boards or arts councils." Through those consultations, the information provided by the applicant may be shared with those groups.
The guidelines also state that 30 per cent of the project assessment will deal with whether the project is viable and the long-term impact on the organization. In evaluating that part of the project, Canadian Heritage staffers will examine the organizational management capacity of the group, its ability to manage the project effectively, the history of the organization, and "the capacity to submit reports in a timely fashion."
As of last week, the BFMAS had not submitted its second application, almost seven months from the date of the Canadian Heritage grant rejection letter sent March 14.
The past and present financial situation of the organization, and confirmation of "other sources of revenue for the project" is also considered by grant evaluators. The BFMAS also has to prove it has the "ability to manage the financial impact of the project on long-term operations," such as increased maintenance costs and additional staff requirements.
Perhaps most important is the information specifically outlined and set apart in a text box, indicating that: "The CCSF is a highly competitive program and the demand exceeds available resources. Even if eligibility requirements are met, there is no guarantee of support."
Given the guidelines, and the minsterial approval required for a project, which is more likely?
Would Moore approve the BFMAS request against the wishes of a fellow Conservative MP who represents the riding where that money will be spent? Or is it more likely that the minister calls the local MP or regional Cabinet Minister — if not both — to ask whether the project proposal on his desk is worthy of the government’s support before he signs off on spending between $1 million and $2 million on the project?
While that remains subject to debate, this point is not.
The department’s grant application guidelines state that: "The decision by the Department of Canadian Heritage to approve or refuse funding to an organization under the CCSF is not subject to appeal."
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition October 11, 2012