The Department of Canadian Heritage has rejected the Brandon Folk, Music and Art Society’s application for federal funding to restore the Strand Theatre in downtown Brandon because of concerns over the business plan and the financial viability of the project.
A group trying to restore the Strand Theatre has received word from the Department of Canadian Heritage that its application for federal funding has been rejected.
In a letter dated March 14, which was obtained by the Sun, the department states that the Brandon Folk, Music and Art Society’s application under the Canada Cultural Spaces Fund was deemed eligible for the funding, and had many merits but was declined because of concerns over the business plan and the financial viability of the project.
"The fundraising and business plans provided were optimistic and did not demonstrate that your organization has the capacity to successfully manage the capital project or the new facility with significant increased fixed costs," the letter states.
The letter also notes the group was invited to reapply for funding provided more fundraising details and more realistic plans could be provided.
A business plan outlining staffing and programming requirements, as well as a plan for what happens if fundraising goals aren’t met, was also requested.
"The proposal at this time does not meet the requirements, therefore funding has been denied," Brandon-Souris Conservative MP Merv Tweed said.
"They are fairly clear in their denial letter that the fundraising and business plans were very optimistic and didn’t demonstrate the organization has the capacity to manage the project. It’s very blunt."
Tweed said the comments from the department suggest a lot more work is required by the Brandon Folk, Music and Art Society to answer those concerns, "or we move on."
"I have certainly heard from lots of people in the city of Brandon and throughout the riding that really question if this is a viable project and if it’s a good use of financial resources of the government. I think the department’s response makes it clear for me. I can’t say that I don’t support this, but it’s been one that’s troubled me for quite a while."
Tweed said his concerns were similar to those listed by Canadian Heritage’s staffers.
"It certainly doesn’t meet the criteria they were looking for," Tweed said.
Shandra MacNeill, the artistic director for the Brandon Folk, Music and Art Society, said the group was still working with federal officials and that they were given a template for a business plan to use for their second application.
"We will resubmit the business plan, hopefully within the month so we can still work with the same timeline we worked with before," MacNeill said. "The changes we need to make for the application in working with what they have for funding are minimal enough that it’s as simple as reworking some of the information into a forms that they prefer and to ask for less money than we had before."
The original request was for $1.8 million, and that will be reduced to $1.2 million the next time the group applies, MacNeill said.
"It’s hard when you have people in Ottawa who have never been to your community because you have to paint a picture for them that describes the individuals in your community all the way to the furniture you are selecting to put into the auditorium," MacNeill said.
"In that kind of wide variety of information you have to provide, it’s fairly miraculous if you get through it without a few pieces missing. We are just going back to fill in those pieces."
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition April 26, 2012