Government stays mostly mum on where Celebrate Canada funding getting spent



Ottawa: The government has doled out some $7 million to small cities and towns to help pay for Canada Day celebrations, but the department in charge has only disclosed details about a fraction of that spending.

And although the money is meant to help Canadians celebrate the red and white, it appears _ based on what little information the government has released _ that a lot of it goes to ridings that are Tory blue.

Canadian Heritage has approved nearly 1,700 events taking place between June 21 and July 1 _ a period that captures National Aboriginal Day, Saint-Jean Baptiste Day, Canadian Multiculturalism Day and, ultimately, Canada Day.

The amounts handed out are small: They can cover anything from cake for a picnic, extra help for small fire departments managing fireworks, to general funding for festivals that attract tens of thousands of visitors.

The department has only made public 130 of those projects _ about eight per cent of the total number, based on an analysis by The Canadian Press.

Late Tuesday, the department said that it spent all $6.7 million in the Celebrate Canada fund, as well as $300,000 in funding from Aboriginal Affairs, but offered no additional details.

Department spokesman Len Westenberg said the department received 1,938 funding applications for this year and approved funding to 1,658 events. The government decides which of the successful applicants to publicly announce, he said.

Westenberg said eligible events have to take place between June 21 and July 1, use Canadian symbols and history, provide “realistic” attendance and budget estimates and demonstrate that they looked for other sources of revenue.

The only publicly available figures about the fund are contained within the hundreds of press releases Canadian Heritage issues each year. The Canadian Press found announcements for 130 projects since Jan. 15, 2015, the deadline to apply for money from this year’s funding pool.

In all, The Canadian Press identified funding announcements totalling $430,269 that 20 Conservative MPs have made over the past six months.

That suggests $6.3 million, almost 94 per cent of the $6.7 million fund, has been quietly doled out without the fanfare of a government announcement. The department has yet to provide a full list of projects that received Celebrate Canada Funding.

Most of the funding that has been disclosed appears to have gone to ridings where the Conservatives appear have a chance at winning or holding on to a seat in the fall election, scheduled for Oct. 19.

Of the 30 ridings where municipalities are known to have received funding, 27 have a good chance of going or staying Conservative, based on an Elections Canada report that predicts results based how the votes played out in 2011.

The report transposed the poll-by-poll voting results from the 2011 election onto a new riding map that will be in effect for the fall vote. In all, there will be 30 new seats up for grabs in the House of Commons.

Marisa Monnin, a spokeswoman for Heritage Minister Shelly Glover, said Celebrate Canada funding is “available for all ridings across Canada.”

“This fund gives an opportunity for Canadians to discover and appreciate the wealth and diversity of Canadian society, and show their love and pride in being Canadian,” Monnin wrote in an email.

“As we approach our historic 150th anniversary (of Confederation), our government will continue to join Canadians in honouring our history.”


© 2015 The Canadian Press