It’s taken only three years for the Victoria International Buskers Festival to face cutbacks and feel a funding squeeze.
The festival that draws entertainers from around the world, and several hundred thousand people downtown, estimated it generated some $3 million in economic activity over the week-long event last year.
Like Symphony Splash, JumpShip, and Canada Day and B.C. Day celebrations, the buskers festival is concentrated in the picturesque Inner Harbour and Government Street, where people from all corners of Greater Victoria stream in for free (or donation-based) public summer festivals and entertainment.
What’s concerning about cutbacks at the busker festival – cuts in expenses like portable toilets and grandstand seating – isn’t that it was denied funding by the B.C. Arts Council, but that the vast majority of grants from local governments comes from the City of Victoria.
Victoria is giving about $9,000 in grants plus in-kind services from city staff. The Capital Region granted the festival about $7,000, funding ultimately gleaned from 13 CRD municipalities.
Residents from Saanich, the West Shore, Esquimalt, Oak Bay and areas farther afield enjoy the benefits of downtown summer festivals, but their respective municipal governments nearly get off nearly scot free.
Victoria’s relatively small number of taxpayers help foot a disproportionate amount of the bill for what are regional events that showcase the city. The inequitable funding for these festivals could be the best argument yet for regional amalgamation.
As the seat of government, the home to many jobs and businesses, and the hub for tourism, downtown Victoria needs to remain vibrant, active and an attractive place to visit.
Through the CRD, local governments need to find a cost sharing formula that allows stable, long-range funding for events in the core.
Allowing festivals to scrape by year after year is bad for tourism and bad for the city’s reputation. Our many local governments need to think about the greater good of the city beyond their own borders.