The Prince Albert Tourism and Marketing Bureau is in a financial rut after the underperformance of the Borealis Music Festival this summer.
The organization was also affected by the dissolving of the Destination Marketing Fund (DMF) earlier this year. The DMF, a volunteer program where local hotels paid to help attract events, was responsible for some operational costs of the organization and a portion of the Borealis Music Festival.
In result, Prince Albert Tourism projected a shortfall of approximately $100,000 for 2015 and have requested financial assistance from the city.
On Tuesday night’s city council meeting, councillors contemplated the request which came in two parts – a grant of $20,000 which would allow P.A. Tourism to continue regular operations for the rest of 2015 and an $80,000 loan to pay off the deficit from the Borealis Music Festival.
After a split vote, the motion passed to provide P.A. Tourism with the $20,000 grant. Councillors Ted Zurakowski, Charlene Miller, and Lee Atkinson voted against the motion.
The $80,000 loan, however, was amended off the motion by Coun. Rick Orr before the vote was made.
Orr said he took the recommendation off after seeing reports that a 2016 Borealis Music Festival is currently being planned.
It is also advertised on the P.A. Tourism website that plans for a Borealis Music Festival 2016 are underway.
As a member of the organization’s board of directors, Orr said he had not been notified of the decision.
Recalling a meeting he attended in June, Orr revealed the festival would have had an $180,000 cost if it were cancelled. With the festival going ahead, deficit numbers were expected to be around $20,000, he added.
The $80,000 shortfall includes payments to many local vendors and businesses who have not yet been paid. Mayor Greg Dionne said even though the loan was not approved at council, it may be inevitable in the future.
“When you see the list of private companies and local companies that stepped forward and supplied product to that committee, I do not believe they should be punished,” Dionne said. “They should be paid and if the mechanism is not in place to pay them, we have to put that loan through.”
Financial documents have been revealed to the councillors in camera, or in private, however, Coun. Atkinson argued the documents should be available to the public.
“What’s the rationale for in camera? Embarrassment? Embarrassment is not one of the criteria to put things in camera,” Atkinson argued.
Atkinson and Miller were the only two to oppose the city’s funding for the festival when it was approved earlier this year.
A $15,000 grant was given to Borealis Music Festival by the city including donation of the facility, equipment and volunteer work.
At the time, P.A. Tourism projected to attract up to 15,000 attendees. The actual number of attendees fell far short of that mark reporting approximately 1,200 attendees.
“It’s great that we have new initiatives and we’re willing to take an element of risk in order to facilitate them, but that risk has yet to be mitigated with proper questions being asked at council,” Atkinson said.
Although the deficit from the music festival is a major concern, the current state of tourism in the city is alarming, says Counc. Orr.
“Tourism is the biggest industry in this town,” he said. “We’re sitting here without a functioning tourism. I think that’s pretty bad for the third largest city in the province.”
Council and administration will be reviewing the tourism model and looking into possibilities of reviving the DMF. Dionne says the revisions will not likely be made in time for the 2016 budget.
On Twitter: @khangvnguyen
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