Just weeks before it was set to start, the annual Multicultural Festival has been cancelled in light of a slew of financial troubles
A board member says the event, which was supposed to kick off on June 17, as the Multicultural Association of Nova Scotia goes through a transition, dealing with financial problems and moving offices.
Debbie Phinney said the board is meeting throughout the week to determine what happens next, but says she hopes they will be able to reschedule the festival for later this year.
The Seaport Market, which usually facilitates the event, also confirmed Monday that a booking has not been made for the festival.
The cancellation wasn’t communicated to at least one of the vendors, who has already paid for a booth.
Ingrid Dunsworth’s bakery has had a booth at the festival every year since 2010 and she had already paid roughly $1000 for this year’s festival.
“I would love to have my money back, but realistically in a situation like this how can I get my money back?” she said Monday.
“They’re hiding, it’s not the way to do this.”
Phinney says the board is hoping to get the contact information for any vendors and entertainers who had already booked with the festival, in order to let them know about the cancellation.
Cancelled festival received taxpayer money
The festival is the multicultural association’s marquee event, attracting more than 36,000 people in 2014, and an estimated 41,000 in 2015. The association was cut off from its main source of government funding last year by the communities, culture and heritage department.
In the last four years, it’s been granted more than $60,000 from the department. However, only $30,000 of the disbursement was given last year before the department cut the funding.
“The department was, and still is, awaiting required financial information as part of our due diligence,” spokesperson Krista Higdon said.
Labour and Advanced Education also gave funding through its Job Creation Partnership program over the last few years, spokesperson Andrew Preeper said.
The association received $6,320 from that department for the current budget year. The funding is for 15 weeks of work experience for eight participants who were to help “plan, develop, and organize events as part of the organization’s 32nd annual Multicultural Festival,” Preeper said.
The funding was still provided because it was not for operational use, Preeper said. He said the purpose of the funding was fulfilled, but its not clear how that was done given that the events been cancelled.
Former board president John Danch told Global News the association was in rough waters financially when he was president in 2009.
“I am not one bit surprised or shocked at them going down the tube,” he said.
The Halifax Regional Municipality also gave the association grants for the festival in the last few years, spokesperson Brendan Elliott said. For each of the last two years it received $25,000 in grants. However, so far no money has been given this year.
Former festival sponsor sued association
The Royal Bank of Canada sponsored the festival from 2008-2013, but it pulled support and is suing the association for unpaid bills.
Court documents filed at Nova Scotia Supreme Court show the association’s agent, Mohamed Ifthikhar Illyas was served with papers in January notifying him of the lawsuit. Spokesperson Lori Smith declined to explain why the sponsorship ended but says the bank was “very proud to partner with the Multicultural Festival.”
Phinney said the association’s board will have more to say about its finances and its transition later this week. Despite numerous attempts, Global News was not able to contact Illyas.
Dunsworth says she hopes the festival will somehow still take place on June 17, as planned. Her bakery, The Cake Lady, had already ordered supplies and booked staff for the festival.
“We have to find a way to get this going, we have still four weeks,” she said.