Thursday, January 18, 2007

Meeting with the Minister

Today I met with the Minister of Community and Cultural Affairs, Elmer MacFadyen, the Deputy Minister Ron MacMillan, and the Director of Culture, Heritage and Libraries, Harry Holman.

Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of the meeting was the level of engagement from the Minister. While I am sure he was thoroughly briefed in advance, there is little doubt that this level of engagement is a stark improvement from past meetings.

I’d like to think that part of the change is due to the increasingly collaborative stance that we are taking, and part of it due to the degree of organizational change that has occurred over the past few years. It is easy to be dismissive of an organization that is unsound or troubled; harder to be dismissive of an organization that is growing and thriving.

What is clear to me is that the Department was interested in our Community Consultations and the report (to be released Friday) and is supportive of our activities. The question remains – how much of that support can be converted from good-will to dollars. Ultimately, an increased investment will lead to the programs so desperately needed by the Islands arts community - and as articulated in the report.

Towards the end of the meeting, we had the opportunity to table a project we’d been working on independently, for a training and export mission(s) for Visual Arts. For this projects funding, we’d been seeking support from Foreign Affairs, PEI Business Development, and ACOA - not Community and Cultural Affairs. It was noted at the meeting that, ideally, funds for the project should come from CCA, but those funds apparently do not exist. Indeed, the Minister did offer to advocate for the project where and when possible.

The meeting ended cordially, and had been friendly throughout. The Minister made statements to the effect that there was little money available. We made statements to the effect of our intention to make the case, and ask for some, nonetheless.

So, at the end of the day, are we poorly funded by a Ministry that is poorly funded (at least in the culture components)? Perhaps yes. If so, all the more reason to continue to reach out to the community and to government at all levels.