AFTER promising that help was on the way for B.C.’s struggling cultural festivals and attractions, Premier John Horgan on Wednesday faced criticism from Surrey-White Rock MLA Trevor Halford who demanded to know why the NDP government excluded important cultural festivals, like the Vaisakhi festival, from being eligible for relief funding as part of its new Major Anchor Attractions Program.
“It’s troubling that John Horgan and the NDP don’t consider Surrey’s Vaisakhi festival, the largest Vaisakhi celebration of its kind in North America, to be a major community event worthy of relief funding should they want to apply,” said Halford.
“Vaisakhi has been cancelled twice now. With gurdwaras closed for services and unable to host events for many months, the usual community donations to help fund Vaisakhi celebrations haven’t been coming in. We need to ensure that it can come back stronger than ever after the pandemic, yet the NDP are nowhere to be found on this issue. John Horgan and the NDP need to step up and ensure this vital community event is not excluded from accessing the support it may need to return once we are through the pandemic.”
The BC Liberals also criticized the government for not including the Richmond Night Market for tourism relief funding.
“The Richmond Night Market has been the anchor summer attraction in the City of Richmond for the past 20 years,” said Teresa Wat, MLA for Richmond North Centre and Opposition Critic for Tourism, Arts and Culture. “To exclude them from a grant program designed to support major attractions simply because they are a festival or event goes against the whole purpose of this grant in the first place. The Richmond NDP MLAs have been missing in action when it comes to helping the Richmond Night Market.”
In August, the Richmond Night Market asked the NDP for support. Organizers had to scrap $80,000 worth of memorabilia and were on the hook for a monthly lease of $65,000. In the nine months since they asked for help, that would total $585,000 in lease payments.
“This funding could help us survive a little longer, and hopefully this summer we can reopen and rebuild our business,” said Richmond Night Market founder and organizer Raymond Cheung. “Our government needs to understand that many attractions like PNE and the Night Market cannot afford to close for another season.”