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Cabinet minister Lana Popham reveals that she’ll know within a couple of weeks if Vancouver Folk Music Festival will continue

Lana Popham and Janet Austin
On December 7, Lieut.-Gov. Janet Austin (right) swore in Lana Popham the minister responsible for tourism, arts, culture and sport.

Could the Vancouver Folk Music Festival be revived at Jericho Beach Park? Tourism, Arts, Culture and Sport Minister Lana Popham hinted at this possibility in the B.C. legislature.

“A couple of weeks ago, we announced $30 million to save fairs, festivals and events,” Popham said during a March 9 debate on her ministry’s estimated budget. “The Vancouver Folk Festival was one of the ones that received funding last year with a $30-million announcement, and I know they’ve applied for funding this year.

“Whether or not they’re able to continue on and have a festival is yet to be seen,” the minister added, according to the draft Hansard transcript “We should be hearing about that in the next couple of weeks.”

In January, Vancouver Folk Music Festival Society directors announced the cancellation of the 45-year-old event. They cited much higher event-related costs. In addition, directors said that suppliers are also demanding up-front payments before ticket revenue had been collected.

In early February, directors released detailed financial information. This followed an online town hall with members. Subsequently, directors rescinded a motion to dissolve the society.

Jericho Beach Park is in Vancouver-Point Grey. Premier David Eby represents this constituency In the legislature.

Popham acknowledged in the debate that many festivals, fairs, and events cannot use the same business plan as in previous years.

“But we did get a lot of great feedback that people wanted the joy back in the province,” the minister said. “So, this was a bit of a joy fund.”

Clayton Wong photo
Vancouver Folk Music Festival Society financial statements show more than $1.9 million in revenues in 2022. Photo by Clayton Wong.

Popham speaks about South Asian museum

The minister also addressed the timeline for a South Asian museum.

Next month, she said, there will be a roundtable discussion in Surrey. This will build on the work by the South Asian Studies Institute.

However in the legislature, the B.C. Liberal critic for multiculturalism, anti-racism initiatives, arts, and culture questioned the museum’s progress. Teresa Wat pointed out that back in October 2020, Surrey-Panorama MLA Jinny Sims had said that there would be wide-ranging consultation with the South Asian community.

“But now, it’s 2023,” Wat said. “I’m glad that next month there will be a roundtable. I’m just wonder how come more than two years have passed. And we still haven’t started a consultation yet.”

Popham replied that the pandemic has caused delays.

“We would have loved to have hit the ground running two years ago, but it just was not possible,” the minister declared. “But now, we’re off and running.”

That prompted Wat to ask if the project is on track to open by 2024 or 2025. She noted that the former minister, Melanie Mark, suggested this in 2021.

Popham responded by saying she needs to know what the community wants before commenting on timelines.

Moreover, Popham said that it took “five long years” to develop the Chinese Canadian Museum. It will open this year. In that case, she pointed out that there was already a building.

“So, we don’t know if there is a requirement for a new building or to take over a building,” Popham said in reference to the South Asian museum. “There are so may different points along the way that will help us define the outcome and the length of time it will take.”

Mable Elmore by Charlie Smith
NDP MLA Mable Elmore spoke to Pancouver last year about a provincial Filipino Cultural Centre.

Filipino cultural centre in very early stages

Meanwhile, Wat described the proposed provincial Filipino cultural centre as “another exciting project”.

Then, the B.C. Liberal MLA cited a Pancouver interview with the parliamentary secretary for anti-racism initiatives, Mable Elmore, who mentioned working with Mabuhay House Society.

“Will this society be receiving funding from the government and then the donors will contribute, in order to create and manage this project?” Wat asked the minister.

Popham replied that preliminary discussions have take place but nothing has been decided. The minister emphasized that this project is at an even earlier stage than the South Asian museum.

“We really need to connect with the community,” Popham said. “We need to connect with the society. But we need to understand the work that’s already been done by the society as well. They might be farther along than we know. But that work is going to start over the next few weeks.”

In a follow-up question, Wat revealed that one of the society’s directors is a former government employee—without identifying this person by name. In addition, Wat said in the legislature that the society was formed in October 2021. She also noted that the mandate letter calling upon the minister to work in consultation with the community on this project was dated December 7, 2022.

Popham replied that subsequent to receiving her mandate letter, her staff reached out to the society.

“They didn’t reach out to us; we reached out to them,” the minister stated.

Wat then asked if the society has complied with the Lobbyists Transparency Act, which requires former government staff not to lobby for two years.

Popham responded that she would take the question on notice.

Follow Charlie Smith on Twitter @charliesmithvcr. Follow Pancouver on Twitter @PancouverMedia.

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Charlie Smith

Charlie Smith

Pancouver editor Charlie Smith has worked as a Vancouver journalist in print, radio, and television for more than three decades.

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We would like to acknowledge that we are gathered on the traditional and unceded territories of the Coast Salish peoples of the xʷməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish), and Səl̓ílwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations. With this acknowledgement, we thank the Indigenous peoples who still live on and care for this land.