Saskatoon’s arts community has been snubbed by a federal government initiative in favour of a major trade centre that operates a lucrative casino.
On March 24, Western Economic Diversification announced that four capital projects in Saskatoon would get more than $10-million in federal funding under the Canada Celebrates Saskatchewan program. Among the projects funded were a community theatre facility, a city park expansion and a First Nations park expansion, but the fourth grant—worth $4-million—went to Prairieland Park’s 50,000 square-foot expansion of its trade show and exhibition space. Prairieland Park is a non-profit corporation, but it also operates the Emerald Casino and the Marquis Downs thoroughbred racetrack. The casino is the only one in town and is a major source of revenue for the park.
Meanwhile, one bidder for the WED money—the Mendel Art Gallery—was left empty-handed, despite demonstrated need for upgrades. The MAG offers free admission and is open 364 days a year, but it is housed in a building that was built in 1964 and (according to a Blog This reader) requires renovations to its heating and environmental systems in order to protect the thousands of works on display, including some Group of Seven paintings. The gallery did receive nearly $500,000 in funding from the federal Liberals a year ago, but this amount only covered phase one of renovations.
When it comes to Saskatoon, it seems the federal Conservatives have their priorities backward.