Shuswap MLA Greg Kyllo is wondering whether Armstrong’s Interior Provincial Exhibition (IPE) will be allowed to apply for support through the province’s latest COVID-19 relief stream for tourist attractions.
Premier John Horgan and Tourism Minister Melanie Mark announced funding for B.C. events through the Major Anchor Attractions Program Tuesday, May 18.
But as the BC Liberal deputy whip argued in question period, the eligibility rules around the funding program appear to exclude the IPE — a summer staple in the community for more than 120 years.
“The rules say that you have to be operating year-round, and specifically states that events like the IPE are not even allowed to apply,” Kyllo said. “And we haven’t heard a word from the MLA in Vernon-Monashee about helping this very important festival.”
The IPE pulled the plug on what would have been its 121st annual fair in May 2020, and this past March the fair was again pushed back to 2022 due to ongoing uncertainty around the pandemic.
Kyllo pointed out the Pacific National Exhibition (PNE) in Vancouver, which operates year-round, is allowed to apply for the grant, and asked the government to give clarification on the IPE’s status.
“Can the Premier tell the people of the North Okanagan if the IPE can apply or not.”
In response, Minister Mark didn’t provide Kyllo with a yes-or-no answer but said the festival should still apply for funding through the program.
“Decisions have not been made yet,” she said, regarding grant recipients. “I encourage the member to support the organization to apply.”
Asked for comment, Vernon-Monashee MLA Harwinder Sandhu said the funds are meant to support permanent attractions.
She said her office hasn’t received a request for assistance from the IPE, “though we are more than happy to assist them in finding the supports they need.”
The Major Anchor Attractions Program will provide a one-time emergency grant to help keep attractions running at minimal levels until COVID-19 restrictions on travel and indoor gatherings are eased.
The program has three funding streams: one for major attractions in urban areas, another for those in rural areas and a separate stream for tour bus companies.
Under the program’s rules, seasonal or temporary attractions like the IPE “may be eligible” if they qualify for one of the three streams. Both the rural and urban streams require that the attraction “typically operates year-round.”
‘Turnstile’ attractions in rural communities like Armstrong can receive up to $500,000 in relief.