These days, false information can spread faster than the curtain falls at a Western Canada Theatre performance.
As such, Kamloops city council has indicated a need to quell misinformation in advance of a April 4 referendum that will ask voters for approval to borrow up to $45 million to build the proposed Kamloops Centre for the Arts.
Leading up to the referendum, Kamloops This Week will fact check online comments and reader queries to help set the record straight.
Find our Arts Centre Fact Checker in this and future editions of KTW and online at kamloopsthisweek.com. If you have a claim/question related to Kamloops Centre for the Arts you would like checked, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
It appears some Kamloops residents believe the city should focus spending on priorities other than building an arts centre. Some other places residents have suggested they would like to see their tax dollars go to fixing potholes and road maintenance, a third bridge crossing, degrading infrastructure and the homelessness situation.
Therefore, the first topic that will be examined via KTW’s Arts Centre Fact Checker is that of “other priorities.”
We posed questions to the city about why the arts centre has been prioritized and what happens to the proposed $45 million if it is not used on an arts centre.
Would it be spent elsewhere in the city? If so, on what? If not, why not? The questions below were asked by KTW and the answers were provided by city staff:
Q: Why has the arts centre been prioritized?
A: The development of the Kamloops Centre for the Arts is a significant opportunity to grow a market where demand currently exceeds the available supply of venues. Kamloops often misses opportunities to host a touring group, conference, artist or event as there is not a venue suitable or available for the requested dates. Many of these opportunities choose to bypass Kamloops and move on to Vernon, Kelowna or Penticton. These events would draw customers to the many hotels and restaurants in the city and provide economic and employment opportunities for people living in Kamloops.
Q: What happens to the proposed $45 million if it is not used on an arts centre?
A: The city would not have approval to borrow this money for other projects either, so there is no immediate alternative to spend the money elsewhere.
Q: Why can’t the money be spent elsewhere in the city?
A: The referendum states that the up to $45 million is to be used for a centre for the arts. If approved, the legislation requires the city to spend the money on this type of project. If the referendum fails, there is no borrowed money to spend.
Q: Some have suggested other priorities they feel should be funded prior to a Kamloops Centre for the Arts. Some ideas include potholes and road maintenance, a third bridge crossing, degrading infrastructure and the homelessness situation. Should the city not deal with those first?
A: Within city limits, there are many activities and assets that are not owned by, or the responsibility of, the municipal government. While the city cares about these activities and assets, they are not things the city can use tax dollars to address, as there are other governments responsible for them. For example, the Red Bridge and the Halston Bridge are the responsibility of the provincial government, the hospital is funded through the hospital board and the province (not the city). Currently, the city has strong community relationships to support the social needs within Kamloops. The overall funding of health and housing initiatives are the responsibility of the provincial government. The city is a partner and has contributed land to assist in the creating of more affordable housing and social programs.
Q: Many user groups need space. Why fund an arts centre for Western Canada Theatre and Kamloops Symphony Orchestra?
A: The Kamloops Centre for the Arts would not only serve the Western Canada Theatre Company and Kamloops Symphony — it would also be available for schools, local dance and choral performances, local and visiting performers and graduations and provide an opportunity to create community within this new space. These events would draw customers to the many hotels and restaurants in the city and provide economic and employment opportunities for people living in Kamloops. The annex building — donated by Mr. Ron Fawcett — would house the administrative offices for the WCT and KSO, as well as offer significant rehearsal and meeting space to be used by many groups within the community.
Q: Why shouldn’t users fund it themselves?
A: Taxpayers in Kamloops support all of our city-owned venues, including arenas, pools, sports fields, the Tournament Capital Centre and parks. As a community, we embrace and support the diverse interests that make our city livable for all. While this venue will provide an opportunity for those interested in the arts, it is also well recognized in the business case that the facility will be used for many community events that are not specifically connected to cultural user groups. The 2019–2022 Council Strategic Plan identifies livability as one of the four strategic priorities, stating the City of Kamloops maintains a vibrant, high quality of life for an inclusive, healthy and diverse community.