A Green MLA says the province did not give adequate notice that publicly funded road crews would not be allowed to staff the Rock the Boat festival in Tyne Valley.
Tyne Valley-Sherbrooke MLA Trish Altass raised the issue in question period on Wednesday afternoon. She said the festival is operated as a not-for-profit venture, and that proceeds fund several local charities in the community.
“After months of questions to government about support to this month's festival, the organizers received no answers and only learned that government had pulled their support when they were contacted by media," Altass said, referring to a previous CBC story.
In response, Transportation Minister Steven Myers said this was untrue. He said he had sent a letter to organizers on June 12 informing them that publicly funded crews would be unavailable this year. The letter also stated the province would provide other assistance to organizers, such as the use of a snow fence and assistance with fixing signage.
“If I can’t afford to do it for everybody, I can’t afford to do it for anybody."
Transportation Minister Steven Myers
Myers said the Rock the Boat festival had received $40,000 in in-kind donations from the province. He said allowing the festival to use the road crews for set-up and tear-down of the festival would have entailed a cost of between $8,000 and $9,000. He said his direction as minister was to use ensure staff prioritized the repairs of Island roads.
He also said most other summer music festivals are not staffed by public road crews.
“If I can’t afford to do it for everybody, I can’t afford to do it for anybody,” Myers told the legislature on Wednesday.
In an interview with The Guardian, Myers said he was not aware of a specific policy about the use of public road employees for staffing festivals. Despite this, Myers said Rock the Boat Festival requested a road crew for a period of 10 days, while the Cavendish Beach Music Festival, a for-profit festival, requested the use of mutiple road crews for a period of six days.
Altass said the short notice from the province may mean the Rock the Boat festival has fewer dollars available to donate to local community charities.
“At this late stage, the timing is extremely problematic,” Altass said.