Let’s be realistic here, the idea of spending $150,000 of taxpayers’ money to host a mass yoga event on a major city bridge severely lacked optics.
The provincial government abruptly canceled the International Yoga Day event this morning after mounting public backlash over the location, the money spent and the chosen date which coincides with National Aboriginal Day.
Does it really have to be held on a bridge? Last summer, free mass yoga events were held at Stanley Park, Canada Place, Jack Poole Plaza and on the sands of Kitsilano Beach.
It’s one thing to close roads and bridges for running or bike races, but shutting down Burrard Street Bridge – even if it is only for a few hours on a Sunday morning – for people to do yoga is highly unnecessary when such an event could easily be held at more attractive locations such as a large city park.
Arterial roads and bridges should only be shut down if there are no other logistical or site alternatives that do not impede on not just motor vehicle traffic but also transit passengers. Buses are frequently re-routed to the Granville Street Bridge when the Burrard Street Bridge shuts down.
There are already plenty of yoga events and programs in the city, so here are three worthy, existing events that could use a provincial boost.
New Year’s Eve Vancouver
Vancouver is in dire need of a major, public celebration to kick off the New Year and to remind us of our commonalities and heritage. It is an opportunity for community building and fostering civic pride, but the city has been without a proper New Year’s Eve (NYE) event since 2003 when a ticketed event at Granville Island lost its main sponsor and outgrew its venue.
There were plans to host a NYE event at Burrard Landing in downtown Vancouver on December 31, 2014, but organizers were forced to cancel and postpone the event when they were unable to overcome a $100,000 shortfall within their $300,000 budget.
It is unfathomable that a large international city like Vancouver does not have a proper New Year’s Eve bash, even after hosting Expo ’86 and the 2010 Olympic Winter Games.
Instead of a $150,000 taxpayer-funded yoga event on a bridge deck, the provincial government could provide NYE organizers with the necessary seed funding to kickstart this year’s event. This would also allow the event to build a strong foundation for establishing the Vancouver NYE party into an annual civic tradition.
New Year’s Eve is one of the most universally celebrated traditions in the world to the extent that cities around the world host elaborate parties to mark the occasion. A proper celebration is an indicator that we are a global hub for tourists and a great place to live and for businesses to thrive.
Celebration of Lights
Vancouver’s annual summer fireworks festival is the city’s largest and most anticipated annual civic events. Over a span of three days, it attracts over a million people to the area around English Bay and provides local businesses with $37 million in direct visitor spending.
Even with its popularity, the event nearly fizzled out in 2009 when organizers fell short of $400,000 of the $1.5 million needed to host the event.
Not everyone might remember that the summer event used to be a four-day affair, but it was downsized to a three-day festival beginning in 2011 due to continuing issues with securing necessary funding for the scope of the event.
A commitment of $150,000 from the provincial government could go towards returning the festival’s four-day tradition or enhancing the existing three-day model.
The Fair at the PNE
If you have ever wondered why The Fair at the PNE’s attractions and programming are become a bit tired, one of the reasons is that it’s the only major summer fair in North America to not receive a subsidy from taxpayers.
Toronto’s Canadian National Exhibition and the Calgary Stampede receive millions from their respective provincial governments. The Stampede alone receives $10 million in annual funding from the Albertan government.
The last time the PNE received any taxpayer funds was in 2009 when the federal government’s $100-million Marquee Events Funding Program provided the Vancouver fair with $1.4 million in one-time funding.
For nearly 90 years, the PNE grew out of the provincial government’s stewardship before ownership was transferred to the City of Vancouver in 2004.
The Fair costs $17 million to operate on an annual basis and is entirely covered by revenues generated during the Fair period, the PlayLand season and events held on the fairgrounds throughout the year.
Although it runs a small budget surplus, the Fair could arguably use the province’s $150,000 – and much more – to provide a boost in the quality of programming.
Beginning in 2013, organizers cut the Fair’s operational days from 17 days to 15 days in an effort to cut costs and prioritize its resources.
Fairs have traditionally depended on advertising and commercial exhibitions for extra revenue, but revenues from these streams have gradually depleted over the last three decades with the rise of new forms of media.
The Fair’s vitality is important to Metro Vancouver not only within the cultural context but also for its economic impact. It generates $140 million for the local economy every year, plus $25 million in tax revenue and $50 million in wages. In addition, it is one of the region’s largest employers of youth.
Over one million people attend the Fair and PlayLand season annually.