Sure Sign of Spring: Budget 2014

It may still look like winter here in Newfoundland and Labrador, but I’m confident that spring has finally arrived. How can I be sure? Well, the kittiwakes have returned, the eider ducks are moving north, and last Thursday, government presented the Provincial Budget. Titled Shared Prosperity, Fair Society, Balanced Outlook, the 2014 budget is intended to reflect the priorities of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians while also maintaining the Provincial Government’s commitment to strong fiscal management. 

What does this mean for heritage? Not a whole lot. Funding to the Cultural Economic Development Program remains untouched and operating budgets for the Rooms, Provincial Historic Sites and the Heritage Foundation remain intact. Not exactly fodder for a gripping blog post, but compared to the trauma and drama wreaked by last year’s budget (remember the $1 million dollar cut to the Rooms operating budget and resulting job losses?) we think these are  all good things. 

The one noteworthy point is the more than $1 million of funding to implement components of a new multi-year development plan for Provincial Historic Sites. Just $175,000 of that total amount has been allocated for 2014/15, with the remainder spread out over the next three years. The majority of this year’s funding will go towards maintenance and upgrades at the Heart’s Content and Point Amour sites. 

I’d never heard of the Provincial Historic Sites Development Plan, so I contacted the good folks at PHS for some additional details. Here’s what I found out. The Plan is an internal document that includes a prioritized maintenance strategy which is updated annually to reflect changes in priorities and unexpected maintenance emergencies like hurricane or flood damage. It doesn’t sound like it’s the long-term, proactive maintenance plan that AHI has been advocating, but at least it’s a solid step in the right direction. 

Somewhat surprisingly, the budget did not include significant details regarding funding for the “many initiatives” planned as part of the province’s First World War commemorations. Government did announce that it is funding 150 young people to join veterans at the Newfoundland and Labrador memorials in Europe. 

On a non-heritage note, Budget 2014 also included an investment in the existing Provincial Inclusion Grants Program (currently administered by the Department of Advanced Education and Skills), which helps non-profit community organizations make their facilities and events more accessible to persons with disabilities. Could this program be used to make exhibits and heritage programming more accessible? Hmmmm .... something worth looking into. 

Finally, with much talk of government returning to surplus in 2015/16 and a provincial election on the horizon, perhaps it’s time we started thinking about how heritage might share in the bounty. I’m not talking about what we want, but how we might justify our ask for increased funding for heritage. Is it time our sector started seriously documenting our activities and their impact in ways that move beyond simply ticking a box on a funding form? Just putting it out there.