Good news for the City of North Vancouver – and for the region – last week.
The City of North Vancouver is one step closer to building a new National Maritime Centre, thanks to $560,000 in combined funding from Canada’s New Government and the Province of British Columbia. This funding will develop a detailed business plan for a new world-class maritime centre.
The plan will outline a public-private partnership that would see the Centre being built on the North Vancouver’s waterfront, making it a focal point for the west coast maritime community. The Centre would combine learning, trade show and conference facilities with maritime exhibits and amenities such as restaurants and retail shops … and would be self-sustaining through revenues generated from its retail outlets and rental fees.
It would also help to develop a skilled workforce to support the Asia Pacific Gateway Initiative industries through the Centre’s industry training and resource centre.
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While it still has some way to go, the idea of the centre has been around for years. And you won’t be surprised to hear that it has had strong support, both personal and political, from local representatives, particularly Councillor Bob Fearnley (above), Mayor Darrell Mussatto (above left) and MLA Katherine Whittred.
There already is, of course, a Martime Museum, located on Vanier Point in the City of Vancouver. And that’s been part of the problem: how to relocate a museum in the wrong place with no hope of expansion, underfunded and underappreciated, to another jurisdiction. Finally things are coming together (currently being stick-handled by Jennifer Clarke, a previous City of Vancouver councillor.)
Why is this just such a good idea? Aside from the obvious – locating a maritime centre in a place with maritime history and a working port, with easy transit access by SeaBus, next to a thriving market and town centre, incorporating job training and showcasing our martime industries – this is also a major step in regionalizing ‘culture.’
The problem, you see, is that almost all the significant cultural institutions in the region are concentrated in Vancouver, and the city, which owns the buildings, is also expected to fund the operations and organizations which use them. From the Art Gallery to the Opera, the load is being carried by only a quarter of the people in the region. The other 20 municipalities fund their own small facilities, and contribute some loose change to a GVRD fund, but otherwise are very happy to take advantage of Vancouver’s largesse without having to tax their own citizens.
More than that, the region never speaks with one voice on its cultural priorities. As a result, provincial and federal governments make no major contributions either, able to show up with a small cheque every so often in individual ridings, and instead devote disproportionate amounts of money to those who have their act together in Ontario and Quebec. We bitch, of course, but do little about it at our end.
The National Maritme Centre moves a major cultural facility out of Vancouver, to a place with a higher profile and a mechanism for ongoing funding. North Van City is more likely to be an ally with Vancouver for a regional approach to planning and promoting our cultural institutions.
Now we have to move the Vancouver Museum off Vanier Point, too. How about Surrey City Centre for a new regional facility, with a presence in downtown Vancouver?