In a 15-1 decision on Tuesday, the Halifax Regional Council confirmed a quarter million in funding for The Bus Stop Theatre Cooperative to help purchase its building and land on Gottingen Street.
“More than anything else, it is a sigh of relief that the money is finally confirmed,” says the Bus Stop’s executive director Sébastien Labelle by telephone. “The almost unanimous support for the funding was a huge relief for us.”
The sole vote against the funding came from District 13 Councillor Matt Whitman. “I don’t think spending $250k on a privately owned building is a wise investment or a priority,” says Whitman in an email.
With the purchase of the building largely dependent on government financing, Labelle says the Halifax Regional Council funding will help the process at the federal and provincial levels. He also says it is a huge step forward in demonstrating just how serious they are with potential funding partners in raising the $1.2 million to purchase the building and land before a 2020 summer deadline.
“Our application to Heritage Canada couldn’t be processed until now because the eligibility for the cultural spaces fund needed to have 66% of funding in place. We were not at that threshold until now,” says Labelle.
Along with the Halifax council funding, the Bus Stop has raised over $140,000 from private-sector donations, through fundraising and in low-interest loan approvals. Adding the potential Canadian Heritage funding to the mix took them to the magic 66% requirement.
Labelle says he has received mixed messages from sources in the federal government about the Canadian Heritage funding. “I have heard that they are just waiting to approve the funding but also that these things take time, and the appointment of a new Minister of Canadian Heritage could delay our application,” he says. “Honestly, I don’t know how long it will take. It could be next week or several months.”
Provincial funding is another big piece to the Bus Stop plan. While Labelle says they have had positive communications with the Nova Scotia Department of Communities, Culture and Heritage, they are still waiting to hear back on any commitment. “I know the legislature will be sitting soon, so we are hopeful a decision will come around that time,” he says. “The money from the province can’t be used to fund the purchase but can fund renovations, so it is not as time-sensitive.”
Despite the additional hurdles still in front of them, Labelle remains positive. “I don’t’ want to jinx it, but I do feel pretty confident at this point,” he says. “It isn’t so much a matter if it will happen, but a matter how much debt repayment we will have to budget for once we are there.”
The ratio of debt is an essential aspect for both the building purchase and for the continued success of the Bus Stop. “The more money we get from the government and private partners in terms of non-payable grants and donations will minimize our need for loans and mortgages,” he says. “The more funding we receive before our closing date, the better off we will be as an organization to reinvest and keep growing.”