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Province to take second look at funding for Beaches Jazz Festival

WATCH ABOVE: The Beaches International Jazz Festival has been denied a provincial grant it has received in the past. But the province is still looking at ways it can help. Carey Marsden reports.

This post has been updated to add responses from the Minister of Tourism and Culture and the office of the Premier.

TORONTO — The organizer of Canada’s largest free jazz festival is warning of “drastic” changes to the event after losing provincial support.

Lido Chilelli, executive director of the Beaches International Jazz Festival, said he was informed on March 13 that the festival will not receive a Celebrate Ontario grant this year.

“I was shocked,” Chilelli told Global News.

The summer festival, which attracted an estimated 500,000 people last year, received $75,000 from the Celebrate Ontario program in each of the last six years.

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Chilelli said the funds represent about 20 per cent of the festival’s overall budget.

He said his team is scrambling to alter plans to expand the festival this year. It runs July 18 to 27.

“We’re going to have to scale down the festival to what it was about 10 years ago,” said Chilelli.

Plans for four stages at Woodbine Park on two weekends will be scrapped.

WATCH:¬†Ontario’s Minister of Tourism and Culture Michael Chan address funding for Beaches Jazz Festival.

“We can only do one stage per weekend,” he explained, adding tentative deals with headline performers will be cancelled.

“The future of the festival is definitely in question because we rely on government support and corporate sponsorship because it’s a free festival,” said Chilelli.

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Beaches-East York MPP Michael Prue said Wednesday he wants Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne to intervene and restore funding to the festival.

“This festival generates $65 million into the Toronto economy and over $30 million of that right in the Beach area,” Prue told MPPs.

A spokesperson for Wynne told Global News late Thursday the premier recognizes it is an important event and is looking at ways to support the festival through other programs.

Chilelli said several jazz festivals in the province received Celebrate Ontario grants this year.

Among them are the TD Toronto Jazz Festival, which received a little over $280,000, and Jazz On The Mountain At Blue in Collingwood, which got $75,000.

Ontario’s Minister of Tourism and Culture Michael Chan told reporters at Queen’s Park the Celebrate Ontario program received about $35 million in requests this year yet can only grant a little under $20 million.

Chan said his ministry will contact festival organizers to see what can be done.

– with files by Carey Marsden / Global News

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