$15M commitment for Inuit Art Centre still in limbo, but Manitoba minister promises answer soon

The shovels are already in the ground on Memorial Boulevard, but one $15-million question looms: will the Manitoba government fund the new Inuit Art Centre or not?

NDP MLA Ted Marcelino raised that question Wednesday at the legislature. He said the Pallister government notified the Winnipeg Art Gallery it would know by the end of August whether to expect $15 million in funding previously committed for the project by the NDP.

“It’s now December,” Marcelino said.

The WAG holds the world’s largest public collection of Inuit art — more than 13,000 pieces — which are to be put on display in the upcoming $60-million centre

In November 2015, the previous NDP government committed $15 million toward the construction of the center at the WAG. The federal government offered up $15 million in 2016, while the City of Winnipeg says it will put up $5 million.

Cathy Cox became the new minister of culture, sport and heritage in August, taking over from former minister Rochelle Squires and inheriting the Inuit Art Centre funding decision.

“It does take a bit of time to get caught up,” Cox said.

Brian Pallister’s PC government placed most funding commitments under review after ousting the NDP from power in April 2016.

Cox said Wednesday the province expects to decide by year’s end whether to honour the previous funding pledge.

“We continue to have those discussions with the Winnipeg Art Gallery,” Cox said. “I hope to have an answer for you by the end of this year.”

NDP Leader Wab Kinew said he finds it odd the Tories would delay the decision until the end of the month.

“It seems like they’re setting the stage for a cut,” Kinew said.

The WAG declined to comment on whether the loss of $15 million in provincial funding could jeopardize the project.

“The Winnipeg Art Gallery is pleased to hear a decision is pending and we look forward to hearing from Minister Cox,” WAG director and CEO Stephen Borys said in a statement.

The Inuit Art Centre has been touted as a potential tourism magnet and an important cultural facility for Nunavut.

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