Archived Letter – 433

Dear Editor: It seems outrageous to me that the future of the Fergus Scottish Festival should be in jeopardy. An event which has been a proud part of our community for 67 years. One which is recognized as the largest of its kind outside of Scotland. An event which, in 2010, earned a highly competitive Celebrate Ontario grant from the provincial Ministry of Tourism and Culture. In their letters of congratulation, Liz Sandals and Minister of Tourism Michael Chan both made reference to how the McGuinty government understands the importance of festivals and events to Ontarios prosperity, culture and quality of life. Liz Sandals is quoted as saying, that when we invest in our festivals and events we are also helping boost business for our local hotels, restaurants, and other attractions. Im sure that local businesses would agree that the Highland Games generate significant revenue for our community. It is also an event which, in 2011, received Federal funding from the Heritage Departments Building Communities Through Arts and Heritage program to help further enhance the Festival. And so why are the Games being threatened? Largely, because the taxman is reaching into the Board’s sporran to claw out a few more tax dollars. The Canada Revenue Agency determined that the Games are no longer an Amateur Athletic Event and, as such, are now subject to 13% tax on all revenue. Wait a minute I thought the government had agreed that it was an important heritage festival. Now its being deemed a Professional Athletic Event? Apparently, because the Festival Board of Directors and countless volunteers have done such a fantastic job of creating a world class heritage and cultural event, they will now be penalized by having to pay taxes. The entertainment value has become too high. Competitors vie for purse prizes. Im sure the kids in the highland dance competition are earning quite the prize money. And, its highly likely that the competitors in the heavy events dont need to have a real job to supplement the pursuit of their sport. This decision indicates a lack of communication between different government departments. On one hand, the Festival has earned grants to promote and grow the event. And, on the other hand, it might be taxed out of existence. And, if this isnt bad enough, the decision is retroactive! Suddenly they owe $78000!! How could the Board possibly budget for this? How is this fair? But, if they dare to challenge this assessment, they are threatened with the possibility of going back five years! What an excellent bullying tactic take this or it could be a lot worse for you!! What choice does a non-profit organization have? And so, the Board is issuing an appeal for financial support from the community. Which is understandable. But, I also issue an appeal to Ted Arnott and Michael Chong to stand up for an event which both levels of government claim to value. Please advocate on our behalf to reverse the questionable decision of the taxman. This is not a professional athletic event! This is not the Bluejays or the Leafs. This is our heritage. Kim Gordon

Kim Gordon