City 'nickel and diming' festivals, Jazz Fest head says

A long-time festival organizer says Ottawa’s special events bylaw is hurting major events.


Catherine O’Grady, executive director of the TD Ottawa Jazz Festival, said she predicted in 2012 that local festivals would be on the hook for things like transit and policing when the bylaw was first discussed.


City staff assured her at the time “that this is not going to cost the festivals any more money,” she said.

Yet, come 2014, “suddenly we had police costs which we’d never had before,” Ms. O’Grady said.

That year, Jazz Fest was asked six weeks before their opening night to pay $17,000 for Ottawa police staff, she said, or risk rejection of their event permit.

Ms. O’Grady said the bylaw targets non-profit festivals that already scrimp to put their shows on.

“Do the barmen down in ByWard Market pay anything extra for all the police that end up swarming the market at 3 a.m.?” Ms. O’Grady said. “Is not everyone entitled to the same amount of service?”

OC Transpo made headlines this spring as it attempted to recoup $200,000 in transit costs from Bluesfest, settling on $100,000.

And this week, Ottawa Asian Festival revealed it must pay $18,000 for extra transit to Lansdowne Park.

“It’s outrageous,” she said. “The nickel and diming of festivals is just going to kill us.”

The city wasn’t immediately available to comment, but OC Transpo’s Pat Scrimgeour said Tuesday that, since Lansdowne opened, all of its events attracting more than 5,000 people must cover extra transit.

Ms. O’Grady said she hopes the festival community can come together to bring a solution to council.

This article originally appeared on on June 1.