Re Music Yukon Indebted To Government published in the August 25 Yukon News:
It is very unfortunate that many people who looked at this article may have already formed a negative opinion of Mark Smith and his work at Music Yukon.
The article credits acting executive director Steve Gedrose as saying, “Past director Mark Smith had been mismanaging funds and the board of directors hadn’t noticed.”
These statements are misleading and point the finger solely at Smith, who was handling a very poorly designed funding model.
You can only manage what you are given, and in that regard Smith was trying to do what the board and government asked him to do, which was, “Manage this.” But “this” was broken, and Smith communicated it to the board on many occasions.
One of the main problems with cash flow was due to the nature of contribution agreements, in which we were to come up with a percentage of the capital needed and were unable to consistently do so, and it was also due to often extremely protracted payment processes of governmental and national funding bodies.
Myself, as Music Yukon president, and Smith met with the government several times over the past couple of years in attempts to describe the nature of the problem and to seek solutions to it.
Since we were a nonprofit organization, we felt that core funding was the only viable solution to the problem. We were always told the same thing: “Government doesn’t like core funding Ã you’ll have to look somewhere else.”
Every step taken in order for Music Yukon to survive as an organization at the time appeared acceptable to both the board of directors and the government.
Right up until the time Smith retired, the results from his work continued to be impressive and we (the board working with the government) didn’t deal with the core problem, which faced the organization.
I watched as Smith elbowed his way into meetings and cried the song of the Yukon and demanded equal stature for the Yukon and its artists with the “big boy provinces” who were continually downplaying the Yukon as a “cute little northern territory.”
Work is still underway to bring the Western Canadian Music Awards to the Yukon.
This event alone is estimated to bring $3 million to the Yukon economy, and is only one of the many brilliant things Smith spearheaded in his time as Music Yukon’s executive director.
When Smith retired, Gedrose, who was an active board member, took over the job as acting executive director, took one look at the model from which we had been working for the past 11 years and said, “We can’t do this anymore.”
The first rule one should follow when you find yourself in a hole is Ã stop digging. A decision was made to not continue on with the project funding that was currently granted and this resulted in no more project funding advances coming in.
Finances quickly came to a head until we found ourselves in the situation that has been widely reported over the past week or so.
After a financial review that was conducted by the government and Music Yukon Ã with Smith’s full co-operation Ã it was concluded that the responsibility of debt lies with the organization, and not with the former executive director.
The government, through the Yukon Film and Sound Commission, has now agreed it is indeed a situation that needs to be examined and restructured, both the way Music Yukon operates and the funding arrangements made to the industry on behalf of Yukon recording artists.
A thorough analysis is underway to see if an organization like Music Yukon is actually needed and/or if it is a prudent expenditure of public money.
Music Yukon welcomes this examination.
The board of directors is committed to honoring its responsibility and to repaying the Yukon government. We are working on ways to do that with the government at this time and, together, we will come up with the best solutions possible to avoid anything like this from happening again.
Grant Simpson, acting president