Summary of the evaluation of the Harbourfront Centre Funding Program 2014-15 to 2017-18

Period from 2014-15 to 2017-18
Evaluation Services Directorate
September 14, 2018

Cette publication est aussi disponible en français.

©Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada, 2018.
Catalogue No.: CH24-49/2018E-PDF
ISBN: 978-0-660-27744-8

On this page

List of acronyms and abbreviations

Gender-based analysis plus
Harbourfront Centre
Harbourfront Centre Funding Program
Department of Canadian Heritage
Registered Retirement Savings Plan


The Harbourfront Centre Funding Program (HCFP) was initiated in 2006 to provide operating funding to the Harbourfront Centre (HC). The HC is a non-profit cultural organization which provides internationally renowned programming in the arts, culture, education and recreation. It is located on a 10-acre site in the heart of Toronto’s downtown waterfront.

The Harbourfront Centre Funding Program (HCFP) is a contribution of $5 million dollars that serves to cover operating costs annually, facilitates the HC’s ability to leverage funds from other Government sources and provides the general public with access to cultural, educational, and recreational programs and activities.

The $31.2 million of Harbourfront Centre’s revenues are distributed as such: 16% from HCFP; 4% (approximately) from other Canadian Heritage program funds; and 80% from other combined revenue sources.

The HCFP funds are key to supporting operational costs like:

  • salaries and benefits;
  • site operating costs;
  • capital assets;
  • administrative costs;
  • marketing and sponsorship.


The HCFP addresses a continued need for providing support to the HC and is aligned with PCH core responsibilities and the federal government’s roles and responsibilities related to arts and culture.

Harbourfront Centre by the numbers

  • 17 million visitors annually;
  • 4,200 events annually;
  • 70% of events annually are free;
  • Budget in 2017 was $31.2 million dollars.

HCFP Considerations

HC cannot maintain its current infrastructure and deliver its planned current level of programming with its current revenues, including those from HCFP at $5 million. The HCFP Business Case (2010-24) forecasts that, if properly indexed to inflation, the HCFP contribution would be equivalent to $6.1 million a year.


HC could not function without the HCFP. HC would have to generate $11 million in incremental gross revenues to replace the $5 million in HCFP support.

Without HCFP funding, there would be increased charges for programming, decreased staffing and venue closures.

HC Commercial Revenue

  • $3.27 million from parking;
  • $2.39 million from the marina;
  • $2.30 million from the camps.

The increases in HC revenue have been offset by increased costs to maintain the site and decreased sponsorships and donations.

Nevertheless, HC has instituted cost cutting measures such as:

  • cut 12 jobs and frozen wages;
  • reduction in RRSP contributions;
  • reduction in short-term disability benefits;
  • reduction in insurance costs.


Deficit was $265,000 in 2014 and $2.4 million in 2017. This is due partially from decreased sponsorships and donations and the increased costs of maintenance.

Deferred Capital Costs

HC currently has $15 million in deferred capital costs. This does not include maintenance and repairs, which would bring the total to $17.5 million.

$3.4 million out of the HCFP $5 million was spent on maintenance.

HC’s contribution to the Toronto Waterfront

Over $1 million is spent annually on hiring over 1000 artists, many of whom are local.

HC contributes to galleries, festivals, arts and culture events, artists in residence, school visits, summer camps and other recreational activities.

HC employs 120 full-time staff, 170 part-time and 350 seasonal, complemented by 800 volunteers.


HC has met its official languages requirements as outlined in its Contribution Agreement.

GBA+ values and principles are included in HC programming but are not explicitly reported against or measured.


Adequate resources and management practices were used to deliver HCFP.

Increase the duration of the HCFP contribution agreement from 3 to 5 years

Interviews indicated that the shorter 3-year funding term was not as efficient as the longer 5-year term; planning and application process is a high-effort activity and its frequency detracts from other management responsibilities.


The Senior Assistant Deputy Minister of the Cultural Affairs Sector should:

  1. Develop and implement a reporting framework with realistic and reportable benchmarks for the HCFP. This framework would serve to measure and track the organization’s long-term sustainability strategy, including its deferred maintenance pressures, as well as inform senior management decision-making moving forward.
  2. Develop gender-based analysis plus (GBA+) indicators for HCFP and ensure its collection, monitoring and reporting to inform policy and program adjustments.

Page details

Date modified: