Surrey BOT disappointed to be cut out of Bollywood awards action

The Surrey Board of Trade's CEO says she is disappointed that no Times of India Film Awards events have been announced for Surrey.

The Surrey Board of Trade's CEO says she is disappointed that no Times of India Film Awards events have been announced for Surrey.

Anita Huberman endorsed the provincial government's original bid for the International Indian Film Academy (IIFA) awards, which were held in Toronto in 2011. Her letter of support was included in the proposal document to Mumbai-based promoter Wizcraft, but talks broke down over costs for the proposed June 21-23 event.

The BC Liberal government opted to partner instead with the Times of India Group to create the April 4-6 pre-election Times of India Film Awards (TOIFA), announced January 22. The announcement was greeted with controversy as the event is costing B.C. taxpayers more than $11 million.

The BC Lobbyist Registry's February digest includes an entry about the Surrey Board of Trade lobbying the Office of the Premier, Minister of Children and Family Development Stephanie Cadieux (who represents Surrey-Panorama) and Surrey-Tynehead MLA Dave Hayer "regarding the awarding of activities connected with the TOIFA event to the North of Fraser region over the South of Fraser." River Rock Casino Resort in Richmond hosted a TOIFA-sponsored international women's day fashion show on March 2.

"Something should be happening here in Surrey, but nothing is planned," Huberman told Business in Vancouver. "So we're still hopeful [and] our members who are South Asian are also hopeful something will happen in Surrey. We don't have a role in planning for the event."

Huberman's letter of support in the original IIFA bid document said 29% of Surrey's 464,000 population is of South Asian descent. Surrey businesses, she said, ultimately want to make connections with Bollywood film directors and producers to lure them to shoot in Surrey.

She also said she may have to buy her own ticket to the awards.

"I may be invited by someone who has tickets, but right now I haven't received any invitations," Huberman said.

TOIFA spokeswoman Laura Ballance said there may an announcement early next week about the TOIFA film festival and potential Surrey events. The IIFA bid book's proposed events included Strawberry Hill Cinemas in Surrey as a site for film screenings.

The TOIFA awards show is to be broadcast by Sony Television, which has a potential worldwide reach of 300 million. The TOIFA website lists sponsors Thind Properties, Verka Food Products, Gagan Foods International, Fruiticana grocery, Nanak Foods, Saavn online music service and Jus Punjabi TV. TOIFA has no mainstream, national sponsor, unlike the Ontario-government-funded Toronto 2011 IIFA, which counted CIBC as its top domestic sponsor.

Tickets for the BC Place event range from $47 to $1,523.75. Only seats on the floor are available. It has not been announced how many tickets were allotted to the government and sponsors or were available for purchase by the public at full price.

TOIFA has been under greater scrutiny since the NDP tabled a leaked, 17-page BC Liberal Party Multicultural Outreach Strategy that was devised secretly by government aides, contrary to government rules, with hopes of winning ethnic votes in the May 14 election.

Surrey Liberal member Vikram Bajwa called for Premier Christy Clark to resign and issued a news release on March 1 slamming the use of taxpayer money for TOIFA.

"As an immigrant from India, now a citizen of Canada, I strongly feel this is a serious attempt to woo ethnic votes and in this economy should not be a burden on B.C. residents, when the Bollywood industry has enough money to do such events with commercial dollars," Bajwa said.

NDP multiculturalism critic Raj Chouhan called TOIFA "the manufactured Bollywood awards" during Question Period on March 5.

BMackin@biv.com

@bobmackin

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