Former NDP MLA Harry Lali is the newest director of the Nicola Valley Community Theatre Society (NVCTS), joining the group with the goal of helping to secure government funding for a proposed theatre.

“We have a new director on the board who knows the ropes regarding dealing with the government and who is mega-excited about seeing the project succeed,” NVCTS chair Kurt Christopherson told the Herald via email.

Merritt resident and former MLA Harry Lali is the newest member of the Nicola Valley Community Theatre Society. (Herald file photo)

Lali said he was asked recently to help out with the society’s funding proposals.

“I’ve been working with them for a couple months and they put me on the board about two, three weeks ago,” he said.

Last year, in partnership with the City of Merritt, the society applied to the province’s Rural Dividend Fund (RDF) for $3.7 million — the majority of the funds needed to make the $5 million project a reality.

However, Merritt was absent from the list of recipients when the third intake of applications was announced this past October.

Lali said it will be his recommendation to the board that they look into multiple funding sources and apply for as much as possible in order to get the theatre built.

“I think it’d be best to talk to the federal government as well as the provincial government [and] different ministries to get them on board rather than looking for funds from one specific ministry,” said Lali.

He said he’s already spoken to a number of current provincial ministers and their assistants.

Lali said he spoke with the assistant of Forests Minister Doug Donaldson — who oversees the RDF — and was told to reapply to the next round of funding, which the group intends to do.

Applicants have until Dec. 15 to be considered for the fourth round of funding.

“We’re going to be making a push in this next go-around as a group, and my expertise is in government relations, [so] that’s where I’m going to be giving my best advice,” said Lali.

Lali’s also drafting a strategic plan for the board of directors to review at their next meeting in December. At that meeting the board will also discuss the possibility of tweaking their RDF application, he said.

NVCTS, which has been attempting to build a performing arts and theatre facility in Merritt for years, recently announced it’s no longer actively fundraising for the project until it figure out the status of that RDF application.

Lali noted that sometimes when there is a transition in government — which was the case this spring when the NDP took power over the incumbent BC Liberals — projects don’t move ahead with funding due to a lack of continuity.

The proposed facility would be built at the corner of Coutlee Avenue and Garcia Street and consist of a 250-seat performing arts centre and three 100-seat movie theatres.

The movie theatres would act like any other business, but some funds from ticket sales would help support the non-profit performing arts theatre.

NVCTS has accumulated about $810,000 in donations since starting the project, some of which has been spent on the first two phases of the project — acquiring land and acquiring detailed designs for the building.