Friday, February 12, 2010

Gordon Campbell is poised to gut B.C.'s funding for the arts

Yesterday, Prime Minister Stephen Harper visited Victoria to address the non-prorogued BC Legislative Assembly. While there, you’d think he might have pulled BC Premier Gordon Campbell aside and told him the story of how Harper’s Conservatives lost their majority, in no small part, thanks to their short-sighted decision in the last election to gut funding for the arts.

Harper has somewhat learned his lesson; the feds have restored much of the funding or increased it in other areas, and Canadian Heritage minister James Moore has found the arts religion. Sadly, though, Campbell must not read the news, as his BC “Liberal” government is poised to table massive cuts of 90 per cent to arts funding in the next provincial funding that would decimate BC’s vibrant arts community.

The cuts actually began last fall, when citing the economic downturn the province moved to slash arts funding by 90 per cent over two years. In the face of public blowback, some of the funding was restored with gaming money, but the service plan going forward still shows 90 per cent cuts so it seems the cuts will be restored in the next budget. The cuts will take core BC provincial arts funding from $19.5 million in 2008/09 all the way down to just $2.25 million in 2010/11, according to the service plan.

While $20 million may not seem like a lot of money in government terms (and BC was already one of the lowest per capita arts spenders in the country), the cuts are devastating for BC arts groups. For them, government funding is a huge multiplier that allows them to leverage private sector donations. These groups also operate on very thin margins as it is; cutting government funding can be a death knell.

What’s more, government arts funding is an investment that pays dividends for the government. A report from the BC government itself showed that for every dollar invested, $1.36 comes back in taxes. And the Conference Board of Canada and City of Vancouver estimate every dollar spend on arts municipally generated $7 to $13 in economic spinoff.

These draconian cuts to arts funding by the Campbell Liberals just don’t make sense. That’s a view shared by the BC Legislature's Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services, which, as part of its pre-budget consultations, in November unanimously called on the government to restore arts funding to 2008/09 levels. That committee recommendation was backed by all the Liberals on the committee including the MLA in my home riding in BC, the Comox Valley’s Don McRae.

Heck, even Conservative minister James Moore opposes these cuts:

…Moore made a forceful case that arts funding is an essential element in an economic stimulus program during difficult times. "This has to be a central component if we're going to deal with economic recovery," he said.

"There's a strong fiscally conservative argument for supporting the arts," Moore added, explaining that writers create things of social and economic value out of little more than their own knowledge and imagination. Moore said the cultural sector employs 650,000 people in Canada, twice the number employed in either forestry or agriculture, and he declared that infrastructure without the kind of activity that artists provide is "culturally and economically soulless."

The Harper government, Barrack Obama, Dalton McGuinty in Ontario, Jean Charest in Quebec – they’ve all actually increased arts funding as part of their economic stimulus packages. BC, sadly, appears to be the odd-province out unless Campbell listens to the growing chorus, including much of his caucus, and restores this arts funding in the next budget.

There is still time though to send a message to Campbell ( and finance minister Colin Hansen ( that they should change course and restore arts funding in the upcoming provincial budget.

If you want to know how you can get involved, check out the Facebook group: BC Hearts the Arts, and you can also visit Alliance for Arts and Culture, a Vancouver-based organization helping to rally support for overturning the cuts. Also check out Creativity Counts, a blogsite following the advocacy campaign.

Today, BC is welcoming the world for the Olympics. The arts will be a big part of the opening ceremonies tonight, and the cultural olympiad will run parallel to the sporting events. It would be a shame if the Olympic legacy was tarnished by short-sighted decisions.

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CanadianSense said...

Jeff do you really believe in the MSM hype about a Quebec landslide before the blow up over cutting off some controversial art funding?

I never believed the CPC has the support, picked the wrong horse ADQ, pissed of Charest to mount a serious campaign in QC.

What proof do you have the CPC had an effective ground game in Quebec in 2008?

BTW I still don't believe they have one in 2009-2010.

I believe if you look at the Polls his Ontario numbers went up as a direct result of the coalition parties joining forces decrying the end of arts fundin. That writer stating she would vote for the Bloc was funny too.

CPC lost one seat right?

The November 2009 win against the Bloc (Liberals finished last right?) was with the help of a high profile candidate and support of Charest.

Nik Nanos does a great post analysis on October 15, 2008.

Sorry to hear about the star candidate who who later withdrew her running for the Liberals.

In BC or Ontario both government has a "free reign" to add taxes or cuts services until voters see an alternative.

Ontario has returned 2 Liberals in safe seats with a slimmer margin but still a message.

In BC no tests. As a former BC resident what party is capable of challenging the current government?

Gene Rayburn said...

As an artist, I can safely say CS that you are a cretin.

Eugene Forsey Liberal said...

I learnt from Foglia in La Presse that the BC govt announced on Friday, the day of the opening ceremonies of the 6 Billion Dollar Games, that they are cutting $10 million for poor children & families at the "Ministry of Children and Family Development". If you know anyone in BC Govt/BC Libs, you might want to tell them that this shit is being noticed nationally and worldwide - I could give you links to some newscasts from France if desired. And Foglia is most-read columnist in biggest circulation paper, eh?

CanadianSense said...


Instead of posting personal insults as a guest to this blog as you, try refuting or supporting the subject of the post.

The host made some valid points including the fact the CPC have increased funding to ARTS.

I disagreed with his analysis on how the voters melted away because of on the "ARTS".

All the pollsters record green voters 2-3% higher than Nanos. In some cases the CPC are underreported as are the NDP.

Finally GR, you many NOT like the CPC agenda in defunding your agenda or lack of commercial success.

The BC provincial government is spending money on their agenda and is accountable to the voters at election time and the opposition parties at the legislature.