Minister Rich Coleman won’t restore gaming grants to arts

This morning we received a copy of a new letter from Gambling Minister Rich Coleman to the Executive Director of the BC Association of Charitable Gaming (BCACG) Susan Marsden. In it he refuses to restore gaming grants to arts.

His letter is a (very late) response to the BCACG’s open letter of early October that reminded Rich Coleman of the government’s legal obligation to charities. Perhaps Minister Coleman was receiving legal advice during that interval? The reason for the delay is not clear, but the BCACG has been told it does have a strong legal case. There is, it appears, a fair amount of legal bluff in this letter.

On the matter of the economy, no other province has cut arts in the way – not even close. So why is this government constantly using the excuse of the recession? Is it blaming its own economic mismanagement in these hard times and admitting its hard right economics haven’t worked (and that it now has to rely on gambling revenues)? It is becoming very difficult conclude otherwise.

It’s very interesting that for such a relatively small amount of money Rich Coleman is willing to put up with the ire of the 80,000 in the arts sector (80,000), arts audiences (3 million British Columbians), and what’s more all the communities struggling to keep their museums, theatres, key arts organizations and jobs afloat. We hear rumour that Coleman plans to back Kevin Falcon in the BC Liberal leadership race. Let’s hope Coleman’s position on gaming grants to arts – which were the bulk of arts funding in BC until they were cut – does not become Falcon’s arts platform. The vast majority of British Columbians don’t feel this government has handled the recession well and will not be tolerant of it dinging them twice.

December 9, 2010

Dear Ms. Marsden:

I am responding to your October 15, 2010 open letter, written on behalf of the British Columbia Association for Charitable Gaming (BCACG), regarding the redevelopment of Edgewater Casino and funding provided through community gaming grants.

While I appreciate the BCACG’s efforts to further the interests of gaming grant recipients, it is erroneous to base funding levels on an agreement that is no longer in effect.

The 1999 Memoranda of Agreement (MOA) with BCACG and the Bingo Council of British Columbia were signed by a previous government.  Since the MOA was signed in 1999, the model for bingo gaming has fundamentally changed.  For example, the MOA references the BC Gaming Commission and its role as the licensing authority.  The Gaming Commission no longer exists.  The MOA speaks to the involvement of licensed charities in bingo gaming.  Responsibility for the conduct and management of commercial bingo halls shifted from licensed charities to the BC Lottery Corporation.  The MOA also references a bingo facility level guarantee, which was phased out in 2002.

It is important to note the MOA was intended as an interim measure to remain in effect until comprehensive gaming legislation was introduced.  The Gaming Control Act, which came into effect in 2002, superseded all previous gaming legislation and agreements.  The BCACG and others were consulted on the legislation as it was being developed.  No revenue sharing guarantees were established in the Act.  Despite this, until the 2009/10 fiscal year, government made a policy decision to adhere to the spirit of the MOA as it related to the level of grants, subject to budgetary approval each fiscal year.

Starting with a base of $125 million in 1999, grant funding increased each year by the rate of Vancouver Consumer Price Index until 2009/10.  In that year, British Columbia, as well as jurisdictions worldwide, faced unprecedented economic challenges.  Provincial revenues decreased substantially, requiring that difficult decisions be made to ensure core services continued to be delivered.  As a result, funding for gaming grants decreased for the first time in over a decade.

As the global economy is still recovering, difficult decisions regarding our grant programs continue. This year, government was able to commit $120 million for community gaming grants, which is up from $113 million last year. This funding will go to approximately 6,000 community organizations that assist public safety, youth and disabled sports, people in need, fairs, festivals and museums, community services such as preschools, and Parent Advisory Councils.

At this time, it is too early to speculate about funding levels for community gaming grants in future years.  Such funding decisions are determined through the annual budget planning process and are tabled as part of the provincial budget in February each year.

Government remains steadfast in our commitment to help build strong communities through the community gaming grant program, while we contend with these challenging economic times.

Sincerely yours,

Rich Coleman
Solicitor General

 

Globe and Mail poll: should gaming grants to arts be restored?

This was a poll that ran in the Globe and Mail in October. Pretty definitive. After last year’s gaming grant cuts, during which almost all arts organizations in the province were made entirely ineligible for grants, many jobs were lost in the arts. There is a legally binding agreement between the BC government and charities (of which the arts were a founding member) dictating that a significant portion of gaming revenues would go to arts and other charities. The BC government has never extinguished this agreement and yet is not abiding by it. We have been calling for return of these funds – especially in the context of the huge expansion of gambling in this province – to no avail. It seems that the public agrees with us. Restore the funds. British Columbians gamble believing their money is going to charities. It mostly isn’t. The public ought to be made aware of this fact.

Sign the BCACG’s petition here. The BC Ass’n of Charitable Gaming is the organization that advocates for all charities receiving gaming funds. Thank you.

British Columbia – the Last Place on Earth… to fund culture!

British Columbia, “The Best Place on Earth”? Last place on earth to find culture, too. In Canada, anyway.  The piece above, silkscreened on recycled and pulped lottery tickets, is by BC artist Bill Horne. See the entire piece on his site here. As you may or may not know, slightly more than half of BC arts funding came from gaming (gambling) revenues. These funds were called gaming or “Direct Access” grants. Last year, the BC government made arts ineligible for gaming grants. BC was already last in Canada in terms of investing in provincial arts and culture, and now we are last by a very, very large margin. What is the BC government doing, gambling that BC arts can survive this spell? Why does the arts sector, which provides 80,000 jobs in BC, deserve zero investment when other industrial sectors receive such generous subsidies?

Letter from Abbotsford Parks and Recreation on Public Art

Local attempts to promote arts investment in BC are all part of this fight. We thought this might interest you – and please take part in the Abbotsford News poll, link below.

Dear Friends of Culture,

Did you know that Abbotsford News has an online poll asking;

‘Should the city spend one per cent of its capital facilities budget on public art?’

Currently the poll is standing at 34 votes for yes and 100 votes for no.

To participate in the voting go to www.abbynews.com. The poll is at the bottom of the page.  Please forward this link to anyone else who would like to participate.

The decision to support public art has not been taken lightly, and has, in fact, involved over 4 years of community engagement, research, and small test steps. Public art is one strategy of a City-wide vision to help make Abbotsford the most sustainable, liveable and prosperous City in British Columbia.

Public art reflects a community’s heritage, multiculturalism, values, hopes and dreams and uniqueness.  It creates opportunities for dialogue, increased tourism, and beautification of the public realm.

Public art has been identified by the Mayor’s Task Force on Crime Reduction as a tool to promote civic pride. “Civic pride has the ability to discourage litter, graffiti, and criminal activity, which inevitably contributes to community improvement and an atmosphere for volunteerism and personal responsibility”. (Solutions for America website) Public art can also act as a focal point in neighbourhoods, decreasing crime by increasing visibility. Public art that includes lighting components can become a meeting place in the evening, helping take back the streets and bringing back old fashioned community gathering.

Public art also acts as an ambassador for Abbotsford. Public art is a much photographed element of a City and our visitors posing with public art bring home with them a cultural memento which is then shared with their circle of friends and family, advertising what a great place Abbotsford is to see and visit.

In the global competition for a skilled and educated workforce, public art, as with all culture, is vital. People choose to live and visit beautiful, culturally vibrant, friendly, and safe communities.  Today’s workforce is more mobile than ever and can choose to live anywhere. We want them here!

Culture is an economic stimulator. Consumer Spending on Culture in Canada, the Provinces and 12 Metropolitan Areas in 2008, the 32nd report in the Statistical Insights on the Arts series from Hill Strategies Research, shows that Canadian consumers spent over $27 billion on cultural goods and services in 2008. Some key findings of the report include:

- The $27.4 billion in consumer spending on culture in Canada represents $841 for every Canadian resident.- Consumer spending on culture is three times larger than the $9.2 billion spent on culture by all levels of government in 2007/08.

- Consumer spending on culture is three times larger than consumer spending on hotels, motels and other travel accommodations ($9.2 billion).

- After adjusting for inflation, cultural spending increased by 28% between 1997 and 2008, double the growth in the Canadian population. The 28% increase in cultural spending is lower than the 37% increase in spending on all goods and services between 1997 and 2008.

- Cultural spending per capita varies significantly between the provinces and is highest in Alberta ($963) and Saskatchewan ($905). The five western-most provinces (British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Ontario) have per capita levels of cultural spending that are above the Canadian average ($841).

We are confident that this expenditure will create economic and social returns that far outweigh the initial investment. Abbotsford is far behind many communities in terms of support for culture and, recognizing this, we are working to change this so that the future of our community will be bright, prosperous and safe.

The future of culture in our City can be changed by the click of your mouse. It’s time to take your stand.

Thank you and best regards,

Tamaka

Tamaka Fisher, Arts and Heritage Coordinator
Parks, Recreation and Culture Department
City of Abbotsford
32315 South Fraser Way,
Abbotsford, BC, V2T 1W7

Jann Bailey, Director of the Kamloops Art Gallery speaks out

Here is a recent statement by Jann Bailey, Executive Director of the Kamloops Art Gallery. She joins many other British Columbians on our many “Speak Out” page here.

Governments at all levels invest in the arts. Economically and socially, the arts enrich our lives and help to create vibrant communities that entice people to come live and work. They are also the infrastructure for a creative economy. The cultural community is lobbying against cuts that will significantly change the face of the arts in British Columbia now and into the future. We are advocating first and foremost for reasonable, competitive per capita expenditures on the arts in B.C. The Government of British Columbia comes dead last on the list of Canadian provinces in their per capita spending on the arts. The national average is $26.73 per person; in BC it’s $6.50. The Yukon is ranked number one, spending $268.52 per person on the arts. The arts play a significant role in the evolution of a civil society, and at a micro level, the wellbeing and development of our children. As Sir Kenneth Robinson, renowned author, speaker and international advisor on education states, “Creativity is as important in education as literacy”.

Gaming Branch cultural grants a vital lifeline for smaller arts groups

“Funding cuts will devastate local theatre: Gaming Branch cultural grants a vital lifeline for smaller arts groups”

BY CLAYTON JEVNE, TIMES COLONIST
13 November, 2010

Clayton Jevne has been the artistic director and manager of Theatre Inconnu since its inception in 1978. He has been involved as an actor, director or designer in more than 80 productions with the company. He has also performed as an actor

It is good news that grants from the B.C. Arts Council have been partially restored.

But a host of provincial arts groups have not been significantly supported by the council. Over the years, they have established ongoing funding through the B.C. Gaming Branch cultural grants. Those grants have been slashed.

Theatre Inconnu, among others, remains financially devastated as gaming grants have been stripped from cultural programs, promised gaming revenue has been taken from charities and outrageous criteria changes have rendered most cultural groups ineligible.

Those groups that previously received significant operational funding from the B.C. Arts Council are able to breathe a bit of a sigh of relief.

We other groups look forward to extinction, knowing that decades of commitment, service and contributions (both financially and socially) to the community have no recognized value for the government or the public voices focused on the drama unfolding around B.C. Arts Council funding.

Theatre Inconnu has been producing theatre in Victoria and B.C. since 1978. Since our incorporation nine years later as a nonprofit/charitable organization, we have produced 96 plays. We have toured productions in six countries. We have seen hundreds of young theatre artists showcase their talents on our stage; many have gone on to national and international fame and fortune.

And we continue to serve as a valuable stepping stone between the training institutions and the fully professional world.

We have managed two “home” venues (10 years in Market Square and almost seven years in Fernwood) that have been available at minimal cost (easily the cheapest in town) to other small cultural groups, who would not otherwise have been able to afford to mount their productions, thus further fostering the development of young talent in the region.

Our entire budget, since incorporation 24 years ago, has been $2.4 million — not a lot by professional standards, but quite an achievement for a small alternative company.

During these years, we have paid out $1.1 million in wages and artist fees. Our annual applications to the B.C. Arts Council have succeeded in bringing us an average of $2,300 per year, while our Gaming Branch application success has yielded $18,930 on average.

With 19 per cent of our budget covered by the Gaming Branch, we are able to leverage the remaining 79 per cent ($79,900 annually) which is channelled back into the community through wages and fees and the purchase of production supplies and services.

If the current Gaming Branch funding situation is not rectified, that contribution will be lost. Instead, one unemployed staff person will be applying for employment insurance.

Ironically, this elimination of our Gaming Branch funds comes at the conclusion of a successful six-year joint lobby effort with the Fernwood Community Association to pressure the City of Victoria into honouring a commitment to renovate our current home, the Little Fernwood Hall, into a multipurpose cultural gathering place ideally suited for small performing groups.

In a fair political environment, having contributed 24 years of cultural, social and financial service to the community, Theatre Inconnu might expect the reward of an offer of — at the least — a partial restoration of these lost funds, just as those groups funded through the B.C. Arts Council have experienced.

Currently, Theatre Inconnu is looking for a miracle to somehow survive the damage inflicted upon us by the province.

The focus has been on arts council funding issues.

But hey, the rest of us are dying out there too!

If there are no public voices speaking out on behalf of the numerous arts groups facing extinction due to the government’s grab of gaming funds, this province will lose an essential element in the ongoing development of artistic practice and arts appreciation in our society — groups, like Theatre Inconnu, who may not be fully professional but adhere faithfully to a mandate that encourages the growth of young talent by offering professional standard mentorship as well as financial reward, while developing audiences through the presentation of affordable, innovative and exciting theatre.

Theatre Inconnu’s most recent production, the Canadian première of Kyle Jarrow’s Kills, garnered

Love critical praise and played to standing ovations. In December, we will be producing the Canadian première of Stephen Mulrine’s Moscow

Stations. It is our hope that this will not prove our swan song.

Theatre Inconnu, like other groups, is racing against the clock to find ways to meet the shortfall caused by our total loss of gaming funds. Every bit of time and effort that should, at this point in our history, be directed towards producing a quality product is now being compromised as we scramble in an effort to interest our patrons in additional fundraising events (as is every other small theatre company in Victoria).

If there are any sympathetic voices out there, please speak up in favour of the restoration of cultural funding through the Gaming Branch. The political representatives need to be pressured and embarrassed on all cultural fronts, not just the highest-profile one.

Theatre Inconnu is Victoria’s longest surviving alternative theatre company

Finance Committee 2010 recommends increased arts funding

Below is the government’s press release regarding the 2010 report of the Standing Committee on Finance. The report can be found here. The arts and culture sector is grateful to everyone who appeared before the committee or wrote letters. The relevant portions of the report for arts read as follows:

The Finance Committee recommends that the provincial government:

27. Revisit eligibility criteria for community gaming grants; and consider reinstating grants for three years to provide stability, predictability and consistency.

28. Make funding of the arts a high priority in the 2011/12 budget by returning to overall actual funding levels of 2008/09 to encourage an independent and creative cultural sector.

NEWS RELEASE FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
November 12, 2010 Legislative Assembly Province of British Columbia
FINANCE COMMITTEE REPORTS ON BUDGET 2011 CONSULTATIONS

VICTORIA – The Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services released its report today on the Budget 2011 consultations. The report contains 59 recommendations for the next provincial budget, based on the 1,300 submissions received from the public. “We heard many suggestions on how to spend additional resources for existing programs and services, as well as new ones, at the 17 public hearings and in the written and on-line submissions,” said committee chair John Les, MLA. The report’s recommendations relate to health services, the education system, services for children and youth, community services, resource management and the public’s tax and fiscal priorities. The committee’s report urges the provincial government to consider:

* Keeping annual increases in health-care spending in line with the average growth of the provincial economy.
* Providing additional resources for research and outreach to community health services supporting patients with dementia, acquired brain injury, Parkinson’s or ALS.
* Reinvesting in the BC School Fruit and Vegetable Nutritional Program.
* Reinstating a grants system targeted at under-represented groups in the post-secondary sector.
* Encouraging social entrepreneurship and investigating the use of social impact bonds.
* Allocating more resources for environmental protection and for natural resource industries.
* Exploring the feasibility of a home renovation tax credit.
* Accelerating the return to a balanced budget.

“The committee received a lot of good ideas from British Columbians,” added Les, “and we feel that the report reflects these priorities.” The budget consultations are held annually as part of the committee’s mandate. Further information, as well as copies of the committee’s report, is available online at http://www.leg.bc.ca/cmt/index.htm.

-30-

The members of the Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services are: John Les, MLA (Chilliwack), Chair; Doug Donaldson, MLA (Stikine), Deputy Chair; Norm Letnick, MLA (Kelowna-Lake Country); Don McRae, MLA (Comox Valley); Michelle Mungall, MLA (Nelson-Creston); Bruce Ralston, MLA (Surrey-Whalley); Bill Routley, MLA (Cowichan Valley); John Rustad, MLA (Nechako Lakes); Jane Thornthwaite, MLA (North Vancouver-Seymour); John van Dongen, MLA (Abbotsford South).