“I was threatened in a meeting with them in a way that didn’t seem that much different to me than a junkie waving a needle if I was confronted by somebody on skid row who was high. It was just blatant. It was an outright threat. “You give us more money or else.”
Right on the heels of the first positive arts-funding development in a year—yesterday’s announcement of a partial restoration of funds to the BC Arts Council—Kevin Krueger, BC Minister for Tourism Culture and the Arts, has ruined the moment by making his second defamatory, unfounded accusation in a week. Both of Krueger’s statements concern a single, remarkably civil meeting he attended with the Alliance for Arts and Culture late last fall. You can read about that meeting here and decide for yourself, but in short what happened is what would happen with any sector in crisis; the Alliance told the Minister that if funds weren’t restored soon, in order to represent their members they would have to go into the communities to gather support for their cause and prove that voters care about the arts. This was not a threat. It was democracy. And it was delivered cordially and politely. What was a threat was the manner in which Minister Krueger opened the meeting. As the Alliance notes, “Minister Krueger opened that meeting last November by telling us that we should “stand down” our advocacy efforts, and that if we didn’t we could be doing “more harm” to ourselves and our cause. The implications of that comment seemed clear, but we never considered accusing the minister of threatening us.”
As is well known in the arts sector, the Alliance for Arts and Culture, BC’s largest association of arts organizations, has been faultlessly polite and professional with Mr. Krueger. It has conducted itself this way ever since the beginning of this unprecedented arts sector demolition. It’s a fact: the Alliance’s professionalism and even-handedness is a matter of record. This is why Mr. Krueger’s increasingly unstable public outbursts on the subject of his dealings with the Alliance are all the more ludicrous and inexplicable. Rather than being threatening, the Alliance has in fact often come under fire from its own members and the community at large for its remarkably soft approach during a year of emergency. Does Minister Krueger think he is saving face with British Columbians who know nothing of the issue, painting himself as the victim, when in fact what’s he doing is blaming the victim? This is not just dishonest and unethical; it’s getting downright weird. The unfortunate thing is that ever since yesterday’s partial restoration of funds, the arts community and its vocal arts audiences have made a huge effort to applaud the government for a positive first step. In light of this, to be confronted today with the Minister’s destructive, defamatory and simply bizarre behaviour is particularly galling. Were it not becoming obvious that British Columbians are giving this government’s statements an increasingly skeptical reception, we would be more worried about his remarks. However, it does seem important that we issue a reaction to this kind of unstable, dishonest behaviour from the government. We are trying our level best to take the high road but this Minister seems determined to run us off the road in his own hellbent slide into the ditch. We will not go with him. We have been honest and straight in our dealings with an extremely opaque, uncooperative and high-handed government, one that has saved no money buy cutting our tiny industrial subsidy, far smaller than other sectors receive, and that has done irreparable damage to . But enough is enough. We’re grateful for yesterday’s small partial restoration, but it must be said that the win did not just come out of the generosity of the government’s heart. It came as a result of many things: Federal Heritage Minister James Moore’s frank criticism of BC arts policy; Jane Danzo’s protest resignation from the BC Arts Council over political interference and cuts; and increasing outrage from regions all over the province on the verge of losing their arts intrastructure as well as the heart of their communities, as well as all our advocacy. If Minister Krueger thinks he can safely defame arts organizations—organizations dealing with him with the utmost professionalism—without losing his job, we think he will find he is mistaken. Full transcript of Minister Krueger’s CFAX interview is below. The arts section of the interview is immediately after the section on the HST:
See also the Georgia Straight article.
CFAX Straight Talk 01-Sep-2010 16:10 Adam Stirling: We are joined by BC’s Minister of Tourism and the Arts, Kevin Krueger. First, Minister Krueger, thanks so much for coming on the show today. Continue reading