Dan Mangan’s “Post-War Blues” video dir. by Kevin Eastwood – statement against government attack on arts

Censored Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms

Great video for Dan Mangan’s Post-War Blues, directed by Vancouver’s Kevin Eastwood. Thanks to both Dan, who has been ever-active in speaking out against the BC government’s cuts to arts, and Kevin Eastwood for this video. Good performance by Don McKellar.


BC municipal elections – who are your arts candidates?

Cartoon - Arts cuts activists

Do you know which of your mayoral, council, parks and school board candidates support the arts? If you do, please leave their names (and any other information) and your municipality in the comments! You can also tweet their names to us, if you are on twitter: our account is http://twitter.com/stopbcartscuts.

And if anyone comes up with a good hashtag – something better than #VoteBCarts – please let us know!

The arts are becoming stronger in BC. The win against the mega-casino proposed for Vancouver, an arts-activist-led fight, has made politicians more aware of the strength of artists and the arts lobby. Let’s keep the momentum up. Be heard! Tell your candidates you care about the arts in your community; ask them what they plan to do to expand the creative sector; invite them to an all-candidates meeting on the arts. It will be very revealing.

Some Spirit Festival” money directed to BC Arts Council, but little & late

If you haven’t seen the text of Minister responsible for the arts Ida Chong’s announcement on July 7, view it here.

The government has used some money from the $60M “Sports And Arts
Legacy Fund” established in the 2010 budget to keep the BC Arts
Council at a “stable” level in terms of its grants budget (although we
understand there may be a shortfall in money for BCAC-related staffing
at the Ministry). This is an achievement of sorts, as the mis-named
“Legacy Fund” was meant to provide money for politically-advantageous
initiatives, theoretically in the amount of $10M a year over three
years, and was not meant for the BC Arts Council, which some members of Caucus
see as a non-advantageous delivery mechanism. So, to have acquired
part of this budget (again, similar to last year) is not a small
thing, and congratulations are no doubt due to the BCAC Board and to
people at the Ministry.


It is apparent that there is little will for either replacing the
investment formerly made through Gaming Direct Access (a poor delivery
mechanism, but one which compensated for the fact that the BCAC has
never had a budget adequate to fulfill its mandate), or for increasing
cultural investment at the provincial level in way which will enable
us to leverage and increase other sources of cultural investment,
enable us to bring more art to more publics, and enable us to create a
better working environment for artists and artists’ organizations.

The manner in which this year-to-year budget “stability” has been
achieved is also troubling. The BCAC started this budget year with
about half of the previous year’s grants budget, and with no apparent
commitment to increasing that budget during the year. It was not until
the evening of Thursday July 7 that the actual grants budget seems to have been
finalized. This is not conducive to proper planning: one quarter of
the year has gone by, a quarter in which projects have been juried
and assessed and funding allocated to them based on a plan containing
question marks where there should have been figures.

BC’s arts and culture industry needs, as other sectors need, stable investment if we are going to produce the kind of vital sector that attracts residents, good jobs, tourism, and general social health to the region.

Federal arts cuts coming?

Federal Finance Minister James Flaherty (rather than Heritage Minister James Moore, interestingly) issued threats of potential arts cuts just days before Canada Day. His warning came on the heels of the abrupt slashing of grants to Toronto’s successful Summerworks Festival  which had drawn the ire of the Conservative government the summer before for its political content. The cuts to Summerworks are clearly politically motivated, are an utterly unacceptable interference in the arts, and are a threat to basic Canadian freedoms. Further threats to investment in other parts of the Canadian culture industry are also unacceptable, a reversal of the Harper government’s stated intentions during their election campaign, and economically let alone socially unwise. CBC story follows:

Don’t count on grants, Flaherty warns arts groups – Arts & Entertainment – CBC News

“Federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty has a warning for cultural institutions that have come to rely on regular government funding: don’t count on it.

Flaherty delivered the message Tuesday shortly after announcing $500,000 in support for this year’s Canada Walk of Fame Festival, to be held in Toronto.

The funding falls under the Canada Arts Presentation Fund administered by Canada Heritage.

On Monday, SummerWorks, an acclaimed Toronto indie theatre festival, announced it had lost its federal funding. The festival made headlines last year after staging “Homegrown,” a play about a convicted terrorist, a member of the group known as the Toronto 18.

In a note posted on its blog, the festival said it had received federal funding for five straight years — totalling $140,000 — and was surprised to learn it would not get more money this year.

But Flaherty says arts organizations should not set their budgets assuming they’ll get government funds.

“One thing I’d say, and maybe it’s different than it used to be, is we actually don’t believe in festivals and cultural institutions assuming that year after year after year they’ll receive government funding,” Flaherty said.

“They ought not assume entitlement to grants … no organization should assume in their budgeting that every year the government of Canada is going to give them grants because there’s lots of competition, lots of other festivals, and there are new ideas that come along.

“So it’s a good idea for everyone to stay on their toes and not make that assumption.”


For more information on the cuts to Summerworks in particular, read:

Globe and Main: SummerWorks appearance gave Victoria’s Ride the Cyclone legs

And just as an aside, here’s what the federal government thinks is worth investing in, culturally, outside the Canada Council or other arms length agencies. Is the government deciding what our culture will be now or does Canada’s culture industry perhaps make more informed choices, let alone better and wise use of tax dollars?

1. Canada’s Walk of Shame: It’s your tax dollars at work

2. Ottawa plans $100-million celebration of War of 1812

The 1970s in Canada were a golden age of culture in Canada (NFB, CBC, film, visual arts, design) & we could do that again.

Or fighter jets.

What sort of country do we want?

Write Minister Flaherty and Minister James Moore and tell them that you as a Canadian citizen and audience member do not want cuts of investment to Canadian culture and the Canadian culture industry. It might also be good to tell them that government must not dictate the content of Canadian culture, and that the cuts to Summerworks are disturbing.


A couple of lines is enough.


Dutch political theatre around arts cuts – ad in the New York Times

Via artandeducation.net.



Dutch protest arts cuts

The Hague, June 27, 2011. “The Dutch arts community protests the pending 200 million euro cuts which will decimate the unique Dutch cultural landscape.”

Full story at CBC and  Guardian. Amazing video of clash with police here.

Why did Stop BC Arts Cuts join other community, charity & arts groups to oppose the Edgewater Casino expansion at BC Place?

The proposed mega-casino would be situated near the water, adjacent to BC Place Stadium, as part of the redevelopment of Northeast False Creek.

UPDATE, April 19: WE WON!

Our coalition against the Edgewater mega-casino slated for downtown Vancouver has won. After first telling us it was a done deal, City Council voted unanimously against the casino, and we are grateful to them for that. They made a difficult decision under relentless pressure from the provincial government.

Now we want to ask you, our supporters, to spread the word: the fight against the mega-casino was arts-led. Arts in BC, already the most undersupported arts sector in all of Canada, received disastrous government and gaming cuts in 2009 unlike no other other province. In the ensuing months the BC government refused to speak to us in good faith, put no competent individual on the file who could speak intelligently to us or knew the issues, and our sector began to tank. Despite our massive contribution to the province’s annual GDP, we were the only sector to be deprived of government investment. With no other means at our disposal, we thought long and hard and decided to defeat the casino. Why? We didn’t want to see any more gambling in our name, especially since the BC Liberals’ massive expansion of gambling in BC has led to not one extra dollar for BC’s arts, charities, non-profits  andamateur sports  – the very things that were used to justify the expansion. The people of BC were being misled about where their gambling dollars were going – they were being used for huge kickbacks to the casino industry, for boondoggles like the hated BC Place roof, and other sinkholes. Enough was enough! Arts groups led by Stop BC Arts Cuts, Arts Advocacy BC and the Alliance for Arts joined with thousands of Vancouverites to say NO MEGA-CASINO in our name. And a massive majority of Vancouverites are grateful.

Please pass on this story to anyone you think might be interested. The arts will show our muscle again and again, always in the public interest, until our sector receives the investment it deserves. Do we want a vibrant, creative, innovative province or not?


January 2011

In BC we find ourselves in strange political times, and strange times call for unusual methods. Arts advocacy tactics have lately taken a new turn, one that may at seem confusing or counter-intuitive. However, we think it’s the best way to focus public attention on the serious damage that the cuts to arts funding have inflicted on our sector, and we believe it’s an effective way to bring pressure to bear on the BC government.

In short, we are using the conscience and duty of Vancouver City Hall as the pointy wedge in our fight. The BC government is trying to force a mega-casino on Vancouver’s downtown core. It owns the land, but as everyone knows, just because you own land, you can’t do whatever the hell you like with it. You have to get permission from the City. A mega-casino is  a bad deal for many reasons (statistics show it isn’t even good business), but we are emphatically opposed to it in light of the unwarranted and possibly illegal cuts of gaming funding to charities in BC. For all of these reasons we are asking the City to stand up to the province and say no. NO to a mega-casino in Vancouver.

Our current strategy regarding the casino was not solely initiated by the arts. It was devised in collaboration with the BCACG (BC Ass’n for Charitable Gaming) which represents all charities in BC who receive gaming funds. All of these charities were hit with devastating cuts at the same time the arts were hit – August of 2009. But the arts didn’t just see a lessening of funding; Minister Rich Coleman actually made the arts ineligible for gaming funds altogether, thereby cutting the majority of BC arts funding. The BCACG has tirelessly advocated for the restoration of gaming funds to arts organizations despite the fact that the arts have been disqualified from receiving funds.

Since the BC government was utterly intractable and refused to talk to us about the destruction of our sector, we were forced to come up with smarter political strategies. This is why Stop BC Arts Cuts and the BCACG got together to use the Edgewater mega-casino application before City Hall as a means of getting the BC government’s attention.

Read on for a more in-depth explanation.

At the end of this post is a list of things you can do to help. Please get involved, if only by just writing a letter! It will only take 2 minutes, an easy to way to exercise your democratic rights and duties! Thank you.

So how did we start out fighting the cuts to arts and end up by opposing a mega-casino in Vancouver?How can we justify asking to have gaming funds restored AND at the same time fight the development of a new casino?

These things are not as contradictory as they may initially seem. As you probably know, the arts have received gaming revenues since gambling was legalized in this province. Arts and other charities were in fact used as one of the main justifications for gambling’s expansion. But it was never the preference of the arts and culture sector or charities to be funded mainly out of gaming revenues. It was a government decision to fund the arts through gambling money rather than through tax dollars via the BC Arts Council. Given gambling’s well-documented role in crime, addiction, predation on seniors and other social ills, gambling’s proceeds are dirty. And regardless of what the government says, these ills cannot be eliminated from gambling no matter how well you regulate it.

The arts don’t just entertain us; they are also where society looks at itself, its ills, its decisions, and its imagined futures. Funding arts with blood money is an inherent contradiction and a bad idea.

However, given the lack of regular arts and charity funding in this province—BC levels are far lower than in any other province, by a country mile—there were few if any other options for the arts. Arts and other charities were put into the position of swallowing their moral pride in return for a promise of 1/3 of gaming revenues. Now these groups are being cut away from those promised funds and are facing dire financial straits. The straits were worsened by the fact that there was little advance warning of the cuts from what is a remarkably opaque provincial government, so the resulting financial instability was dire. BC communities now find themselves reeling from the damage to their non-profit service sector, whose crucial services, jobs, and infrastructure are crumbling.

The most galling fact is that this isn’t happening in any other province. Regardless of the varying economic health of each province, and despite the recession, other provinces more or less stood firm on funding. BC stands alone in the depth of its cuts. (See this devastating comparison between BC and Alberta, for example.)

Now the BC government wants to embark on another massive push to expand gaming, all while increasingly slashing its gaming contributions to charities and disqualifying arts altogether. It’s time to say no. That’s right: as gaming revenues have gone up, the contribution to charities has gone down. Further gambling expansion will not benefit the arts—not now that Minister Rich Coleman has made the arts ineligible for gaming funds—and it will clearly not benefit charities either. If you want to know where the gambling proceeds really went, read this.

As for the plan to build an unprecedentedly large mega-casino in Vancouver’s downtown core: Is this the kind of cultural scene we want in our city? Do we want to see casino theatres featuring washed-up acts competing with our cultural centres, our theatres, our venues? Is this the cultural reputation Vancouver is going to have to carry? Most other cities put casinos out in industrial areas for a reason, not smack in the middle of their downtown cores. Many Vancouverites still don’t know that this casino would be the largest in BC, 61% larger than the already enormous River Rock Casino in Richmond. They also don’t know that it would feature 1500 of the most up-to-date, addictive, neuroscience-engineered slot machines. Its raw resource, as with any casino, would be seniors and the drug trade.

There is industry talk of attracting high rollers from China, but all expert opinion points to the failure of that plan considering the stunning casinos in Singapore and Macau, not to mention Vegas. In the destination casino game, we do not compete. In fact, expert opinion points to the eventual failure of the casino industry in general, and gambling cities from Vegas to Atlanta are in deep trouble.

Some of you may know that we do already have an existing Edgewater casino downtown. It’s relatively small. If the new plan goes ahead, the old casino would be vacated, massively expanded, moved next to BC Place Stadium, and would also feature a taxpayer-funded “entertainment” and hotel complex (in fact it’s just hotels, of which Vancouver already has a glut, and bars and the stadium). Not only would our tax dollars go into this complex, but it would be privately owned and operated on an impossibly long 70-year lease by a sketchy Vegas company, Paragon Gaming. If you want to find out more about this whole backroom-deal operation, read Pete McMartin’s series in the Sun, this article in BC Business, articles in the Vancouver Observer and on the CBC, or just keep watching the news. The story ought to erupt soon, given that the rezoning application is before City Hall and revelations about BC money-laundering surface daily.

It’s time to ask City Council to find the courage to defy Rich Coleman, who—as CBC has made so painfully clear—does not have control over the rampant crime in the BC gambling industry. Gambling is not a good future industry for our province, it cannibalizes other businesses, it sucks the economic energy out of surrounding areas, and it’s not something we will be proud of.

This attempt on the part of the BC government to expand gambling in the municipality of Vancouver has given BC’s charities – including the arts – the opportunity to highlight their situation in a very public manner.

We are asking Vancouver City Council to stand up to the province and say no. Some Vancouver city councillors are already opposed to the plan; it remains to be seen how the majority will vote. To recap, the casino will introduce untold social ills into Vancouver, it does not conform to the image most Vancouver citizens want to project of our city, it will represent many social and economic costs that will fall to the municipality to pay rather than the province, and, what is most relevant here, charities will will receive little benefit. And the arts will receive none.

The coalition against the casino development is powerful and growing. We were told the casino was a done deal, but that now seems very unlikely. Vancouverites overwhelmingly oppose this casino and they are becoming increasingly vocal in their opposition. Groups in the coalition to date: The British Columbia Association of Charitable Gaming, (@BCACG on Twitter, or on Facebook) False Creek Residents Association Strathcona Residents Association (@strathconares on Twitter) Grandview-Woodland Area Council – read their letter here The Alliance for Arts & Culture representing over 350 arts & culture groups Stop BC Arts Cuts – a diverse group of arts supporters from all over BC Arts Advocacy BC – independent group advocating for arts throughout BC … and all of the numerous Vancouver citizens and seniors’ groups who have come out to events so far, written letters of support, and plan to attend the public hearings.

WHAT CAN YOU DO? 1. The Coalition has a website: Vancouver Not Vegas!, a Facebook page, and Twitter. Please visit, join, and follow these! 2.  PLEASE write a letter to City Council, telling them how you feel about the casino. Go to the link and either use the City’s feedback form, or alternatively use the sample email. PLEASE cc us! dontgamblevancouver at gmail dot com. 3. You can also write a second letter in support of Councillor Ellen Woodsworth’s motion to City Council to suspend the casino application, here. This one needs to be done ASAP. She presents it Jan. 18 to Council. Do this by Feb 17! 4. Keep your ears open for news of the beginning of public hearings at Vancouver City Hall in February. We will need you to come out and show support or sign up to be a speaker.

Thank you for reading. This is important. No dice, Minister Coleman!

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?