Duncan Sinclair, Chair of the Yukon Arts Centre, writes to BC’s Premier Campbell about the BC arts cuts:
Dear Premier Campbell,
I am a neighbor living in Whitehorse, Yukon and have family in British Columbia. Two of my children completed high school in your province. My undergraduate degree is in music from the University of British Columbia. I have served as Chair at the Yukon Arts Centre Corporation for six years. As a visitor of B.C. my family has enjoyed the thriving arts and cultural scene in your province. As part of arts organizations presenting music, theatre, dance, visual arts, etc., I have been honoured to support B.C. artists (and the B.C. economy indirectly) and enjoy their work, as have many Yukoners.
I am writing to advocate for increases to public investment by the Government of B.C. in the arts in British Columbia, rather than the current and proposed cuts to the BC Arts Council. These cuts are not only damaging to B.C. residents and its economic and social future, but to western and northern Canada. Such cuts will spill over to the Yukon and Alberta as B.C. musicians, artists, dancers, theatre practitioners are less able to support themselves by sharing their work in neighboring markets. And the Yukon in particular will be less able to present art work of all forms from elsewhere in Canada, as this often depends on organizing regional tours and shared investments with B.C. presenters that lowers costs and increases access for us both. The proposed cuts will drag Canada down. Surely, British Columbia needs to sustain a leadership position in supporting arts and culture, not dredge the bottom. This is so contrary to the leadership shown on tough issues like energy and climate change/ghg emissions.
There is a lot of substantive, credible research demonstrating that investments in the arts create jobs, have significant multiplier effects (local spending on goods and services, volunteer engagement, ability to attract other national/regional investments in the arts and culture), benefit communities small and large – economically and socially, contribute to regional economies through tourism (a major industry in B.C.), facilitate improved educational outcomes for students, help to solve social problems, and contribute to a healthy democracy and social cohesion in a multi-cultural province like B.C. The stable jobs and economic stimulus (not dependent on resource cycles, stock markets, or unpredictable international factors) created by the arts and cultural sector are a key part of the economy now and will be even more important the future. Such cuts are regressive policy that will guarantee dimmer prospects for B.C. going forward.
In the Yukon, the territorial government has SUBSTANTIALLY, AND SYSTEMATICALLY INCREASED funding for arts and culture over a period of many years. This investment is paying off in social and cultural terms, AND with an economic value in communities throughout the Yukon far beyond the nominal sums involved. Even a small jurisdiction like the Yukon is now EXPORTING home-grown arts and cultural product nationally and internationally. The Yukon government is making this investment based on hard-nosed economic and social policy objectives and quantitative research and analysis.
British Columbia has such a plethora of (human resource) talent. And the arts and cultural sector are among the entrepreneurial and community leadership so central to building and sustaining a vibrant economy throughout the province for decades to come. Why would a government want to throw this away? There is a huge opportunity cost. I respectfully suggest there are better choices.