Fun facts and figures – Arts vs. Olympics

The BC arts cuts issue might technically be separate from the Olympic spending issue, but it’s becoming impossible to turn a blind eye to the fact that a huge amount of money is being found for the Olympics, while apparently $47 million or more can’t be found for the arts because “hungry children” have to be fed. Let’s look at some really striking numbers.


COST: $6.5-8 billion approx = Total estimated cost of Olympics (not including near-$1 bn convention centre)

BENEFIT: $4 billion –  UPDATE: now $1 billion –  Predicted Olympic economic benefits, downgraded this year from an earlier prediction of 8-10 billion, then downgraded to $4bn, and then downgraded again in Dec 2009/Jan 2010 to $1 bn.


COST: $47 million = Total cost of arts funding BEFORE the cuts (2008 figures used here because 2009 saw abrupt Gaming cuts in the middle of the year, meaning a decrease of 40% in that already paltry $47 million. And 2008 is the most recent year we have tax figures for). 47 million is the bare minimum required to grease the wheels of an already lean arts sector, especially for smaller organizations and groups in smaller towns and remote regions

BENEFIT: $5.2 billion = Total contribution of the arts sector to the BC economy, annually – and that’s taxes only, not including arts and culture’s many proven economic spinoffs

It appears that BC’s golden egg is not the Olympics – it’s the arts. Which of the two is worth a sizeable seed investment? As an aside, Ontario increased its arts funding to over $150 million this year, because it understands the increasingly central role of arts and culture in the global economy. Aren’t the BC Liberals  supposed to be the party of good economic management, putting the economy first?

When the BC government agreed that arts and culture were the “Second Pillar of the Games,” the arts sector didn’t realize that the BC Liberals intended  to allow the full weight of the Olympics to crush arts and culture altogether. Thanks to these cuts, BC’s arts sector will be a crumbling pillar, and BC’s 78,000 arts workers (more numerous than forestry workers) will certainly feel unwilling or unable to support to an event that has shut them out. As a sector, the arts already enjoys a smaller share of government help or subsidy than any other. And yet the arts’ tax contribution to BC’s GDP is enormous. And that’s only the economic contribution made by our homegrown arts  – there’s also the vast and indispensable social role that arts have been proven to play in BC, for social health, peace, liveability of all communities large and small, tolerance, innovation and for ensuring that we retain our distinct identity.

When the BC government argues it has to feed hungry children instead of stewarding a key sector, when it claims that it can’t afford spending for arts, education, health and other necessities, even while it finds billions for a 2-week event, it’s demonstrating its economic incompetence and irresponsibility. And given its claims that there’s no money left, it’s pretty galling to watch it so easily come up with, to give just one example, $486 million for a retractable stadium roof. Perhaps its priorities are its friends in construction, or maybe in corporate sports? And yet its supposed Olympics profits have melted away. Meanwhile arts & culture and tourism, two of the global economic system’s most promising growth industries – and two enormous future opportunities for BC – take huge hits in BC through a) a blind lack of arts policy, and b) an HST attack on arts revenues as well as tourism’s predominantly small businesses.

Are members of the BC government’s caucus really willing to countenance the increasingly disturbing economic story revealed by these numbers?

Arts cuts needs to be reversed immediately before damage to infrastructure and brain drain become irreversible. One after another, arts organizations are folding. If something isn’t done soon, that Second Pillar is going to look pretty broken by the the time the Olympics get here. The government’s own Finance Committee has recommended a reversal of arts cuts, but there is absolutely no guarantee the government will listen to these recommendations and reverse its position in March. We need assurances now, before any more crucial community organizations close their doors.

Write a letter (sample letters here or easy webform here ) to the Premier and the Ministers, especially Finance Minister Colin Hansen:

Premier Gordon Campbell
Fax: 250 387-0087

MLA: Hon. Kevin Krueger (Min. of Tourism, Culture & the Arts)
Fax: 250 953-4250

MLA: Hon. Rich Coleman (Gaming) – retraction of Gaming funds for arts charities
Fax: 250 356-7292

MLA: Hon. Colin Hansen (Min. of Finance)

The Tyee – November 2009
The Vancouver Sun – January 2009


4 responses to “Fun facts and figures – Arts vs. Olympics

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