BC Liberals try to mask the disgrace of BC’s $6.50 per capita spending

BC Liberals MLA Don McRae – deceptive language

It has come to our attention that the BC Liberals are attempting to paper over the embarrassing fact of BC’s last-place position when compared with per capita arts funding in every other province. And they’re doing it with a dishonest abuse of statistics. Most of you know by now that the national provincial arts funding average is $26 per capita. BC is a distant last in Canada at approx. $6.54 per capita. Now, there are other ways of tallying arts funding in each province, and some take into account ALL levels of funding including federal and municipal, as you will see below. The BC Liberals are here doing a very clumsy, blatant version of apples vs. oranges, in an attempt to hide the fact that their provincial funding is glaringly low. And even by their model, adding in all other federal and municipal funding sources, BC is still last. How could it be otherwise, considering the nearly nonexistent provincial funding level? This is a deliberately deceptive communication tactic to say the least.

Here is BC Liberal MLA Don McRae, member of the Standing Committee for Finance that is currently touring BC collecting public submissions for next year’s budget.

Via Hansard:

D. McRae: Well, I just want to preface. I’m a big supporter of the arts and culture, and I’d like to see more dollars go in. But one of the things that we see at this committee oftentimes is the fact that we are spending $6.54 per capita as compared to Alberta. You know, it is lower per capita in that way.

The Arts Research Monitor says that in British Columbia, when you look at all levels of government, we actually spend $194 per person in British Columbia on arts and culture. Now, maybe that’s still not enough, but the reality is that how we delegate our dollars provincially, federally and municipally might be a little bit different if we just look at it on that level.

I don’t know how the municipalities contribute to arts in other jurisdictions. For that reason, I’m a little curious as to how that would level the playing field or not. So if you could provide some information — not today, necessarily — about…. When you take all three levels of government into arts funding, does B.C. really stand far below the rest?

Response from Keith Higgins, President of the Pacific Association of Artist-Run Centres:

“If some members of the finance committee would like to argue that a larger investment by a handful of municipalities somehow absolves the province of responsibility for investment in culture throughout the province, it shows a real lack of responsibility.

The question that comes to mind in response is: Even if the “mix” [federal plus municipal added to provincial] provides adequate investment (and it doesn’t; I’ll come back to that) how exactly is government going to address the Metro/non-Metro disparity in access to culture? If the finance committee would like to find a way to encourage municipalities who are not providing adequate (or any) investment — and there are many — to do so, it would of course be welcomed. If they have some other way to increase federal and private investment, let’s see that strategy.

By the way, the issue of Hill’s Arts Research Monitor that is being referred to is 8:6, November 2009. The complete passage is:

“On a per-capita basis, spending on culture by all levels of government was $266 per Canadian in 2006-07. From highest to lowest, per-capita spending by all levels of government was as follows in each province:

Quebec ($335 per capita);
Prince Edward Island ($272 per capita);
Saskatchewan ($257 per capita);
Ontario ($245 per capita);
Nova Scotia ($234 per capita);
Manitoba ($231 per capita);
Newfoundland and Labrador ($224 per capita);
Alberta ($219 per capita);
New Brunswick ($210 per capita); and
British Columbia ($194 per capita).”

See http://www.hillstrategies.com/docs/ARM_vol8_no6.pdf

Look who is last! So, the quoted statistic is an extremely cynical tactic. I will address this in a written submission to the Finance Committee. Any presenters still scheduled to appear before the committee should be alerted to this.

We should thank MLA Don McRae for raising the Hill Arts Monitor as a reference, since it confirms many arguments that arts presenters have been making, especially that the province’s historically low investment has prevented BC from getting a fair share of investment from federal sources. Read the entire issue at the link above; it’s quite illuminating.


2 responses to “BC Liberals try to mask the disgrace of BC’s $6.50 per capita spending

  1. Thank you for the clarity, I appreciate this.

  2. Great work! Hang them with their own stats and reference sources. And hang ’em high!

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