Monthly Archives: July 2011

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.

However!

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.

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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.

Flaherty.J@parl.gc.ca
james.moore@parl.gc.ca

A couple of lines is enough.

Thanks!