Tag Archives: arts funding

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.


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.

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?

Finance Committee 2010 recommends increased arts funding

Below is the government’s press release regarding the 2010 report of the Standing Committee on Finance. The report can be found here. The arts and culture sector is grateful to everyone who appeared before the committee or wrote letters. The relevant portions of the report for arts read as follows:

The Finance Committee recommends that the provincial government:

27. Revisit eligibility criteria for community gaming grants; and consider reinstating grants for three years to provide stability, predictability and consistency.

28. Make funding of the arts a high priority in the 2011/12 budget by returning to overall actual funding levels of 2008/09 to encourage an independent and creative cultural sector.

November 12, 2010 Legislative Assembly Province of British Columbia

VICTORIA – The Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services released its report today on the Budget 2011 consultations. The report contains 59 recommendations for the next provincial budget, based on the 1,300 submissions received from the public. “We heard many suggestions on how to spend additional resources for existing programs and services, as well as new ones, at the 17 public hearings and in the written and on-line submissions,” said committee chair John Les, MLA. The report’s recommendations relate to health services, the education system, services for children and youth, community services, resource management and the public’s tax and fiscal priorities. The committee’s report urges the provincial government to consider:

* Keeping annual increases in health-care spending in line with the average growth of the provincial economy.
* Providing additional resources for research and outreach to community health services supporting patients with dementia, acquired brain injury, Parkinson’s or ALS.
* Reinvesting in the BC School Fruit and Vegetable Nutritional Program.
* Reinstating a grants system targeted at under-represented groups in the post-secondary sector.
* Encouraging social entrepreneurship and investigating the use of social impact bonds.
* Allocating more resources for environmental protection and for natural resource industries.
* Exploring the feasibility of a home renovation tax credit.
* Accelerating the return to a balanced budget.

“The committee received a lot of good ideas from British Columbians,” added Les, “and we feel that the report reflects these priorities.” The budget consultations are held annually as part of the committee’s mandate. Further information, as well as copies of the committee’s report, is available online at http://www.leg.bc.ca/cmt/index.htm.


The members of the Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services are: John Les, MLA (Chilliwack), Chair; Doug Donaldson, MLA (Stikine), Deputy Chair; Norm Letnick, MLA (Kelowna-Lake Country); Don McRae, MLA (Comox Valley); Michelle Mungall, MLA (Nelson-Creston); Bruce Ralston, MLA (Surrey-Whalley); Bill Routley, MLA (Cowichan Valley); John Rustad, MLA (Nechako Lakes); Jane Thornthwaite, MLA (North Vancouver-Seymour); John van Dongen, MLA (Abbotsford South).

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.

David Diamond’s submission to the BC Finance Committee

David Diamond is the Artistic/Managing Director of BC’s Headlines Theatre. This is his submission to the Standing Committee on Finance, spoken in person to the committee today in the course of its public Vancouver hearing:

To the Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services:

September 16, 2010

Hello, my name is David Diamond and I am the Artistic Director of Headlines Theatre. The best way, I believe, to talk about arts and culture is to make it personal.

One of the reasons I am here because sometime in the last 30 years, Headlines will have done a project in every single one of your constituencies; projects on addiction, family violence, racism, intergenerational conflict, homelessness, gang violence, suicide prevention and many others.

I want to acknowledge off the top that I am very happy that a portion of the money that was cut from Arts and Culture has come back to the BC Arts Council. Let us not think, however, this has solved the problem.

Mr. Les – you came to the opening of Meth, in Sto:Lo Territory – Meth toured into 27 communities across BC and then toured western Canada. I remember you came to me after the show, literally vibrating and said you had never experienced anything like this powerful theatre project on addiction;

Mr. Ralston – you might recall “Here and Now”, on gang violence. It was so deeply embraced by the Indo-Canadian community it was created and first performed inside the Ross Street Temple in Vancouver and then moved to the Surrey Arts Centre;

Mr. Donaldson – I carry a Gitxsan name because of the theatre work over many, many years throughout the Hazelton area – in Kispiox and Gitanmaax in particular.

Mr. Rustad – Street Spirits in PG who do work with at-risk youth, who I am sure you must know, were born directly from a Headlines’ workshop over 10 years ago.

I could go on through all of your constituencies.


Continue reading

BC’s arts funding by far the lowest in Canada


These are the more recent Canadian statistics we have for provincial arts funding levels. They’re from the 2007-2008 year. These figures take time to compile, partly because each provinces distributes arts funding differently, often through more than one ministry or program. However, we can say for certain that since 2008, almost all provinces have either increased their arts funding or stayed at par. Alberta is an exception and its cuts were extremely minor, leaving its arts funding still uncounted miles above BC’s. BC is the glaring exception, and it’s for this reason that even national arts and culture organizations and associations, as well as audience and art organizations in other provincers, are now taking an increasingly strident stand on the BC situation. Given the frustrating and increasingly undemocratic opacity of the BC government’s arts funding, we are not able to put a per capita dollar amount to current BC arts funding, but our best guess is something like $5 per person maximum, most likely less. The BC Arts Council and the Gaming funds have each been cut by more than 50%. There is a $10 million Legacy fund for arts and culture, but its funds – rife with political interference – have been made unavailable to almost all existing BC arts organizations thanks to bizarre restrictive criteria, and furthermore it looks as if not all of those funds will be disbursed (more on this later), and when they are disbursed it’s at the discretion of untrained ministry bureaucrats in the Gaming and Tourism branches, effectively making these a political slush fund. If we take the not unreasonable stance that that $10 million can’t be considered arts funding as we know arts funding, but is instead intended for electioneeering festivals in swing ridings, then the per capita amount falls much, much further, perhaps below $4 per capita.

Arts funding is always a miniscule, even negligible amount in a provincial budget. Even before these drastic cuts it was an unnoticeable 1/1000 of the provincial budget (some regions spend 1% of their budgets on art). Yet that miniscule amount was enough to yield the kind of BC culture that has allowed us to produce our own culture rather than just import culture from somewhere else and suffer a cultural deficit. Not only that, BC arts have managed to do extremely well on the world stage, wildly disproportionate to our our small population. As musician Dan Mangan pointed out, we punch well above our weight internationally, bringing an enormous amount of attention to our province. But these cuts are going to end this precarious reputation, and the cuts are entirely unnecessary. Since BC arts bring in a net wealth to the province, amounting to billions of dollars annually, it’s clear they’re being cut out of some sort of unexplained vengeance rather than proper governmental management. And who are we without a picture of ourselves, and without a habit of innovation and creativity? As British Columbians we deserve a culture of our own. It’s us. It helps, not hinders, our economy. And Premier Campbell, cutting it is cultural suicide. Commercial culture alone will not ensure a BC culture, let alone culture every British Columbian can afford. Does the example of every other Canadian province mean nothing to you? Are you willing to sacrifice our identity, thought, innovation, literacy, social health and tolerance, IQ in children, and everything else that an arts infrastructure guarantees for us?

BC arts has been doing a lot with a little for a long time, but now the government is asking it to squeeze blood from a stone. The brain drain has already begun and is now, after a year of utter drought, rapidly accelerating. Write your MLA about the most recent loss of arts funding here.