Tag Archives: Gaming funds

Why did Stop BC Arts Cuts join other community, charity & arts groups to oppose the Edgewater Casino expansion at BC Place?

The proposed mega-casino would be situated near the water, adjacent to BC Place Stadium, as part of the redevelopment of Northeast False Creek.

UPDATE, April 19: WE WON!

Our coalition against the Edgewater mega-casino slated for downtown Vancouver has won. After first telling us it was a done deal, City Council voted unanimously against the casino, and we are grateful to them for that. They made a difficult decision under relentless pressure from the provincial government.

Now we want to ask you, our supporters, to spread the word: the fight against the mega-casino was arts-led. Arts in BC, already the most undersupported arts sector in all of Canada, received disastrous government and gaming cuts in 2009 unlike no other other province. In the ensuing months the BC government refused to speak to us in good faith, put no competent individual on the file who could speak intelligently to us or knew the issues, and our sector began to tank. Despite our massive contribution to the province’s annual GDP, we were the only sector to be deprived of government investment. With no other means at our disposal, we thought long and hard and decided to defeat the casino. Why? We didn’t want to see any more gambling in our name, especially since the BC Liberals’ massive expansion of gambling in BC has led to not one extra dollar for BC’s arts, charities, non-profits  andamateur sports  – the very things that were used to justify the expansion. The people of BC were being misled about where their gambling dollars were going – they were being used for huge kickbacks to the casino industry, for boondoggles like the hated BC Place roof, and other sinkholes. Enough was enough! Arts groups led by Stop BC Arts Cuts, Arts Advocacy BC and the Alliance for Arts joined with thousands of Vancouverites to say NO MEGA-CASINO in our name. And a massive majority of Vancouverites are grateful.

Please pass on this story to anyone you think might be interested. The arts will show our muscle again and again, always in the public interest, until our sector receives the investment it deserves. Do we want a vibrant, creative, innovative province or not?

______________________

January 2011

In BC we find ourselves in strange political times, and strange times call for unusual methods. Arts advocacy tactics have lately taken a new turn, one that may at seem confusing or counter-intuitive. However, we think it’s the best way to focus public attention on the serious damage that the cuts to arts funding have inflicted on our sector, and we believe it’s an effective way to bring pressure to bear on the BC government.

In short, we are using the conscience and duty of Vancouver City Hall as the pointy wedge in our fight. The BC government is trying to force a mega-casino on Vancouver’s downtown core. It owns the land, but as everyone knows, just because you own land, you can’t do whatever the hell you like with it. You have to get permission from the City. A mega-casino is  a bad deal for many reasons (statistics show it isn’t even good business), but we are emphatically opposed to it in light of the unwarranted and possibly illegal cuts of gaming funding to charities in BC. For all of these reasons we are asking the City to stand up to the province and say no. NO to a mega-casino in Vancouver.

Our current strategy regarding the casino was not solely initiated by the arts. It was devised in collaboration with the BCACG (BC Ass’n for Charitable Gaming) which represents all charities in BC who receive gaming funds. All of these charities were hit with devastating cuts at the same time the arts were hit – August of 2009. But the arts didn’t just see a lessening of funding; Minister Rich Coleman actually made the arts ineligible for gaming funds altogether, thereby cutting the majority of BC arts funding. The BCACG has tirelessly advocated for the restoration of gaming funds to arts organizations despite the fact that the arts have been disqualified from receiving funds.

Since the BC government was utterly intractable and refused to talk to us about the destruction of our sector, we were forced to come up with smarter political strategies. This is why Stop BC Arts Cuts and the BCACG got together to use the Edgewater mega-casino application before City Hall as a means of getting the BC government’s attention.

Read on for a more in-depth explanation.

At the end of this post is a list of things you can do to help. Please get involved, if only by just writing a letter! It will only take 2 minutes, an easy to way to exercise your democratic rights and duties! Thank you.

So how did we start out fighting the cuts to arts and end up by opposing a mega-casino in Vancouver?How can we justify asking to have gaming funds restored AND at the same time fight the development of a new casino?

These things are not as contradictory as they may initially seem. As you probably know, the arts have received gaming revenues since gambling was legalized in this province. Arts and other charities were in fact used as one of the main justifications for gambling’s expansion. But it was never the preference of the arts and culture sector or charities to be funded mainly out of gaming revenues. It was a government decision to fund the arts through gambling money rather than through tax dollars via the BC Arts Council. Given gambling’s well-documented role in crime, addiction, predation on seniors and other social ills, gambling’s proceeds are dirty. And regardless of what the government says, these ills cannot be eliminated from gambling no matter how well you regulate it.

The arts don’t just entertain us; they are also where society looks at itself, its ills, its decisions, and its imagined futures. Funding arts with blood money is an inherent contradiction and a bad idea.

However, given the lack of regular arts and charity funding in this province—BC levels are far lower than in any other province, by a country mile—there were few if any other options for the arts. Arts and other charities were put into the position of swallowing their moral pride in return for a promise of 1/3 of gaming revenues. Now these groups are being cut away from those promised funds and are facing dire financial straits. The straits were worsened by the fact that there was little advance warning of the cuts from what is a remarkably opaque provincial government, so the resulting financial instability was dire. BC communities now find themselves reeling from the damage to their non-profit service sector, whose crucial services, jobs, and infrastructure are crumbling.

The most galling fact is that this isn’t happening in any other province. Regardless of the varying economic health of each province, and despite the recession, other provinces more or less stood firm on funding. BC stands alone in the depth of its cuts. (See this devastating comparison between BC and Alberta, for example.)

Now the BC government wants to embark on another massive push to expand gaming, all while increasingly slashing its gaming contributions to charities and disqualifying arts altogether. It’s time to say no. That’s right: as gaming revenues have gone up, the contribution to charities has gone down. Further gambling expansion will not benefit the arts—not now that Minister Rich Coleman has made the arts ineligible for gaming funds—and it will clearly not benefit charities either. If you want to know where the gambling proceeds really went, read this.

MEGA-CASINO
As for the plan to build an unprecedentedly large mega-casino in Vancouver’s downtown core: Is this the kind of cultural scene we want in our city? Do we want to see casino theatres featuring washed-up acts competing with our cultural centres, our theatres, our venues? Is this the cultural reputation Vancouver is going to have to carry? Most other cities put casinos out in industrial areas for a reason, not smack in the middle of their downtown cores. Many Vancouverites still don’t know that this casino would be the largest in BC, 61% larger than the already enormous River Rock Casino in Richmond. They also don’t know that it would feature 1500 of the most up-to-date, addictive, neuroscience-engineered slot machines. Its raw resource, as with any casino, would be seniors and the drug trade.

There is industry talk of attracting high rollers from China, but all expert opinion points to the failure of that plan considering the stunning casinos in Singapore and Macau, not to mention Vegas. In the destination casino game, we do not compete. In fact, expert opinion points to the eventual failure of the casino industry in general, and gambling cities from Vegas to Atlanta are in deep trouble.

Some of you may know that we do already have an existing Edgewater casino downtown. It’s relatively small. If the new plan goes ahead, the old casino would be vacated, massively expanded, moved next to BC Place Stadium, and would also feature a taxpayer-funded “entertainment” and hotel complex (in fact it’s just hotels, of which Vancouver already has a glut, and bars and the stadium). Not only would our tax dollars go into this complex, but it would be privately owned and operated on an impossibly long 70-year lease by a sketchy Vegas company, Paragon Gaming. If you want to find out more about this whole backroom-deal operation, read Pete McMartin’s series in the Sun, this article in BC Business, articles in the Vancouver Observer and on the CBC, or just keep watching the news. The story ought to erupt soon, given that the rezoning application is before City Hall and revelations about BC money-laundering surface daily.

It’s time to ask City Council to find the courage to defy Rich Coleman, who—as CBC has made so painfully clear—does not have control over the rampant crime in the BC gambling industry. Gambling is not a good future industry for our province, it cannibalizes other businesses, it sucks the economic energy out of surrounding areas, and it’s not something we will be proud of.

This attempt on the part of the BC government to expand gambling in the municipality of Vancouver has given BC’s charities – including the arts – the opportunity to highlight their situation in a very public manner.

We are asking Vancouver City Council to stand up to the province and say no. Some Vancouver city councillors are already opposed to the plan; it remains to be seen how the majority will vote. To recap, the casino will introduce untold social ills into Vancouver, it does not conform to the image most Vancouver citizens want to project of our city, it will represent many social and economic costs that will fall to the municipality to pay rather than the province, and, what is most relevant here, charities will will receive little benefit. And the arts will receive none.

OUR COALITION
The coalition against the casino development is powerful and growing. We were told the casino was a done deal, but that now seems very unlikely. Vancouverites overwhelmingly oppose this casino and they are becoming increasingly vocal in their opposition. Groups in the coalition to date: The British Columbia Association of Charitable Gaming, (@BCACG on Twitter, or on Facebook) False Creek Residents Association Strathcona Residents Association (@strathconares on Twitter) Grandview-Woodland Area Council – read their letter here The Alliance for Arts & Culture representing over 350 arts & culture groups Stop BC Arts Cuts – a diverse group of arts supporters from all over BC Arts Advocacy BC – independent group advocating for arts throughout BC … and all of the numerous Vancouver citizens and seniors’ groups who have come out to events so far, written letters of support, and plan to attend the public hearings.

WHAT CAN YOU DO? 1. The Coalition has a website: Vancouver Not Vegas!, a Facebook page, and Twitter. Please visit, join, and follow these! 2.  PLEASE write a letter to City Council, telling them how you feel about the casino. Go to the link and either use the City’s feedback form, or alternatively use the sample email. PLEASE cc us! dontgamblevancouver at gmail dot com. 3. You can also write a second letter in support of Councillor Ellen Woodsworth’s motion to City Council to suspend the casino application, here. This one needs to be done ASAP. She presents it Jan. 18 to Council. Do this by Feb 17! 4. Keep your ears open for news of the beginning of public hearings at Vancouver City Hall in February. We will need you to come out and show support or sign up to be a speaker.

Thank you for reading. This is important. No dice, Minister Coleman!

Advertisements

Brain drain – how many are leaving BC thanks to arts cuts?

We are currently tracking the number of artists and arts professionals leaving BC for Ontario and beyond thanks to the hostile climate for arts in BC. We want to know how many are leaving as a result of the BC Liberals’ current cultural policies, including but not limited to: cutting gaming funds to arts organizations, cutting regular tax funding for the BC Arts Council, refusing to match Ontario’s tax credits to benefit the BC film industry, and cancelling the touring subsidies for BC musicians. Since most other provinces have increased rather than decreased these programs, we are extremely confused by this wholesale destruction of arts and culture infrastructure in this province. If you are leaving, or know others who are, please contact us. Arts professionals need to pay their bills and can’t wait around until Budget Day, March 2 to see if the BC government is going to reverse its position and start giving the cultural sector the same support it gives other sectors. Arts professionals want to work in a vibrant arts industry, not in a hostile arts climate. It’s clear that the brain drain has already begun and some of BC’s most innovative and highly-trained workers in film, music and the arts have already been lost to other regions, which is a terrible net loss for BC. Please help us compile an accurate list. Information will be kept confidential if you so desire – we just need numbers.

Thank you for your help. Email us here.

Loggers, Pulp Mill Workers, Miners and Farmers say Restore Arts Funding Now!

Loggers speak out against BC arts cuts. Photo: Bill Horne

Forestry workers Michel Bernier and Jerry Krouzel are mad about what the BC government has done with gaming funds previously earmarked for the arts. (All of these photos were taken by Wells, BC photographer Bill Horne, whose information is at bottom. Link to this original photo is here.)

Bernier and Krouzel are currently working on a fuel management and fire protection program near Barkerville Historic Town in BC’s north Cariboo. Both are incensed about the negative impact of the gaming money grab on the hinterland’s culture and economy, because the resource sector provides so much of the province’s revenues.

“That money was meant to go to non-profits and the arts,” says Bernier. “They should give back ALL of it,” noting that although the government returned some gaming money, many non-profit and arts organizations weren’t eligible. “They didn’t say anything about this during last spring’s election.”

“Non-profits and arts groups are very important, especially in small communities in the hinterland, but they’re fragile. This funding can make or break them,” said Krouzel.

As one local example, gaming money has made up more than 10% of Island Mountain Arts’ annual budget in Wells. Its board is now struggling to make up the shortfall or cut its programming.

white space

Denise Dauvin, pulp mill worker, speaks out against BC arts cuts, Photo: Bill Horne

Prince George pulp mill worker, Denise Dauvin, loves her tunes and is unhappy about recent cuts to the arts in BC that affect the province’s musicians. (Link to original photo by Bill Horne is here.)

Sarah McLachlan is one of my faves,” said Dauvin at the truck dumps, “and she’s right when she says the cuts are a tragedy.”

McLachlan has been speaking out against the cuts in the media recently and has said she thinks “arts and culture are a huge part of what makes our part of the world vibrant.”

Dauvin likes the music of Roy Forbes, too, and wonders what support there will be for budding musicians who come from far-flung corners of the province like he did (Forbes hails from Dawson Creek). As one example of the current crisis in the arts, Music BC faces cuts to its travel assistance program, operating funds, and the Western Canadian Music Awards.

She believes that music is an essential creative outlet for children, and as important as sports and education in a child’s growth and development.

“Why is our government cutting culture at a time when US President Barack Obama has just named 25 artists and educators to a national arts advisory committee, and the US Congress has increased funding the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities?” asks Dauvin. “If they think it’s smart to invest in the arts during a recession, why can’t we?”

Dauvin has been a heavy equipment operator at the pulpmill for over seven years.

white space

BC Miners speak out against BC arts cuts. Photo: Bill Horne

Devlin’s Bench gold miners Rob Dakau and Dave Jorgenson are strongly opposed to recent cuts to BC’s arts budget. (Link to original photo by Bill Horne is here.)

“When government ministers try to pit artists against hungry children, that’s a false dichotomy,” says heavy equipment operator Rob Dakau. “It’s not an elite thing. Children in our region benefit from art classes at Island Mountain Arts in Wells. And they learn to think creatively.”

Jorgenson, Devlin’s Bench mine manager and a Past President of the Wells & District Chamber of Commerce, says “our culture and our economy are interconnected. Some of us at the mine host musicians during the annual ArtsWells Festival; others provide security; most of us try to attend. Events like ArtsWells bring much-needed dollars to our community.”

He believes the government ought to be investing in the arts during the recession instead of making drastic cuts.

Pete Wright, whose company operates the mine, says that in a small community like Wells, tiny investments in the arts generate a positive ripple effect in the local economy. “In my business, I have to look ahead and consider the global economy. Countries like Singapore are investing in the arts for long term growth – why aren’t we?”

white space

Dragon Mtn farmers speak out against BC arts cuts. Photo: Bill Horne

Cariboo farmers Janet Allen and Murray Boal want the BC government to restore arts funding to pre-election levels. (Link to original photo by Bill Horne is here.)

Both farmers are angry that the BC government claimed that culture was the “second pillar” of its bid for the 2010 Olympics, and now has slashed arts funding by up to 90% over the next two years.

“We work hard producing nutritious food, but we know people also need the nourishment of books, art, dance, theatre and music,” said Allen.

“Our economy needs it, too,” she said. Allen notes that every dollar invested by the province in the arts returns between $1.05
and $1.36 directly to provincial treasuries through tax revenues. “Surely it makes sense to invest in this sector during the recession, especially considering the growing importance of cultural tourism for jobs.”

Boal says the government ought to be ashamed of devoting the lowest percentage of all provinces of its operating budget to culture in spite of having the largest percentage of its labour force in arts occupations. “We’re investing less than half the national average,” he says. “Québec invests nearly four times what we do. We need to narrow this gap, not make it worse.”

Dragon Mountain Farm was established in 1979 and has supplied 120 North Cariboo households with vegetables every summer since 1997. It is located 35 km southeast of Quesnel, BC on the Quesnel River.

As well as farming, Murray Boal has worked as a woodworker and a musician. He has recorded four CDs, the latest with Bob Campbell as the “wingdamramblers.” Janet Allen has a keen interest in social justice issues and is involved in local economic development. In her spare time she enjoys working with horses and border collies. For his part, Nick loves chasing the ball.

white space

All of these beautiful photographs were taken by Bill Horne, Wells, BC, after arts in his region were devastated by arts funding cuts. For further information, contact Bill at Amazing Space Studio, Wells, BC, 250-994-2332, or email mazing at claireart dot ca.