Thursday, September 17, 2009

Boring, Terrible Stuff: BC Arts Still Under Seige

A snapshot of the financial challenges Pacific Theatre, along with the rest of British Columbia's arts community, is facing at present.

Back at the end of August, British Columbians were shocked to learn that the Liberal government had slashed all Access BC funding to arts groups in the province. (Access BC distributes the revenues from gaming in British Columbia: since this policy was instituted, gaming has become the de facto source of funding for arts groups in our province, taking the place of any increase to the BC Arts Council during those years). Less than a week after this announcement, the government partially reversed its decision, choosing to honour its written commitment to groups which had been provided with three-year funding commitments, but still falling far short of it's commitment to direct at least one third of revenues from the "social ill" of casinos and other gaming to "socially beneficial" organizations such as arts groups. But single-year recipients and new applicants (such as Pacific Theatre) remain completely frozen out of this funding stream.

On other fronts, the news is equally bad. At present, the Liberal government intends to slash funding to the BC Arts Council, the key provincial body responsible for managing arts funding (see figures below). British Columbia already has the lowest level of support for the performing arts of any province in Canada, and even in the face of serious economic difficulties in provinces such as Ontario, no other Canadian province is resorting to a reduction in arts spending to deal with present fiscal challenges. Even the federal Conservatives strengthened their support to the arts during 2009, extending for three years their increased commitment to the Canada Council For The Arts. Mr. Campbell stands alone.

It is true that current economic realities call for sacrifices from every sector. But a detailed statistical analysis of the provincial budget reveals that these devastating cuts to Provincial arts funding massively exceed the cuts to funding in any other sector: "There are 114 items in the budget with expenditures of $1M or higher. Arts & Culture funding moves from the 57th highest expenditure at 19.5M in 2008/2009 to the 100th highest expenditure in 2009/2010 with less than 3.7M in funding. When the 114 expenditures are ranked by gain or loss, the picture becomes even more clear. With a loss of more than 80%, Arts & Culture suffers the second worst cuts - with the worst being another Arts-related line item (BC Arts & Culture Endowment Special Account)!"

Click on chart for large format view

Diane Brown of Ruby Slippers (who directed our premiere of CARIBOO MAGI) has written clearly and passionately about the current realities, and suggests steps forward. While her company's multi-year funding was restored, she continues to advocate for fair treatment of other organizations, and to call for some sort of sustainable plan for arts funding in our province.

Here's Diane...
We are artists, cultural workers and supporters of a civil society, and we call on all those who believe in the value of arts and culture in our communities. Join us in bringing public attention to the recently announced, brutal cuts to our sector by the BC government.

Despite recent announcements reinstating funding to multi-year clients of Gaming grants, funding to the arts and culture sector has NOT been restored; the provincial government is planning to cut over 80% of what has consisted of only 1/20th of 1% of the provincial budget.

According to our most recent sources, 85%-92% of core provincial funding for arts and culture will be cut by 2012, from both tax-based and non-tax-based [gaming] streams. The arts and cultural sector is bearing the brunt of discretionary cuts compared with other areas. During this economic crisis we are willing to make reasonable sacrifices, but cannot accept outright decimation of the sector.

Total support for arts and culture organizations in BC from 2008-2012, including all sources (Gaming, BC Arts and Culture Special Endowment, Direct taxpayer investment) are:
2008/2009 – 47.8 million
2009/2010 – 42.219 million (as of February)
2009/2010 – 23.075 million (suddenly, as of September)
2010/2011 – 3.749 million (not including Gaming funds)
2011/2012 – 3.675 million (not including Gaming funds)

No other province in Canada has reduced support for the arts sector, a sector that, according to government statistics, produces significant returns on investment. This is a sector that creates both social and economic capital. The arts are a critical part of many stimulus strategies being enacted around the world.

Most Western governments are recognizing the importance of investing in the Arts and Cultural sector as part of economic stimulus that creates jobs, attracts skilled workers and entrepreneurs, supports cultural tourism, and which lies at the core of the Creative Industries such as Film, Media, and Design. Investing in the arts and culture is investing in our future.
  • Every dollar invested by the provincial dollar in the arts and cultural organizations returns between $1.05 and $1.36 directly to provincial treasuries through tax revenues (Ministry of Tourism, Culture & The Arts)
  • The City of Vancouver concluded that every dollar spent on arts and cultural activity by the City resulted in almost twelve dollars in economic activity (2007 Cultural Plan)
  • BC has the largest percentage of its labour force in arts occupations from among the 10 provinces (Hill Strategies)
  • The BC arts, culture, and heritage industries generate 80,000 jobs in the Creative sector and $5.2 billion annually (Ministry of Tourism Arts and Culture Service Plans)
  • UK’s National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts (Nesta ) suggests that the cultural sector will grow by 4% between 2009 and 2013 - double the estimate for the rest of the economy
  • The second pillar of the Olympic Games is Culture; maintaining investment in the sector will allow BC to fulfill its commitments to the Winter Games and to meet its related goals of increasing Cultural Tourism and leaving a legacy in communities across the province.

Write to your MLA describing why culture matters to you. Encourage your friends, family, and colleagues to do the same. Be civil and passionate. Most elected officials are people in our communities who are trying to do a good job, and need to be reminded about what is important to us. Help us remind them.

Write to your MLA
Write your City Councillors
Write the Premier's office -
Write the Minister of Finance -
Write the Minister of Tourism, Culture and the Arts -

Connect with your local arts and cultural organizations to volunteer or make a donation.

Visit the Alliance for Arts and Culture website to keep informed and connected.

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