Arts Minister Kevin Krueger talks about Bible, not cutbacks

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      Tourism, Culture and the Arts Minister Kevin Krueger has refused to answer a question from NDP culture critic Spencer Herbert in the legislature about next year's cuts to core arts funding. On November 2 during the ministry budget estimates debate, Herbert stated that core funding for arts and culture will be reduced to $3.7 million in 2010–11.

      Krueger responded that the 2010–11 budget is “still being built”, and said that he would only answer questions concerning this year's budget, which expires on March 31, 2010. “The member's own party, when it was in office, didn't forecast future years,” Krueger said.

      Herbert noted that a ministry study, which was commissioned in 2006, found that for every dollar invested in the arts, the government recovers $1.36 in tax revenue. “So I'm wondering what the minister's thoughts are on that study and if investing in arts and culture is actually an investment,” Herbert said. “Or does he see it as a subsidy without an economic benefit?”

      Krueger stated that the government doesn't dispute that B.C.'s arts and culture communities provide economic benefits. “They also provide tremendous social benefit in the way that they enhance our culture, our communities, our province as a whole—the way we see the world, the way we think about ourselves,” he said.

      Then he quoted a religious text to demonstrate the value of the arts. “There's a scripture in the Bible, ”˜Cast your bread on the waters, and it will return to you after many days,' and I believe that, too,” Krueger said. “That's a matter of faith in the Christian religion, but it's a similar finding to what this economic report found. I believe those benefits flow.”

      He added that when they flow, however, was another question, noting there are “very physical human needs that people have for health care right now and education right now and social services right now”.

      “This budget has a $2.775-billion deficit,” Krueger said. “Is it right to borrow even more deeply than that to provide grants to the adult community of today that will have to be paid back by people who are now children and grandchildren?”

      He went on to describe various B.C. Liberal government arts initiatives, including the creation of a $25-million “renaissance fund” that provides matching grants to arts organizations that do their own fundraising. Krueger noted that Herbert attended the October opening of the newly renovated Cultch, which was the beneficiary of a $9-million provincial grant.

      “The member heard the architect say that it was a church originally,” Krueger said. “It's 100 years old. It was built on a foundation of faith, and that's all that was left under it because the foundation had essentially crumbled away.”

      Later in the debate, Herbert said that the government is asking the arts community to rely on faith with regard to future funding. “People, as the minister well knows, can't eat faith,” the NDP critic noted. “You can try, but it leaves you a little bit hungry.”

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      5 Comments

      John McLachlan

      Nov 4, 2009 at 7:20pm

      I thought it was only children who believed in imaginary spooks. I guess our political leaders do as well.

      Well, back to the drawing board (I mean the cave walls). Let's start humanity over again without all the infantile belief systems called religion.

      Michael D. Riches

      Nov 5, 2009 at 2:58am

      The headline and first sentence of this story is misleading at best, maybe egregiously untruthful. "Krueger has refused to answer a question from the NDP..." In the story, I read one question; to paraphrase: "Is investing in arts a benefit?" Regardless of whether or not you're comfortable with Krueger quoting the Bible, he did answer the question: "They provide tremendous social benefit." Then he talks about why there are cuts to the arts, contradicting the headline.

      Okay Charlie, I get it. You don't like the Liberals. Half the time I don't either. But it doesn't excuse such a gross misrepresentation of what was asked or what was said. If you eliminate the headline and the first sentence, what I read is Spencer Hebert making reasonable and intelligent points and asking a question, with Krueger giving a cogent response. Whether you agree or disagree with the response or the Bible quote, there's no reason to say that the question went unanswered or that he refused to talk about cuts.

      All media is biased to some degree, but this slant, like much of the Straight's coverage of the Liberals, is just way over the line and does no service to readers who want impartial information.

      Colin Miles

      Nov 5, 2009 at 12:13pm

      Those who read Hansard will realize that the Georgia Straight's coverage of this issue is fair and unbiased.

      Christopher67

      Nov 5, 2009 at 12:15pm

      OK fine, he wants to quote scripture: Galatians 6:9

      "Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up."

      That means even when times are tough, Kev. A province that does not support the arts today will reap a harvest of dimwits tomorrow.

      Reader via e-mail

      Nov 9, 2009 at 11:43am

      Charlie Smith reports [Straight Nov. 5 - 12 / 2009, "Krueger talks about Bible, not cutbacks"] that the current BC provincial budget has a $2.775-billion deficit, and that for every dollar invested in the arts, the government recovers $1.36 in tax revenue.

      A modest proposal: if the government gives arts funding an extra $7.72-billion, it will recover $10.50-billion in revenue for a net gain of $2.78-billion, thus erasing the deficit.

      Why hasn't a visionary government implemented this? Because of limited ability of the arts community to "productively" absorb that much funding (from the point of view of tax revenue generation). Some funding recipients are highly productive, returning many dollars for each dollar of funding. Others "break-even", and still others may offer a small or even negative return (for example, imagine if a large sculpture fell on a child, or a work incorporated asbestos).

      Even if the government could somehow predict the "winners" and boost their funding, there's no guarantee they would remain "productive". A painter working a 40 hour week can't scale up to a 400 hour week if her funding is increased by a factor of 10. Or, there may not be another 9 painters of her calibre who could be funded.

      From a fiscal standpoint, the government's challenge is how to determine the capacity of the arts community to "productively" absorb funding, where recipients stay at "break-even" or better. According to the <a href=" http://www.straight.com/article-261154/kevin-kruegers-ministry-should-dr... Arts Blog (Oct. 3)</a>, the BC government-commissioned study actually reported a return range of $1.05 - $1.36 per dollar of funding in 2006, when economic conditions were better than today. If we assume return is at least somewhat dependent on disposable income, the range is probably lower now. While any number over $1.00 is an indication of underfunding, a number under $1.00 would imply overfunding, which in the current fiscal environment would get branded as a politically unpalatable "bailout".

      The arts community's use of the $1.36 figure is a two-edged sword. It's at the top end of a range that is probably optimistic today. Would the community be willing to accept the consequences of a future update of that government report, that showed a return under $1.00?

      Al Doman / North Vancouver, BC