Minister of Community, Sport, and Cultural Development Ida Chong dismisses B.C. arts funding stats
Minister of Community, Sport, and Cultural Development Ida Chong has defended the province’s record of arts funding after recent Statistics Canada figures showed B.C. at the bottom of the pack when it comes to per capita arts funding.
“It’s really hard to comment in a way that I think is enlightening, because what you see is that these statistics sometimes are skewed because of special investments, one-offs in specific years for certain specific priorities, or a special event that took place,” Chong told the Straight. “From province to province they can be distorted. And also, province to province, we don’t always include the same things as what we consider as arts and culture, or investment in arts and culture. So while I appreciate that somebody’s trying to put some comparators out there, it may not be as comprehensive as they would like to see.”
According to 2008-09 Statistics Canada figures analyzed by Hill Strategies Research, provincial per capita spending averaged $92, with B.C. last of all at $62. B.C. also came last in per capita federal arts spending, at $51, compared with the average of $122.
In contrast, when it comes to municipal culture spending, B.C. is at the top of the heap, at $98 per capita, compared with the average of $82. Even so, that’s not enough to bring the province up when all levels of government spending are considered: B.C. still comes in last, at $211 per capita in total, compared with the average of $296. Quebec leads in overall spending, at $374, followed by P.E.I. at $306 and Saskatchewan at $281.
NDP culture critic Spencer Chandra Herbert said that B.C.’s low per capita spending at the provincial level was responsible for its poor showing at the federal level as well. “Canada Council and Canadian Heritage will provide greater resources if you can show you have provincial support,” he said. “But because B.C.’s support is so low, there are other provinces who invest more, so their projects are further along, are more developed and more attractive to funders.”
While the figures from StatsCan come from 2008-09, Herbert said they are still relevant. “It shows that this has been a long-standing trend in B.C. to not invest in arts and culture,” he said. “It just shows that this has continued and, in fact, gotten worse since 2008-2009, with the massive cuts to gaming, and the on-again, off-again support of the B.C. Arts Council.”
Chong said she prefers to focus on outcomes. “I think we have more artists per capita than any other province. Nobody ever talks about that. We are the only province, I think, where artists make up, I believe, more than one percent of the entire labour force.”