New figures put B.C. last in per-capita cultural spending
Recent Statistics Canadafigures show British Columbia at the bottom of the pack when it comes to per-capita arts funding.
For 2008-09, provincial per-capita spending averaged $92—only Ontario and B.C. came in under that figure, with B.C. last of all at $62. B.C. also came last in per-capita federal arts spending, at $51 compared to the average of $122.
In contrast, when it comes to municipal spending, B.C. is at the top of the heap, at $98 per capita compared to 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 to the average of $296. Quebec leads in overall spending, at $374, followed by P.E.I. at $306 and Saskatchewan at $281.
During the past year, successive arts ministers in B.C. have skirted the issue of the province’s poor standing on per-capita spending on culture. In January, then-Minister of Community, Sport and Cultural Development Stephanie Cadieux told the Straight she did not believe such measures were accurate, “because of the way provinces report things, and the different circumstances in different provinces, for all sorts of reasons.”
In May, current Minister of Community, Sport and Cultural Development Ida Chong told a parliamentary meeting, “...My understanding is that because of the varying degrees of things that are included or excluded, it [per-capita arts spending] really doesn’t make for a good comparison.”
NDP culture critic Spencer Chandra Herbert said that B.C.’s low per-capita spending on the provincial level is responsible for its poor showing on 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.”
Herbert said the figures also showed that municipalities are attempting to fill the gap in arts funding. “Municipal councils are trying in a way to pick up the slack of the provincial government,” he said. “When you talk to people they go ”˜Well, I’ll go to the City of Vancouver because they have shown that they want Vancouver to be a cultural capital, a creative centre.’ Then I ask them, ”˜Have you gone to the B.C. Arts Council?’ And they say, ”˜Well, we can, but we’re not really counting on that much and we’re not focusing on it because there are so few resources.’”
While the figures from StatsCan come from 2008-09, Herbert said they were 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.”