Arts and culture advocates criticize B.C. budget
B.C. arts and culture advocates have expressed dismay over what the province’s new budget means for the sector.
“The budget is essentially what we were expecting which is no increases here in funding to the arts. Unfortunately, when you look into the details it actually projects a freeze in arts funding for the next three years,” said Rob Gloor, executive director of the Alliance for Arts and Culture.
“Ultimately that equates to a decrease when you factor in inflation. And I think that the result will be that B.C. arts organizations will have a diminished capacity to serve their communities,” Gloor told the Straight by phone.
Finance Minister Kevin Falcon today (February 21) tabled the financial plan in Victoria, saying the province is committed to balancing the books in the coming years.
While Gloor acknowledged the goal of eliminating the deficit, he remained critical of the government’s approach to the arts.
“I know that it’s not easy for governments to address these historic challenges but British Columbia remains absolutely the lowest per capita funder of the arts in Canada,” he said.
“Every other province invests more, and in many cases much more than B.C. and a long-term promise of frozen funding means that will not be addressed by this government.”
Ida Chong, minister of community, sport, and cultural development, touted the government’s support for the arts.
“Despite challenging economic times, arts and culture funding continues to be well supported by our government through this Ministry,” Chong said in a statement.
“The BC Arts Council core funding has been maintained, at the second highest level ever, helping arts and cultural groups tell B.C.’s story and showcase B.C.’s diverse heritage to the world.”
Chong’s ministry estimates spending on arts, culture, and sport will be $20.9 million for 2012-2013, down around $59,000 from 2011-2012. The province plans to keep that funding level at $20.9 million until 2014-2015.
New Democrat arts and culture critic Spencer Chandra Herbert questioned Chong’s claim about support for arts and culture funding.
“The Liberals continue to effectively cut arts funding through inaction after making the deepest cuts to arts and culture in B.C. history. I’m disappointed because arts and culture and the creative economy is vital for our future,” Chandra Herbert told the Straight by phone.
“I’ve certainly been saying that arts and culture, the creative sector, and film industry needs much closer attention,” the MLA said.
Both Chandra Herbert and Gloor also took issue with a new children’s arts tax credit the province has announced. The tax credit will allow families to claim up to $500 in expenses “per child, per credit, per year” for eligible programs.
“There’s problems here because the government has addressed the challenges of the arts by introducing good-looking tax credits that don’t actually have much benefit to accessibility to the arts,” Gloor said.
“I would like to see incremental growth in the investment in the arts sector through the organizations that are already set up to provide great accessibility in the communities to a huge range of arts and culture activities.”