B.C. election campaigns light on arts

Members of the local arts scene say they’re disappointed by the lack of prominence being given to the arts in the provincial election campaign.

While both the NDP and Greens have pledged to increase arts funding, the B.C. Liberals have not. The NDP has vowed to restore the arts funding cut in 2009, increase the budget for the B.C. Arts Council, and provide a new $50-million capital fund to be administered by the B.C. Arts Council for investment in projects that “support the growth and sustainability” of professional and community arts, culture, and heritage sectors. The Green party platform calls for increasing funding to the B.C. Arts Council, establishing a separate Ministry of Arts, Culture and Heritage, and cooperating with other levels of government to fund an “indigenous peoples culture and arts plan for B.C.”.

Meanwhile, the only mention of the arts in the Liberals’ platform comes in the context of boosting tourism: “It [increasing tourism revenues] is why we established the $150-million B.C. 150 Cultural Fund and are investing $50 million in a new generation Vancouver Art Gallery.”

Amir Ali Alibhai, executive director of the Alliance for Arts and Culture, said he was disappointed the Liberals did not include the arts in their platform, particularly given their proposed cuts in general arts and culture funding of 40 percent over the next three years. “The Liberals have had a better track record in terms of investing in the arts than other governments in B.C., but the proposed cuts and the actual cuts that have been made are potentially very devastating to the community,” he said.

Added Heather Redfern, executive director of the Vancouver East Cultural Centre: “I think it’s shortsighted for the Liberals to not speak about it, because they’ve actually done a pretty good job in the last few years with culture.”



Julie McIntyre

Apr 24, 2009 at 9:23pm

I am deeply disappointed and bewildered with the Liberal's retrogressive platform position regarding arts funding. For two years the Liberal government has ignored the advice of their own finance committee, who have repeatedly recommended increases to the arts budget, because an investment in the arts sector has a proven stimulus effect. Indeed, The City of Vancouver estimates that for every dollar invested in the arts, arts organizations earn or raise an additional $12.75, which is re-invested in the local economy. Moreover, cultural investment is earned back through direct taxes at a rate of 138%. The Conference Board of Trade reported that the arts contributed $86-billion to the Canadian economy in 2007 and employed a million people. British Columbia has the highest number of artists per capita in the country, so clearly the arts is far more than a frill or roadside diversion here. Our cultural industries are integral to creating healthy and vibrant communities. Artists literally spin clay or paint into gold, audiences into communities, and communities into tourist destinations. I am heartened by the NPD and Green Party's platform position to increase core funding for the arts. Artists are usually masters at working with very little to create great things, but the scarce infrastructure we have like community art galleries and artist run centres once lost, (and they will be if the Liberal’s massive cuts in core funding are applied), proves nearly impossible to revive. There is only so much we can do with so little.