Arts groups say their grants have been frozen during election period

Grant money to arts groups has been frozen in the wake of the provincial election, according to the Alliance for Arts and Culture, which has posted a blog item about the issue.

“Gaming money has been frozen because of the election; apparently there’s a policy,” the Alliance's executive director Amir Ali Alibhai said in a phone call with the Straight this morning. “It makes me a little bit nervous because after the election we don’t know what will be done with it. Will it be unfrozen? Was it because of the election? They’re reporting that the government is actively looking for places where it can cut spending....Traditionally, you know, many governments have chosen to identify the arts as non-essential. We’d like some clarity. I hope people ask questions as all the town meetings happen. What are the plans?”

In addition, a music touring grant administered by Music BC is also currently on hold, according to staff at the organization.

“They’re reviewing the touring assistance program that we’ve been administering on behalf of the province for a number of years” Amanda Schweers, Music BC executive assistant, told the Straight.   “They’re waiting to see if they’re going to renew it for this year, this fiscal that we’re already in....With changes in the minister [of Tourism, Culture, and the Arts] and deputy minister, they’re reviewing all current programs and we just have not heard back anything yet. Normally we would have the first deadline for May 15, but because we haven’t even confirmed we have the funds for this year we’re not able to do that yet.”

Schweers said the grant money, worth a total of $100,000, has been administered by Music BC since the late 1990s. Normally the money would have been released in January or February, she said. “We don’t even know if they’re going to actually give us the funds this year at all,” she added.

David Greer, a spokesman for the Ministry of Tourism, Culture, and the Arts, said the grant money normally administered by Music BC is "still under discussion right now," adding that "a decision will probably be made on that sometime in June."

A spokesman for the Ministry of Housing and Development, which administers gaming grants, offered to provide a written statement about gaming grants that would be unattributable to an individual. These statements are against the Straight's editorial policy, and it was declined.