Tourism, Culture and the Arts Minister Kevin Krueger has refused to answer a question from NDP culture critic Spencer Herbert in the legislature about next year's cuts to core arts funding. On November 2 during the ministry budget estimates debate, Herbert stated that core funding for arts and culture will be reduced to $3.7 million in 2010–11.
Krueger responded that the 2010–11 budget is “still being built”, and said that he would only answer questions concerning this year's budget, which expires on March 31, 2010. “The member's own party, when it was in office, didn't forecast future years,” Krueger said.
Herbert noted that a ministry study, which was commissioned in 2006, found that for every dollar invested in the arts, the government recovers $1.36 in tax revenue. “So I'm wondering what the minister's thoughts are on that study and if investing in arts and culture is actually an investment,” Herbert said. “Or does he see it as a subsidy without an economic benefit?”
Krueger stated that the government doesn't dispute that B.C.'s arts and culture communities provide economic benefits. “They also provide tremendous social benefit in the way that they enhance our culture, our communities, our province as a whole—the way we see the world, the way we think about ourselves,” he said.
Then he quoted a religious text to demonstrate the value of the arts. “There's a scripture in the Bible, ”˜Cast your bread on the waters, and it will return to you after many days,' and I believe that, too,” Krueger said. “That's a matter of faith in the Christian religion, but it's a similar finding to what this economic report found. I believe those benefits flow.”
He added that when they flow, however, was another question, noting there are “very physical human needs that people have for health care right now and education right now and social services right now”.
“This budget has a $2.775-billion deficit,” Krueger said. “Is it right to borrow even more deeply than that to provide grants to the adult community of today that will have to be paid back by people who are now children and grandchildren?”
He went on to describe various B.C. Liberal government arts initiatives, including the creation of a $25-million “renaissance fund” that provides matching grants to arts organizations that do their own fundraising. Krueger noted that Herbert attended the October opening of the newly renovated Cultch, which was the beneficiary of a $9-million provincial grant.
“The member heard the architect say that it was a church originally,” Krueger said. “It's 100 years old. It was built on a foundation of faith, and that's all that was left under it because the foundation had essentially crumbled away.”
Later in the debate, Herbert said that the government is asking the arts community to rely on faith with regard to future funding. “People, as the minister well knows, can't eat faith,” the NDP critic noted. “You can try, but it leaves you a little bit hungry.”