Canadian Dance Assembly calls B.C. arts cuts "scorched earth policy"

The following is an open letter, dated August 26, addressed to Premier Gordon Campbell:

Dear Premier Campbell,

I am writing you on behalf of the Canadian Dance Assembly in response to the recent and devastating decisions made in British Columbia in the field of arts and culture, affecting our daily mission as a national dance organization advocating for a healthy dance milieu.

We are writing on behalf of 33% of our members, based in your province, striving to survive in an environment that, with all due respect, could easily be called a "scorched earth policy".

As everybody knows, arts and culture stimulate the economy. Close to 80,000 people work in culture in British Colombia, contributing over $5 billion to the provincial economy. The Ministry of Tourism, Culture and the Arts website informs us that the province makes its cultural investment back in direct taxes at the rate of 138%.

BC has the highest rate of its labour force in culture and arts and the past few years the Government of BC has made many wise investments in the arts sector, including a $150 Million endowment fund, so we find it inappropriate for the BC policy makers to cut funding for the arts by 40%-50%, and eliminate the support from gaming grants. It appears to be a short-term view and contrary to the interest of British Colombians and furthermore all Canadians.

We are equally concerned that the autonomy of culture at-arms-length, through the close association between grant decision makers and politicians, currently fosters a lack of independence. The way Ms Jane Danzo resigned suggests certain failures at the British Columbia Arts Council, and is for us a significant example. "I wanted to bring to the government’s attention that these are serious concerns that I had and the only way that I could really make a statement was by stepping down (..) It has recently been made clear that the Board does not have a voice independent of government" Danzo said.

The Canadian Dance Assembly would like to urge you to promote a philosophy based on independence in the arts funding process, reminding you that the BC Arts council, like all the nationwide Arts Councils, should remain at- arms-length.

The Canadian Dance Assembly is actively engaged in important issues affecting the dance sector and BC’s trends are today seriously affecting the dance milieu in Canada in its large diversity. Most of our major members, including eminent board members, already advised us that they could not attend our national conference in September for economic reasons. The impact of their absence is huge and will have significant consequences: they won’t connect with their peers from across the country through national initiatives and think-tank groups; they won’t innovate in common projects with their peers; neither will they access the opportunity to organize tours in order to promote their creations. We would hope that culture not become hostage of a political debate but remain a source of joy, recreation and public health, as well as a way to create resources and empower the Canadian and the British Colombian economy.

Moreover, when arts organizations are forced to scale back their programming, the losses are not only financial, but also in areas such as social cohesion. In a province where the proportion of new immigrants is huge, we do believe that dance is a proven vector to integrate youth and new comers. It helps them connect with a national identity through professional networking, promoting tolerance and diversity.

"Culture is deeply ingrained within us, it shapes our identity and perceptions. At the same time, every culture is composite, alive and enriched by others. The result is a formidable and unprecedented diversity (...) This leads to (...) the power of cultural diversity and dialogue. We have not sufficiently recognized this power in politics, in international relations, in peace building. This is our challenge and our responsibility: ensuring that societies harness the power of diversity as they become more urbanized, more mixed. It takes time and does not happen naturally, without a political environment that promotes equal rights and understanding. There is a fine line between pride in one’s culture and intolerance towards what is different." (Irina BOKOVA, Executive Director of UNESCO, about the United’s Nations announcement of 2010: International Year for the Rapprochement of Cultures)

The Canadian Dance Assembly therefore urges you and all British-Columbia policy makers to think of the future of British-Columbia.

We hope that you will adopt new policies regarding arts and especially dance, in order to contribute to the well-being of our society. We encourage you to re-instate funds that were recently cut and urge you to consider adopting increased investment strategies moving forward, in the spirit of growth and investment.

Yours truly,

Michael Trent
President, Canadian Dance Assembly

Nathalie Fave
Executive Director, Canadian Dance Assembly




Aug 27, 2010 at 1:03pm

If you want "independence in the arts funding process", perhaps you might consider funding yourself independently. I know this is strange concept, but then you won't have to worry about what the government does - EVER!!! After all, if your service is valued by the public, then they will be glad to support you directly, whether through individual or corporate donations. If your service is not valued by the public, then you might consider begging from the government. Oh wait, that's where you are right now.


Aug 27, 2010 at 11:28pm

I think these arts groups need to meet taxpayers halfway. My niece is involved in dance, and I've been to many of her productions. My sister was also involved in the performing arts for years. But at most of their performances, almost all of the people in the audience were immediate friends or family members of a performer, and would have no interest in being there otherwise.

I think that many of these performance groups need to start attracting more audience members from the general public, audience members who pay for a ticket who aren't immediate friends and family of the performers.

If they can't attract members of the general public to come and pay to see the performances, then why should they expect taxpayers to fund these events. Why should taxpayers fund events that virtually no members of the general public care enough about to fork over a few bucks to enjoy?


Aug 28, 2010 at 5:58pm

Jane, unfortunately the "arts community" feels entitled to whatever they want. If I make bad burritos I go out of business, but if they make bad art, they expect government funding. They are pi**ing off more people with their sense of entitlement than any good they think they are doing. I have been asking for months why none of these groups bothers to fund themselves, and the only responses I get are people calling me names. Times are tough right now, but don't you dare take money away from the "artists". Let everyone else suffer, but not the "arts community".


Sep 1, 2010 at 10:48am

@ flyboy Wrong.
If you make bad burritos you don't go out of business. You probably use cheap ingredients and are part of a chain forcing the quality burrito makers out of business because they can't afford to compete or even rent the best locations.
Same principle - everywhere. Free enterprise is a Myth and a Lie. Hello.
As for letting everyone else suffer but the artists - when have artists ever had money. They're just trying to stay off the street - as Usual.
If they were on welfare you'd call them lazy. Nobody wins in your world.


Sep 1, 2010 at 12:01pm

Hey jansumi, If you want to win in my world, do something for yourself. Don't sit on your lazy a** and expect the government to solve your problems!!! Clear enough for you?? If the "artist" are trying to stay off the streets, produce something the public thinks is important enough that they will actually pay for. You are seriously disillusioned. "Free enterprise is a myth and a lie." Are you serious? What world do you live in??????? I guess in your world it isn't important to work, just get what you need from the government. Where do you think the government gets their money???

Judith Marcuse

Sep 2, 2010 at 10:34am

Re: The announcement of “new” arts money from Minister Kreuger

I am pleased that the government is now publically endorsing the principle of arms-length funding. But let’s not kid ourselves...this is not new money. It is previously-allocated money that has been now shuffled to the Arts Council. This is good news. Our advocacy has begun to work; the surreal and disproportionate cuts are partially restored thanks to the hard work of people in this province and across the country who have raised their voices in protest.
However, there is concern in our community about how this money will be distributed. We hope that it will go not only to ”operating” clients. There are relatively few of these; many organizations were taken off of operating over the last few years because of lack funds. Most organizations normally receive smaller “project” funding.
But if this government is so supportive of young artists (as the Minister went to great lengths to explain), why have they completely cut the arts sector out of Gaming money, the only provincial source that was available to most young artists and small to medium-sized organizations? Why is the arts and culture sector the only one not to have access to these funds restored, especially when BC is greatly expanding its Gaming operations?
BC is still way below the national average of per capita investment in our sector. (Our sector received the grand total of 1/10 of 1% of the provincial budget before the cuts.)
Advocacy for arts and culture in BC must continue with imaginative determination!