B.C. NDP promises to double budget of B.C. Arts Council

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      The provincial New Democrats don't appear to be taking artists and cultural workers' votes for granted.

      Vancouver–West End critic Spencer Chandra Herbert told the Straight that the NDP platform pledges to double the government’s investment in the B.C. Arts Council over four years.

      This means the annual expenditure would eventually reach $48 million under a John Horgan–led government.

      "We're the only party that has made a commitment to increase investments in the B.C. Arts Council so far," Chandra Herbert said. "I've searched the Green party platform and the Liberal platform. There's nothing in either party platform to support our arts scene in this way."

      The B.C. Arts Council provides arm's-length funding to artists and organizations through a peer-evaluation process.

      The B.C. Liberals have frozen the B.C. Arts Council’s budget at $24 million annually since 2013-14, when it received a $7.2-million boost before the last election.

      In a prebudget submission last year to the legislative committee on finance and government services, the B.C. Alliance for Arts + Culture's asked the province to double its investment in the B.C. Arts Council.

      The B.C. Liberal finance minister, Mike de Jong, refused to do this in his 2017-18 budget. 

      Finance Minister Mike de Jong blew off a request from the province's major arts and culture association to double the budget of the B.C. Arts Council.

      However, the B.C. Liberal platform promises an additional $15 million for the B.C. music fund and $5 million for the community gaming grant program.

      The B.C. Liberal platform also lists many of its existing expenditures, including a $50-million one-time contribution in 2008 to the Vancouver Art Gallery to fund a new gallery.

      Meanwhile, Chandra Herbert said that the B.C. NDP is going to offer multiyear gaming grants. According to him, this means some artists and organizations won't have to do as much annual paperwork.

      He also said that if his party forms government, it will increase funding to Creative B.C. to support the domestic film sector.

      In addition, under an NDP government writers will be included as labour under the film-tax credit, Chandra Herbert added.

      "This should help us increase the number of B.C. writers and hopefully increase the number of B.C.-based film and TV productions," he said.

      As of this writing, the B.C. Greens have not posted any pre-election promises concerning arts and culture.

      B.C. has more artists per capita than any other province. There are 24,800 working artists and 81,385 culture jobs, which accounts for 3.5 percent of the provincial workforce.

      According to the B.C. Alliance for Arts + Culture, B.C. ranks last in per capita provincial cultural funding.

      Chandra Herbert promised that ignominious distinction will come to an end if his party forms the next government.