NPA councillor Elizabeth Ball is promising more money for artists through an expanded cultural-grants budget.
The pledge is part of the NPA’s election platform, which it released in full on Tuesday (November 4).
“The NPA, a number of years ago when I first went on council in 2005, was able to take this city to a whole other level in terms of funding for the arts, and after 2008 they have reduced the funding,” Ball told the Georgia Straight in an interview.
“So we’ll be putting back the money that’s missing, the $300,000. That will make a huge difference in creating work here in the city, and that’s the purpose of working with the arts. It probably is one of the most important industries in our community.”
Vision Vancouver councillor Heather Deal disputed Ball’s assertion that arts funding has decreased, noting that Vision has indexed the cultural grants.
“That’s an uptick every year of two percent, along with the cost-of-living increases, and that is brand-new—the NPA never did that,” Deal said, adding that a cultural-infrastructure-grant program was also launched under the Vision-led council.
Other policies in the NPA’s arts platform include proposals to incorporate arts and culture facilities into an updated CityPlan and to encourage broader access to Vancouver cultural institutions through a “cultural multipass”.
The party is also vowing to establish a Creative Entrepreneurial Office for small-scale productions requiring city permits and to provide $25,000 annually for small stage productions and the same amount per year for visual artists to access venues like small stages and pop-up galleries.
“There can be many, many different areas where somebody would do an unusual performance or something exciting,” said Ball.
The NPA’s proposal follows Vision Vancouver’s platform commitment to establish an independent arts fund that would distribute $500, $1,000, and $2,000 grants to support new events, festivals, and performance spaces.
Deal told the Straight last month that her party wanted to create a program to offer small grants to new arts projects, noting that much of the current city grant funding is directed to established artists.
“What we’re trying to do is provide them with something showing that the city has support, which then allows them to go and leverage that—that’s very important for arts organizations,” Deal said. “And then just to break down that barrier that has been there forever, which says that if you’re not already proven, you can’t get in.”
Vision is also promising to expedite a review of bylaws governing performance venues and to identify a city-owned building that can be used for arts space.
Both Vision and the NPA are promising to advocate for senior-government support for an expanded new facility for the Vancouver Art Gallery.
Other proposals put forward by Vancouver parties targeted at the arts sector include pledges from the Vancouver Greens to develop a “Culture 2050” plan, support culture precincts in local-area plans, and work with business-improvement associations and residents to identify locations for more live-work artist studios.
The Coalition of Progressive Electors is vowing to develop guidelines for creating and retaining affordable live-music venues and art spaces and to use measures like tax relief and zoning relaxations to “preserve the viability of cultural, educational, and recreational amenities”.
COPE says it would also create a Vancouver Endowment for the Arts; improve funding for arts and culture spaces and events, and ensure that low-income people have access to those spaces; expand the city’s poet-laureate position to include other sectors such as visual arts, new media, drama, dance, and music; and advocate for the B.C. government to restore BCLC gambling funding for arts, culture, and sports.
The NPA’s platform launch detailed some other new promises, including making the mayor accessible to the public as part of weekly sessions to hear concerns, freezing property taxes at no more than the rate of inflation for at least one year, launching a review of operating costs of all city departments and agencies, and making Vancouver the “car-sharing capital of North America”.
“An NPA government will implement a series of measures immediately, then a more comprehensive action plan within 180 days of taking office to get us on the right track,” NPA mayoral candidate Kirk LaPointe said at a news conference.
Vision Vancouver criticized the NPA’s platform, charging that it does not include any commitments on homelessness, affordable housing, or childcare. (The document contains two proposals aimed at generating more rental housing, including working with other levels of government to create a tax credit for new rental-housing investments.)
Vision’s full platform includes newly announced proposals such as a pilot participatory-budget program in two neighbourhoods, increased resources for Vancouver police to target dangerous drivers and cyclists, and a new permit option to allow patios to stay open later in the summer.
The Vancouver Greens released their full platform in September, and members of the Coalition of Progressive Electors approved the party’s platform in July. Policies put forward by new Vancouver electoral organizations the Cedar Party, Vancouver First, and OneCity are detailed on the parties’ websites.