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Creativity Counts

Support the Arts

Yesterday, Prime Minister Stephen Harper visited Victoria to address the non-prorogued BC Legislative Assembly. While there, you’d think he might have pulled BC Premier Gordon Campbell aside and told him the story of how Harper’s Conservatives lost their majority, in no small part, thanks to their short-sighted decision in the last election to gut funding for the arts.

Harper has somewhat learned his lesson; the feds have restored much of the funding or increased it in other areas, and Canadian Heritage minister James Moore has found the arts religion. Sadly, though, Campbell must not read the news, as his BC “Liberal” government is poised to table massive cuts of 90 per cent to arts funding in the next provincial funding that would decimate BC’s vibrant arts community.

The cuts actually began last fall, when citing the economic downturn the province moved to slash arts funding by 90 per cent over two years. In the face of public blowback, some of the funding was restored with gaming money, but the service plan going forward still shows 90 per cent cuts so it seems the cuts will be restored in the next budget. The cuts will take core BC provincial arts funding from $19.5 million in 2008/09 all the way down to just $2.25 million in 2010/11, according to the service plan.

While $20 million may not seem like a lot of money in government terms (and BC was already one of the lowest per capita arts spenders in the country), the cuts are devastating for BC arts groups. For them, government funding is a huge multiplier that allows them to leverage private sector donations. These groups also operate on very thin margins as it is; cutting government funding can be a death knell.

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The Harper government, Barrack Obama, Dalton McGuinty in Ontario, Jean Charest in Quebec – they’ve all actually increased arts funding as part of their economic stimulus packages. BC, sadly, appears to be the odd-province out unless Campbell listens to the growing chorus, including much of his caucus, and restores this arts funding in the next budget.

There is still time though to send a message to Campbell (premier@gov.bc.ca) and finance minister Colin Hansen (colin.hansen.mla@leg.bc.ca) that they should change course and restore arts funding in the upcoming provincial budget.

If you want to know how you can get involved, check out the Facebook group: BC Hearts the Arts, and you can also visit Alliance for Arts and Culture, a Vancouver-based organization helping to rally support for overturning the cuts. Also check out Creativity Counts, a blogsite following the advocacy campaign.

Today, BC is welcoming the world for the Olympics. The arts will be a big part of the opening ceremonies tonight, and the cultural olympiad will run parallel to the sporting events. It would be a shame if the Olympic legacy was tarnished by short-sighted decisions.

Jeff Jedras, A BCer in Toronto

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