June 3, 2010 ALLIANCE ADVOCACY CHAIR RESPONDS TO MINISTER COLEMAN
Re: Arts Festivals Cut Off From Gambling Funds–Vancouver Sun, May 29, 2010
On Saturday, May 29, the Vancouver Sun published a comprehensive report of major, though unannounced, changes to the administration of gaming funds in British Columbia, which are administered by Housing and Social Development Minister Rich Coleman (Arts festivals cut off from gambling funds / A7).
As a result of its own fiscal choices, the B.C. Liberal government is now forced to siphon funds from large and small social profit (non-profit) groups at the heart of British Columbia communities, large and small.
Government Policy Diverts Gaming Dollars Away from Charities
The purpose of Minister Coleman’s changes to gaming eligibility criteria is not to make any positive change. The minister knows, as we know, that only a minute fraction of applicants will meet the new, only partially disclosed, eligibility criteria. The few that do qualify will only be eligible for tiny grants.
The real outcome is the diversion of gaming revenues away from the charitable purposes they were intended to support and into unspecified non-charitable government projects.
The damage does not end with gaming cuts alone. When the provincial government cuts support to BC festivals, the effect spreads far beyond a single budget line. Federal programs and private foundations frequently provide funds to match provincial contributions. Corporate sponsors naturally get nervous when their projects suddenly experience financial distress, and greener pastures are easy to find.
Abrupt and unexpected changes in grant eligibility jeopardize many other critical revenue sources. A single cut can swiftly multiply losses several times over, to devastating effect.
Minister Coleman Belittles Non-Profit Sector and Volunteers
We take particular exception to Minister Coleman’s remarks demeaning the proud public service to British Columbia made by thousands of volunteers, donors, sponsors, and ordinary people who work incredibly hard in the arts sector year in and year out. Out of the spotlight and behind the scenes, an army of dedicated citizens tirelessly labours to keep the doors open on our non-profit festivals, arts companies, orchestras, galleries and museums in villages, towns, and cities across this province.
At every turn they cut costs and stretch each precious dollar to the breaking point. They do this in the most honourable tradition of public service, for the privilege of presenting the finest BC, Canadian, and international talent to all British Columbians, including our children, at an affordable price (or for free) ensuring access to all.
These unsung heroes deserve better from our government leaders than to be dismissed as incompetent failures.
3.5 Million Attend BC Arts and Culture Presentations
Arts and culture in BC are hugely popular. The arts community is honoured to serve more than 3.5 million British Columbians, including some 300,000 schoolchildren who attend non-profit performances and exhibitions annually from Atlin and Fort Nelson to Victoria and Sparwood.
When the world turned its eyes to British Columbia at the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Games, our artists stood with our athletes to put Canada’s heart on its sleeve. The Cultural Olympiad showed all British Columbians the priceless value of investment in our own talent.
Non-Profit Sector Helps Small Business
When artists take the stage, they put British Columbians to work — be they ticket sellers, dry cleaners, caterers, printers, waiters and waitresses, lighting suppliers, ushers, stage hands, sound engineers, taxi drivers, parking attendants, delivery drivers, florists, hair dressers, or babysitters. This buzz of economic activity not only keeps British Columbians employed, it generates sufficient tax revenue to cover taxpayer investment in the arts, with more left over for schools and hospitals.
Small business is the backbone of British Columbia’s economy, and the arts sector is proud to support and partner with small businesses in communities across our province.
Public Support for Arts and Culture an Internationally Accepted Practice
It is deeply misguided to suggest that professional exhibitions and performances can be mounted on a strictly private enterprise model. If this were the case, none of the world’s greatest museums or professional companies would exist today–the Louvre, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Bolshoi Ballet, La Scala Opera, the New York Philharmonic, the British Museum — not one of these pillars of modern civilization could survive without considerable government investment.
Each was built from humble beginnings, generation by generation, upon the bedrock of visionary leadership who made a pact with a future they would not live to see. They understood that a nation’s greatest prize is its heart, and that belongs to all the people, not just the rich and powerful.
Government Policy Means Art is Only for the Rich
Here in BC, if Minister Coleman’s view prevails, only the wealthy in our large urban centres will see the greatest performances and exhibitions, even those of our own homegrown and world-renowned artists.
Art Serves British Columbia
The arts community is proud of its service to all British Columbians, proud of its volunteerism, its enterprise and can-do spirit, proud to enrich our culture and traditions, proud to grow British Columbia’s profile and reputation abroad, and proud to contribute to our provincial economy.
Re-Instate Gaming Grants and Consult with Charitable Arts Sector
We ask today for Minister Coleman to reinstate full access to gaming funds for arts and culture organizations throughout the province.
We renew our calls on the government to consult with our sector so that together we can build a vibrant future for British Columbia.
Chair, Advocacy Task Force
Alliance for Arts and Culture