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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.

Damaging Dominoes

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.

Sandy Garossino
Chair, Advocacy Task Force
Alliance for Arts and Culture


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Copyright © 1999 - 2010 KELOWNA ART GALLERY

Kelowna’s creative sector generates $37.8 million in wages annually and has an annual economic impact of $143.8 million. Those are just two of the key findings in a new economic impact study led by Bernard Momer, associate professor of geography at UBC’s Okanagan campus.

The Creative Sector in Kelowna, British Columbia: An Economic Impact Assessment follows up on a 1998 assessment of the contribution of arts and culture to the economy of the wider Central Okanagan region.

“As it was in 1998, Kelowna’s creative sector is an important contributor to the local economy,” says Momer. “This impact assessment demonstrates that the creative sector’s economic contribution to our community is significant and, by extension, that it enriches our social and cultural capital.”

The new assessment — which began in early 2009 and included a survey of creative sector businesses, individuals and organizations — was completed in February, and was presented Wednesday morning at Art at Work: Kelowna’s Creative Economy, a business breakfast panel discussion at the Coast Capri Hotel, hosted by the City of Kelowna’s Cultural Services Branch.

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Despite the fact that funding was not restored to the BCAC and that further cuts have, in fact, been introduced by the provincial government, I believe that we have gained a great deal from our recent experience. We have made convincing and sound economic and social arguments for public investment in arts and culture, so that the Standing Committee on Finance made a unanimous recommendation to restore funding.

We have become a united sector and developed strong relationships with our audiences, communities,and other social service and business sectors. We have participated in a major world event that owed a lot of its success to our talented artists and arts and cultural organizations. The Arts and Culture expressed our unique identity to the world. Most importantly, we learned that British Columbians care deeply about art and culture.

Thanks for your support in our recent efforts and we invite you to continue to be engaged as we seek to raise awareness of the critical role of arts and culture in the life and future growth of this province and in our communities.

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The bad news for the creative sector in the March 2 provincial budget was followed on March 8 with an announcement of further massive funding cuts in funding to arts groups through community gaming grants.

Creativity Counts is the Alliance for Arts and Culture‘s advocacy campaign for the return of provincial arts funding to 2008 / 2009 levels and the creation of a comprehensive and sustainable arts funding policy for British Columbia.

Our goal is to provide arts organizations, individual artists, and patrons and supporters with ideas and tools to work towards these goals.

The Alliance for Arts and Culture is now in the process of recreating the Creativity Counts advocacy toolkit and will be announcing an update to this site shortly.

In the meantime, we thank everyone for their support and participation over the past few months. We look forward to working together with all of you throughout British Columbia in the weeks and months to come to continue delivering the message that Creativity Counts.

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“Arts funding was not restored to 2008/2009 levels in yesterday’s budget, despite a unanimous recommendation by the government’s Standing Committee on Finance”, according to Alliance for Arts and Culture executive director Amir Ali Alibhai.

“In fact what we have seen are further cuts to core funding” said Mr. Alibhai, “for a total loss of 32.4 per cent from funding levels in 2008/09.”


Here are the basic facts from the March 2 budget:

FACT: The BC Arts Council has been cut 53 per cent from 2008/09.This is funding used to provide core support for the creation of cultural experiences like those that thrilled audiences here and world-wide during the 2010 Olympics.

FACT: BC Gaming Commission contributions to the arts have been cut 58 per cent from 2008/09.This is funding used to make possible community access to the arts and culture through free public festivals and events.

FACT: A $10 million annual supplementary fund has been created, but we do not know how the funds will be administered or distributed.

FACT: Interest from the $150 million BC Arts and Culture Endowment remains the same.

FACT: The new budget includes $12 million for the BC Royal Museum. This support has remained the same for several years and is essentailly a transfer to a crown corporation; this has not traditionally been counted as part of the investment made through grants to the arts and cultural sector.

FACT: Total government investment in culture, including the newly announced $10 million annual supplementary fund, has been reduced by 32.4 per cent from the 2008/09 budget.

These numbers do not include cuts from other government sources to creative sector disciplines such as publishing, Music BC and others.

These two charts demonstrate the reality. You can see that the government numbers have been inflated by the addition of the $12 million for the Royal BC Museum.

“To win its bid for the 2010 Olympics, the BC government boasted about the British Columbia’s vibrant arts and culture scene, claiming that culture was the ‘second pillar’ of the Games. “We were hoping the government would continue to consider culture an important pillar of our society,” continued Mr. Alibhai.

“We look forward to working with the government in ensuring that the $10 million annual supplementary fund they have created is used to best effect,” Mr. Alibhai concluded. “And we shall continue to press for full restoration of arts funding to the levels the Finance Committee agreed were necessary.”

– end –

Media Contact:
Kevin Dale McKeown
Director of Communications
Alliance for Arts and Culture

o: 604.681.3535 (215)
c: 604.345.2548

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“Premier Ignored MLAs and His Own Finance Committee”

VICTORIA: Emerging from today’s budget lockup at the BC Legislature, Alliance for Arts and Culture executive director Amir Ali Alibhai, Victoria Symphony executive director Mitchell Krieger, and ProArt Alliance of Greater Victoria coordinator Scott Walker expressed disappointment at the budget’s half-hearted support for the arts in British Columbia.

“Premier Gordon Campbell and Finance Minister Colin Hansen seem to have largely disregarded the recommendations of their own Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services and continue to ignore the importance of the creative sector ” said Mr. Alibhai.

“The Cultural Olympiad was a significant achievement for Canadian artists” Mr. Krieger added. “With this budget, however, it appears that what we have recently experienced was only a moment in time, as support for the arts continues to fall to record levels.”

“Our athletes’ achievements at the Olympics – and the phenomenal success of the Cultural Olympiad – have been a brilliant demonstration of what investing in talent does – for the individuals involved and for Canadian national pride. What an incredible return on investment” said Mr. Walker.

“The stunning spectacle of people convening in the city streets night after night – it was the musicians, artists, and street performers who made that experience work” noted Mr. Alibhai. “Art was the glue that held the Olympic experience in place for locals and visitors alike. From the major stages of the theatres and stadiums to the clubs and pubs and street corners, entertainers stepped up to the plate to ensure that the athletes and their fans had the experience of a lifetime.

“We’ve shown what we can do, and it is truly disappointing that this budget demonstrates that our government does not understand this fundamental equation.”

At first glance, the 2010/11 Budget for arts and culture does appear to fully restore funding to 2008/09 levels, as recommended by the Standing Committee.

On further exploration, however, the arts community spokesmen noted that funding for the Royal BC Museum ($12.1M) is included in the figures presented this year; previously it has not been included. There is also a “mystery” $10M allocation, which is currently not fully defined nor allocated to any existing funding organization, such as the BC Arts Council.

“We would welcome the opportunity to work with the government to make the most effective use of this investment,” said Mr. Krieger.

The following table attempts to compare “apples to apples” and gives a summary of our interpretation of the 2010 Budget. Gaming funds for arts and cultural allocations as well as funding for BC Arts Council grants are significantly lower than in 2008/09.

“Why not just restore BC Arts Council to the $19M level of 2008/09” asked Mr. Alibhai. “Where has the $7M cut from Gaming funds to the Arts and Culture gone?”

To win its bid for the 2010 Olympics, the BC government boasted about the British Columbia’s vibrant arts and culture scene, claiming that culture was the “second pillar” of the Games. “We were hoping the government would continue to consider culture an important pillar of our society, ” the arts community spokespersons agreed.

“The economic, social, health and educational benefits to our communities created by investing in arts and culture, by all levels of government, are well documented” stated Mr. Walker.

“Public funding for the arts is the research and development of cultural spending”, added Mr. Alibhai, “providing the initial investment costs that allow artists and their organizations to begin their work, and then leverages additional private support which allows the work to develop. This government seems unwilling to strengthen that foundation, denying all British Columbians the well known benefits of a healthy creative sector.”

“Artists, arts organizations, community partners, corporate sponsors and our audiences throughout will respond to this budget in a forceful manner” predicted Mr. Alibhai.

“We’ve shown the world what BC artists can do,” concluded Mr. Walker. “What we were hoping for was that the government would learn from the past two weeks and continue to invest in the Arts. When all those visitors return – as the government tells us they will – what they’ll find with this budget is a lot of closed doors and cancelled arts programs.”

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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.


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 ( and finance minister Colin Hansen ( 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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