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As expected, the budget presented by the provincial government on Tuesday, held to a “stand pat” strategy.

We were disappointed to see that yet again the recommendations of the Standing Committee on Finance were not followed.  Given the current political and economic climates, however, we have not been surprised.

A small degree of freedom and flexibility have been provided for the next Premier of British Columbia.

The budget for the arts seems to have remained about the same as last year.  The BC Arts Council (BCAC) seems to have to deal with a very slight decrease in actual dollars ($18K) and the 2010 Sports and Arts Legacy fund is still intact at $20 Million.

We are grateful that these budgets have not been cut since last year, but there is still a huge lack in the BCAC’s ability to meet the needs of the sector it serves or to have a significant impact on its development, without allocating most of the 2010 Legacy Fund monies directly to the BCAC without strings.

Last year, allocation of almost $8 Million dollars from this fund came very late in the year, causing a scramble and confusion for the arts community.  The ability to plan wisely through these difficult economic times is critical for the arts and cultural community as well as the BCAC.  We urge the new leader of our province to allocate the bulk of the Arts Legacy fund, at least $8 Million, to the BCAC as soon as possible in the new fiscal year.

It has not been possible to verify the status of Gaming grants to the Arts and Cultural sector.  If the numbers are in the Budget, we have not been able to locate them easily and are working on this.  The BC Association for Charitable Gaming (BCACG), however, has announced that here too the overall picture is the same as last year.

Gaming revenues to charities and non-profits in the province remain at last year’s level, which is well below the justified need, and well below the level agreed to by the BCACG and the province in previous negotiations.

To date there has been no indication of a reversal of eligibility restrictions on arts and cultural organizations, leaving many of them ineligible for funding.  The annual loss to Metro Vancouver organizations is estimated at $4 Million.  This means jobs and programs.

We urge our new leader to address these issues regarding Gaming funds as a priority, to ensure that the civil society infrastructure of the province, especially the arts and cultural infrastructure, does not collapse.

Amir Ali Alibhai
Executive Director
Alliance for Arts and Culture



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Guest post by Shannon Litzenberger

In April I spent a considerable amount of time researching relative provincial spending levels on arts and culture across the country. It was budget season and so I read a lot of throne speeches and analyzed a dozen budget documents, comparing figures from this year to last. For a couple of weeks, I was the goddamn Nancy Drew of 2010 public arts spending commitments.

The result was this article, which first appeared in The Dance Current print magazine’s Summer Annual 2010. Learn more >>

Post-Recession Budgeting and the Fate of Arts Investment

The arts community braced for impact as 2010 provincial budgets were unveiled across the country and governments articulated their public spending priorities. Federally, year two of stimulus spending is still in effect and the arts sector continues to see some benefit from these investments. Provincially, however, most governments are already scanning public spending line by line in hopes of identifying unnecessary expenditures.

Maintaining and creating jobs, while protecting essential services were the trending words in budget speeches from coast to coast. Basically every industry sector has associated jobs, so the real question is which jobs are being protected and created? Manufacturing? Trades? Health Services? Education? Environment? Energy? Arts and Culture? At a time of spending restraint, one would expect governments to seek relatively low-cost investments that produce significant returns. The arts sector makes a compelling case, with over 600,000 jobs, its considerable $46 billion GDP impact, and the multiplying effect an invested arts dollar has on the economy. Given this extraordinary potential for economic, not to mention social, returns, why haven’t more governments viewed the arts as a strategic investment in Budget 2010? Here’s what happened across the country.

After BC’s Liberal Government first proposed an eventual 92 % decrease to cultural spending in the province – a move that would have essentially decimated the BC arts scene – the arts sector poised for battle. During pre-budget consultations concerted efforts on the part of local arts advocates, assisted by sympathetic voices across the country, resulted in a unanimous recommendation from the BC Standing Committee on Finance to restore cultural investment to 2008/09 levels. However, Amir Ali Alibhai, executive director of the Alliance for Arts and Culture, confirms: “Arts funding was not restored to 2008/2009 levels… In fact what we have seen are further cuts to core funding for a total loss of 32.4 per cent from funding levels in 2008/09.” Vancouver-based Canadian Dance Assembly President Jim Smith explains that BC Gaming Commission contributions to the arts have been cut 58% and the BC Arts Council has been cut 53% from 2008/09, reducing core support for the creation of cultural experiences like those that thrilled audiences in Canada and world-wide during the 2010 Olympics. A new $10 million annual fund for arts and sport was introduced, though no further details about the fund are available. Smith reflects, “I expect, as a direct result of these cuts, in a year or two, a significant number of arts organizations will no longer be in operation.”

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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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