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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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Support the BCACG initiative to restore gaming grants to non-profits and charities across the province. Visit the BCACG site for full details.

Please sign both petitions – especially the first, if you live, work or have family in Vancouver:

    1. Petition to BC gov’t and Vancouver City Council to stand up for charities and non-profits
    2. Petition to restore gaming funding to charities and non-profits across the province

      Please read BCACG’s
      Open Letter to Minister Rich Coleman

      For more detailed background information:
      BCACG Brief on BC Gaming Legislation

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      Dear Arts Supporters:

      At the Alliance for Arts and Culture’s Board Meeting on November 16 a resolution was passed to support the BC Association for Charitable Gaming’s Petition to the City of Vancouver to protect the charitable and non-profit sector in the City of Vancouver.

      The request to expand the Edgewater Casino will come to City Council in the context of massively expanding gaming activity and increasing revenues to the province, at the expense of its commitments to charities and non-profits, including arts and cultural groups.

      The resolution reads as follows:

      Whereas:

      Gambling in Canada was legalized for the purpose of benefiting sports, arts, and community charitable and non-profit purposes;

      Benefits to charities and non-profits have been used as a justification for the expansion of gaming in British Columbia;

      Support by charities and non-profits was critical to the success of the original grant of gambling license to Edgewater Casino, and the applicant at that time entered into undertakings to benefit the charitable sector in order to acquire its gambling license;

      Edgewater Casino has not fulfilled its obligations under that original license;

      The Province of British Columbia has failed to adhere to the spirit and the letter of its own Memorandum of Agreement with the BC Association for Charitable Gaming, committing it to allocating 33 percent of gaming revenues to charities and non-profits;

      The provincial government has denied eligibility to arts organizations for gaming grants, which will have a direct loss to the Vancouver arts sector in excess of $4.5 million annually by 2012;

      And Whereas this loss will directly cost jobs and severely and adversely affect Vancouver’s cultural life;

      Therefore:

      The Alliance for Arts and Culture endorses and fully supports the Petition of the BC Association for Charitable Gaming, asking the City of Vancouver to refuse any expansion of gambling until the Province of British Columbia honours its commitment to allocate 33 percent of net gaming revenues to charities and non-profits, or renegotiates that agreement in good faith;

      I would like to encourage our members to pass similar resolutions at their own Boards and join the growing number of civil society organizations in the city in supporting this initiative.

      On behalf of the BC Association for Charitable Gaming, which represents any of us who have ever received a Gaming Grant, I ask for the following:

      I ask for all member organizations of the Alliance in the City of Vancouver to:

      1. Put an equivalent motion forward to their boards, and notify us;

      2. Write to Vancouver Council advising of the motion from this link: Blog | BC Association for Charitable Gaming ;

      3. Disseminate the motion and the Open Letter to Coleman (LINK?) to memberships, asking for letters of support;

      4. Ask members, audiences, and such groups as are thought to be appropriate, to please sign the online petition here: Petition to Vancouver City Council to Support Charities and Non-Profits – Signatures

      The online petition is very important. Its success is having an impact.

      I believe that supporting this initiative by the BCACG may be our best chance at achieving a resolution to this ongoing issue for civil society in BC, including arts and cultural organizations.

      Amir Ali Alibhai
      Executive Director
      Alliance for Arts and Culture

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      Video of interview with Christine Benty, Mayor of Golden, BC, Caleb Moss, Councillor and David Allen, Chief Administrative Officer with the Town of Golden. The video tells the story of the Town of Golden, BC’s investment in arts and culture. Elected officials and staff explain why they invest and why they consider important to Golden. Special thanks to Bill Usher, Executive Director of Kicking Horse Culture and Rider Media for producing this video. Funding for the video was provided by the Arts area of 2010 Legacies Now.

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      Wedge Politics Strategy Seen In Loss of Investment In a Civil Society

      Speaking on behalf of its 350 members and a growing province-wide coalition of arts and community service groups, the Greater Vancouver Alliance for Arts and Culture is calling on the provincial government, specifically Minister Rich Coleman of Housing and Social Development, to reinstate all the gaming funds previously used to support community services provided by charities and non-profits.

      In advance of Friday’s BC Association for Charitable Gaming Symposium at Richmond’s River Rock Casino, Alliance executive director Amir Ali Alibhai said, “We are taking this opportunity to urge the BC government and Minister Coleman to properly fund charities and non-profits, as was promised when Gaming was expanded throughout BC.

      “While the government of BC becomes increasingly addicted to the lucrative business of gambling at the expense of vulnerable British Columbians, and continues to expand its gaming activities, it has proceeded to break a social contract made with BC’s citizens,” Mr. Alibhai continued.

      “Gambling was expanded in this province with the understanding that 33 percent of its profits would go back into communities to fund key social and community services. Currently this percentage has been eroded to 10 percent and important community infrastructures in the non-profit and charity sectors are crumbling.”

      Mr. Alibhai acknowledged that there seems to be no hope of stopping neither the unprecedented expansion of gambling nor the social malaise that it creates.

      He notes, however, that “we are forced to accept this source of funding for our sectors. We therefore demand a fair percentage of revenues for our communities. We also seek a more transparent manner of allocation of funds than we have witnessed of late.

      “The risk of political agendas and motives affecting civil society is currently great. This massive pot of Gaming funds is currently distributed entirely at the ministry’s discretion, without transparency, consultation, or any type of arm’s-length process to ensure Gaming is not a political slush fund.

      “The recent priorities announced by Minister Coleman suggest a strategy of wedge politics that we find disturbing.

      “The BC government has increasingly put pressure on non-profit organizations, the pillars of a civil society, to deliver the social services it has gradually off-loaded, while cutting back its own financial support of those organizations. This is largely a result of an ideological strategy to cut corporate taxes while jumping on the cash cow that Gaming represents by taxing consumers. This addiction to gambling proceeds is not healthy and does not build a bright or better future for BC.

      In making this announcement Mr. Alibhai outlined three key requests, that the government:

      * Restore the funding previously provided through Gaming to civil society organizations, including the arts;

      * Work with the BC Association for Charitable Gaming to negotiate and formalize an agreement to allocate at least 20 percent of all Gaming revenues to the charitable and non-profit sector so that services they provide to the public are sustainable for the future.

      * Consult with community organizations from all sectors on priorities and eligibility criteria and processes for allocation of funds to civil society.

      “It is not just about arts and culture, this is about the general future health of our province,” concluded Mr. Alibhai.

      Alliance for Arts and Culture advocacy chair Sandy Garossino will be the keynote speaker at Friday’s BC Association for Charitable Gaming Symposium 2010, being held from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. at the River Rock Casino Resort in Richmond. Ms. Garossino will speak on the topic of “Advocacy in a Challenging Time: We Can Work Together Toward A More Stable Future.”

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      Acclaimed American theatre director Peter Sellars on the argument for financing culture. This is an excerpt from the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston lecture, “Cultural Leadership in Difficult Times (Fighting off a Depression) or the Economics of Transcendence” presented on February 4, 2009. Part of The Ruth and Carl J. Shapiro Celebrity Lecture series.

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      Des McAnuff
      Artistic Director of the Stratford Shakespeare Festival

      When I was 10 years old, a teacher took me and another member of my class to a Picasso exhibition at the Art Gallery of Ontario. It was my first introduction to the idea that art need not be literal: that something’s essence may be captured by a radical departure from its superficial appearance. That exhilarating early discovery fired my imagination and completely changed my life.

      Eye-opening encounters with art are essential parts of our education. They are as important as the classes we take, the exams we pass, the degrees, diplomas and certificates we earn. Arguably, they are more important, for they teach us not just how to be doctors or lawyers or plumbers or pilots, but how to perceive beyond surfaces, to think in unconventional ways, to approach life’s mysteries with intuition and imagination.

      Education is about far more than memorizing and regurgitating facts, writing essays and solving mathematical equations. It is about inspiring young minds (and old ones too) to explore ourselves and the world in which we live. While such inspiration does not come exclusively from the arts, it is often through the arts that we first experience it.

      Finish the article here.

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