Vancouver City Council Unanimously Supports Motion to Include Culture as Fourth Pillar

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this post incorrectly suggested that the inclusion of culture as a fourth pillar of sustainability was approved by Council, while, in fact, it was the motion for further investigation into its inclusion which was supported.

Council requested City staff investigate the opportunity for the City to adopt the Agenda 21 policy statement, “Culture as the Fourth Pillar of Sustainable Development”, as well as to investigate the opportunity for the City to participate in the United Cities and Local Governments’ Leading Cities (UCLG) cultural sustainability capacity-building and learning programme. We apologize for the error; the corrected version follows.


On December 14, Vancouver City Council unanimously supported a motion introduced by Councillor Elizabeth Ball asking staff to investigate the opportunity for the City to adopt the Agenda 21 policy statement "Culture: Fourth Pillar of Sustainable Development." Three other pillars (environment, social inclusion and economics) have already been implemented by council as essential to Vancouver's sustainable development.

The City of Vancouver is a member of United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG), the largest association of local governments in the world, through the Federation of Canadian Municipalities. The UCLG-approved Agenda 21 policy statement “Culture: Fourth Pillar of Sustainable Development” passed in 2010, and the association has affirmed that the fundamental purpose of governance is to work towards a healthy, safe, tolerant and creative society, as well being financially prosperous.

Before the vote in support of the motion, which passed unanimously, Clr. Ball, who founded Carousel Theatre For Young People and co-founded Waterfront Theatre, told her colleagues she believed putting art and culture at the core of the city would make for a better place to live: “I think art is for all of us at all periods and all ages of our lives."

The motion's purposes were listed as (1) to promote the development of Vancouver’s arts and cultural sector; (2) to promote cultural diversity and inclusion within the City of Vancouver; and (3) to ensure that culture has a major place in all of the City of Vancouver’s public policies.

Pursuant to concerns from members of the arts community, including the Alliance, concerning operating funding, Clr. Ball also introduced an amendment to Council earlier in the week that would have increased the budget for the City’s cultural operating grants over a three-year period. The amendment did not pass; a review of cultural funding was recommended, but no commitment was made to increase the budget.

Other BC cities, including Nanaimo, Kelowna, New Westminster, Langley, Port Moody, and Nelson, have recognized culture as a fourth pillar of sustainability. The motion put forward at Council can be read here.

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