Arts and Culture Missing From Budget Consultation Report

Alliance executive director Rob Gloor raises concerns over the absence of arts and culture in the report released yesterday by the Province's Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services:

"Yesterday, the Province's Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services released its Report on the Budget 2013 Consultations. Sixteen different arts organizations and associations made presentations to this committee through its hearings across the province or through written submissions. Many of these presentations, including my own on behalf of the Alliance for Arts and Culture, elaborated on the three major requests agreed upon by the Arts Coalition of BC, a network of provincial arts service organizations representing the many disciplines within our sector. 

Remarkably, the Report on the Budget 2013 Consultations made no reference to the requests brought forward by the arts community, in spite of the sector's significant impact on BC's economic and social development. In BC, according to Statistics Canada, over 87,000 people have their primary employment in the cultural sector, which is greater than forestry and mining combined. Overall, the cultural sector impacts 7.1% of total employment in Canada, and 7.4% of GDP. On top of the economic case, countless studies document the benefits of arts and culture in youth development and healthy communities, which are priorities of our provincial government.

In last year's report from this same committee, arts and culture featured prominently. The 2012 report acknowledged the active participation of the arts community in the consultations; it mentioned the arts community's request to improve gaming grants; and it dedicated a section of the report to a description of arts and culture presentations. The report put forward a recommendation to "recognize the economic benefits of a vibrant arts and culture sector." It was not a particularly strong or specific direction to government, but it was there.  

This year's report and recommendations include no mention of arts and culture, except for one indirect reference. Recommendation 17 states, "Continue annual funding for sport, as provided by the 2010 Sport and Arts Legacy Fund, in the next three-year budget plan and base budget of the Ministry of Community, Sport and Cultural Development." There is no corresponding recommendation to "continue annual funding for culture." While we have been given no signal that arts funding is at risk of new cuts, there is nothing in the committee's report to recommend against such action. 

We at the Alliance are hopeful that the 2013 budget will include a clear proposal to replace the funds that will disappear when the 2010 Sport and Arts Legacy Fund ends this year. In its place, we strongly recommend an increase to the base funding for BC Arts Council grants, full restoration of Gaming Grants, and introduction of multi-year grant opportunities in both programs.

As we move from these budget consultations toward actual budget proposals, the government and the opposition parties will be positioning themselves for a spring election. The Alliance for Arts and Culture will be working to advance the case for culture with all parties throughout this process. We expect politicians to make their positions on the arts perfectly clear in the budget debate, and in the subsequent election campaign. In the coming weeks and months, we will engage with our members and our fellow arts service organizations to promote strong Public Cultural Policy for British Columbia. We look forward to having your support for this important challenge ahead."

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