Arts Group Calls On Minister To “Moderate His Comments”

The Alliance for Arts and Culture today issued a media release in response to several comments made recently by Minister of Tourism, Culture and the Arts Kevin Krueger comparing arts advocates to needle wielding junkies.  The text follows:

Alliance for Arts and Culture Responds To Kevin Krueger’s Charges of Being “Vicious” and Behaving Like “Needle Wielding Junkies” 

SEPT. 03, 2010: The Alliance for Arts and Culture today called for Minister of Tourism, Culture and the Arts Kevin Krueger to “moderate his comments” in the wake of two radio interviews in which he referred to some arts advocates as being “vicious”, alluded to having been “threatened” in a meeting at the Alliance office last November, and compared his experience in the meeting, with some 20 representatives of the arts community, to “an extortion process” and likened the group’s approach to “a junkie waving a needle”.

In an August 26 interview with Kathryn Gretsinger on CBC Radio One Minister Krueger also said: "We had one (meeting) in Vancouver where I was actually threatened. It was like an extortion process" and “there are some people in the arts and culture community that are actually quite vicious.”

In a later interview with Adam Stirling of CFAX Radio in Victoria on September 1 Minister Krueger said:  “I was threatened in a meeting with them in a way that didn't seem that much different to me than a junkie waving a needle if I was confronted by somebody on skid row who was high. It was just blatant. It was an outright threat. ‘You give us more money or else.’”

“We had decided to let the first remark pass” said Alliance for Arts and Culture executive director Amir Ali Alibhai. “We all sometimes say things that we regret later, but the minister has ramped up the rhetoric with this second interview, and we must respond.

“To begin with, the ‘threat’ that Minister Krueger considers unethical is our appeal to the millions of British Columbians who benefit from the arts funding that adds so much to our way of life -- our audiences and volunteers.  It is their culture and their money.” continued Mr. Alibhai.

“In our meeting, held ‘in camera’ by request of the minister, Minister Krueger was clearly caught off guard by the suggestion that voters will care when communities lose beloved emblems of their local culture to arts and gaming cuts,” said Alliance Advocacy Committee chair Sandy Garossino.

‘Such an outcome had plainly not occurred to him, and he was not at all pleased to hear that it has occurred to us.”  
Added Mr. Alibhai: “It should be noted that Minister Krueger opened that meeting last November by telling us that we should “stand down” our advocacy efforts, and that if we didn’t we could be doing “more harm” to ourselves and our cause. The implications of that comment seemed clear, but we never considered accusing the minister of threatening us.

“It is disconcerting, to say the least, when a minister of the Crown regards an appeal to voters as improper, "unethical", "threatening", "vicious", and extortionate.  But we stand by the legitimacy of the democratic process and our belief in the will of British Columbians to see our treasured cultural institutions survive.  

“This last year has been exceptionally trying for us all. We applaud this government for reconsidering its position, and thank Minister Krueger for his role in returning $7 million back to the BCAC budget, from which it had previously been removed.  We are hopeful this government will also review its diversion of gaming funds away from arts and community groups.  

“It is most regrettable that the level of discourse and communication has suffered through this difficult process. Our goal continues to be to have an open and frank dialogue with the government.

“It would be very helpful if Minister Krueger could moderate his comments in future,” concluded Mr. Alibhai. 

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The Alliance for Arts and Culture includes more than 350 arts organizations in the Metro Vancouver area, including  Vancouver Opera, Vancouver Art Gallery, Museum of Vancouver, the Vancouver International Jazz Festival, Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, Bard on the Beach Shakespeare Festival, and Vancouver International Film Festival, as well as numerous smaller companies, troupes and galleries and individual artists. The Alliance provides its membership with advocacy, professional development and group benefits and medical plan service, and represents the creative sector on many community committees and task forces.


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