Canadian Conference of the Arts Open Letter To Gordon Campbell

August 20th, 2010 

 
Dear Premier Campbell, 
 
 
Re: Cuts to the BC arts sector 
 
 
I am writing again to you today on behalf of the Board of Governors of the Canadian 
Conference of the Arts (CCA) to express our deep concerns about the devastating 
cuts of provincial support to the arts and culture communities of British Columbia, as 
well as about the resignation of the widely respected BC Arts Council Chair, Ms. Jane 
Danzo.  
 
As the largest and oldest Canada-wide organization in the arts, culture and heritage 
sector, the CCA does not often intervene in issues of provincial concern. Founded 65 
years ago, the CCA’s mission is to be the national forum for the sector and to 
document and promote the development and implementation of cultural policies at the 
federal level. Our goal is to encourage and foster the health and growth of this 
important sector within Canada and to enhance the cultural life of Canadians.  
However, we cannot remain silent when we hear how your government abandons its 
support to arts and culture organizations in British Columbia, many of which are 
members of ours. Past investments by BC governments, while for decades amongst 
the lowest per capita in Canada, have yielded remarkable results. Your province ranks 
amongst the first in Canada for the number and the quality of its artists and creators, 
notably in the visual arts, who have gained your province and the country an 
international reputation.  
Last year’s success of the BC Scene event at the National Arts Centre was a clear 
illustration of the incredible talent and creative power of your province’s artistic 
community. And if further proof were required, all three levels of government 
recognized the importance of arts and culture by investing considerable sums of 
money to showcase Canadian and British Columbian talent at the Cultural Olympiad 
during the very successful Winter Olympics, thus confirming the contribution the arts 
make to Canada’s image abroad.  
 
It bears repeating once again that the arts and culture sector is at the vanguard of the 
shift to a post-industrial economy which must be strategically guided by Canada’s 
various levels of government. According to documents produced by your own Ministry 
of Tourism, Arts and Culture, BC’s arts and culture sector employs close to 80 000 
people and contributes over $5 billion to the provincial economy. BC has the largest 
percentage of its labour force in arts occupations and, as such, ranks first amongst the 
ten provinces. The arts are a growth sector in most Canadian cities and Vancouver 
boasts the third largest concentration of professional artists in Canada.   
 
Moreover, British Columbia’s population represents much of the cultural diversity that 
increasingly characterizes Canadian society. As such, investing in the arts and culture 
sector should be a strong component of your government’s strategy to tap this 
inexhaustible natural resource to advance creativity, boost the economy, lead to 
greater social cohesion and contribute to our identity as a nation.  
 
In this context, we are appalled to hear the extremely severe financial cuts that BC 
arts organizations are being hit with further to your government’s decisions, both 
through cuts to the budget of the BCAC and through the elimination of support from 
gaming grants. This is made particularly dramatic given the fact that like the rest of the 
arts and culture sector across the country, those organizations still have to feel the full 
impact of the recent recession.  We are equally concerned that major policy shifts, 
made without consultation with the BC Arts Council, have set irresponsible and 
indefensible precedents. 
 
On that front, we want to reassert the importance of the arm’s length relationship 
which must exist between governments, politicians and cultural granting agencies. 
Arts and politics do not mix well: this is why so many countries, including Canada and 
most provinces, have established independent Arts Councils and rely on peer jury 
systems as the best possible way of granting money to artists and cultural 
organizations. This is a characteristic of healthy democracies and remains the best 
way to encourage innovation and creativity in a nation. Like our colleagues in BC, we 
applaud Ms. Danzo’s courageous decision to resign in protest of both the drastic cuts 
imposed by your government and the fact that BCAC does not possess the 
independence normally given to such granting agencies.  
 
For all those reasons, we find it ill-advised that provincial investments in the arts and 
culture sector be drastically and unfairly cut to help balance the books. With all due 
respect, we submit that this is a strategic error that will have negative impacts not only 
on tourism and economic development but also severely compromise the role your 
province plays in defining Canadian identity at home and abroad.  
 
The Canadian Conference of the Arts therefore urges you and your government to 
think of the long-term interests of British Columbians and to reverse the current policy 
regarding the arts, which can only be described as short-view and contrary to the 
interests not only of British Columbians but of all Canadians. We also submit that the 
BC Arts Council should be restructured on the model of other Arts Councils in Canada 
and in other countries and enjoy the independence which is necessary to a thriving 
arts community. 
 
Yours truly, 
 
 
Kathleen Sharpe 
President 
 
 
CC   The Hon. Kevin Krueger, Minister of Tourism, Culture and the Arts 
 The Hon. Colin Hansen, Minister of Finance and Deputy Premier 
   
 
The Province 
The Vancouver Sun 
The Georgian Straight 
The Victoria News 
The Times Colonist 

 

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