A significant first step was taken today when the Select Finance Committee recommended that arts funding be restored to 2008-09 levels in British Columbia. Now is the time to continue the pressure on the government to adopt the recommendations.
The following excerpt is from page 24 of the Finance Committee Report on the Budget 2010 Consultations:
Representatives of B.C.’s arts and culture community came out in full force this year to make a common plea for the restoration of arts funding. They were well represented at our public hearings, in the written submissions received, as well as in a torrent of form letters submitted electronically. Most submissions on this topic requested the government to reexamine its decision to reprioritize the distribution of Direct Access gaming grants and to restore funding to the B.C Arts Council to 2008/09 levels. We encourage the government to examine ways to restore funding to the arts and culture sector. Here is a sample of the comments we received: “Public investment in the arts allows community-based arts organizations to leverage money from other sectors and also leverages the social capital of thousands of volunteer hours of activity – resulting in healthier, happier, economically-competitive and livable communities.” (Amir Ali Alibhai, Alliance for Arts and Culture, Surrey public hearing)
“We urge the provincial government to demonstrate strength and leadership to forward and maintain the progress that has assiduously been achieved. Allow British Columbia to celebrate its cultural accomplishments and identity and shine.” (Joanna Maratta, British Columbia Touring Council, Nelson video conference session)
“Our communities definitely need the infrastructure that our governments create and support, such as health care, education, roads, industry, business, but we also need the cultural events and experiences in our lives that stir our emotions, nourish our soul, broaden our minds and define us as a society, especially in this difficult economic time.” (Ken Eng, Bulkley Valley Concert Association, Smithers public hearing)
“Ballet Kelowna strongly urges the government to recognize the value of the arts in our province, to seriously reconsider its arts funding policies, to reinstate Direct Access Gaming Grants and to maintain its commitment to the British Columbia Arts Council.” (David LaHay, Ballet Kelowna, Kelowna public hearing)
For the record, we reproduce the recommendations made to the Committee by the B.C. Arts Council: · “Providing an appropriated budget as per our Act (plus the BC150 Cultural Fund earnings) to the Arts Council. The use of the appropriated budget carries significant meaning to the arts and cultural community as it signals that arts and culture are part of the “main budgeting process”.
· In the event the Council funds are to again come from Gaming, we strongly recommend that government make a single grant to the Council who could then do what they are mandated to do – allocate grants in a fair and transparent manner focusing on excellence. Having the funds come directly from Council would eliminate much of the unintended consequences that are currently a source of concern and confusion.
· Restore the budgets of both the BC Arts Council and the arts and cultural community component of the Community Gaming Grants Program to at least the level of 2008/09 to allow the arts community to begin to build upon the legacy of the 2010 Olympics. The 2010 Olympics provide our province with such a wonderful “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity” to showcase not only the athletes, but the breadth and depth of arts and cultural activities that make British Columbia such a great place to live, work and visit. Without at least the level of funding provided in 2008/09 it will be next to impossible for the arts and cultural community to seize the opportunities presented by the 2010 Olympics.
· Develop and announce a long term strategy to strengthen the support for the arts and cultural community of British Columbia as the province works it way out of the current fiscal difficulties. The BC150 Cultural Fund has provided a valuable foundation, and we are very grateful for this long term support, even as present rates of return have diminished the current impact of this source. At the same time many private donors have reduced their support for all not-for-profit organizations, only compounding the financial issues facing most arts organizations. The arts community is looking for a more positive attitude and increased visible support from government.” (Jane Danzo, B.C. Arts Council, Written submission 670)