I am writing to you today with great concerns about your BC Liberal government’s escalating politicization of arts and culture funding in B.C.
In a time when British Columbian arts organizations are shuttering their doors, cutting programs and cancelling events due to your government’s massive funding cuts - your newly hatched “Spirit Festivals” add insult to injury.
This creation is a clumsy and overt politicization of arts investment. Just as we would never cut school funding so drastically as to stop children from getting basics like text books, and then turn around and return some of the money only if the schools used it to educate about the Olympic mascots - we should not be denying people in BC expressions of our great cultural diversity due to your government cuts, and then later announce the only art that will be supported must be to promote an Olympic legacy.
We have seen this ham-handed strategy before in the BC version of the tourism marketing“You Gotta Be Here” campaign - later revealed to be a focussed BC Liberal promotions tool aimed at “voting age British Columbians.” The purpose (according to your own advertising plan) was to link the success of the Olympics to your Premier and government, a clear misuse of public funds meant for tourism marketing being used for private partisan political gain.
One of the BC Arts Council’s express purposes is to remove political interference from funding decisions by establishing a clear set of funding guidelines and allowing a jury of industry professionals to determine which programs, projects and groups will receive the funding to produce arts and cultural experiences.
Your decision to unilaterally proceed with “Spirit Festivals” without consulting with anyone in the arts community stands far apart from the best practices one expects when spending $30 million of taxpayers dollars.
The best arts events emanate from the community, and aren’t centrally dictated to support the re-election of a party desperate to maintain their grip on power.
I hereby respectfully request that you:
- Take the remaining 7 million in this year’s ‘legacy fund’, as well as the next two years amounts and give it to the BC Arts Council with no strings attached so the industry professionals can determine how best to support BC’s art sector without government meddling.
- Strengthen the BC Arts Council’s arms length status.
- Grow investments in arts and culture so B.C. is no longer last in Canada in per capita support for the arts.
- Call on your colleague Minister Rich Coleman to restore gaming funds promised to non-profit charities.
Leadership means working with the community you serve - not bullying, misrepresenting and dictating to it.
The New Democrat Opposition are proud to stand in support of the BC Arts Council, and the people who love arts and culture in our great province, and will continue to speak out loudly in support. We hope you will do so as well.
After all it is common (and sound economic) sense.
Spencer Chandra Herbert
Official Opposition Critic for Tourism, Culture, and the Arts
MLA, Vancouver West End