On February 21, 2017, Finance Minister Michael de Jong presented the British Columbia government's 2017-18 budget and fiscal plan. The budget made no mention of increases to the BC Arts Council (BCAC) despite the Alliance's recommendations, which included an immediate investment of $8.1 million in the BCAC and a doubling of the BCAC budget over the next three years.
Although British Columbia is Canada's economic leader provincially, government investment in the BCAC on a per capita basis currently ranks 7th in the country compared to arts councils in other provinces.
"The Alliance is disappointed that the 2017 provincial budget did not include an increase to the BC Arts Council despite a two billion dollar surplus and the highest provincial GDP in the country," said Alliance executive director Brenda Leadlay. "Culture GDP represents 3% of the BC economy and the arts and culture sector employs over 81,000 cultural workers across the province. Despite these facts and three years of recommendations by the Standing Committee on Finance for increases to the BC Arts Council, the BC government is either not listening or the cultural sector is not doing enough to make our voices heard."
Among the other information disseminated, the budget estimated $318 million in expenses for the Ministry of Community, Sport and Cultural Development. This number includes $10 million earmarked for infrastructure projects in BC communities of populations of under 100,000 as part of the New Buildings Canada Fund: Small Communities Component, which will allocate approximately $109 million to this purpose over the next ten years. This also includes a $5 million boost to Community Gaming Grants, as the Alliance previously reported.
The budget also dedicated a three year total of $14 million in increased operating funding through the Ministry of Advanced Education to the Emily Carr University of Art + Design, which opens its new Vancouver campus at Great Northern Way in September 2017.
Finally, the government will expand the interactive digital media tax credit to cover augmented and virtual reality products. Effective February 22, qualifying BC labour employed in the development of augmented reality and virtual reality products will be eligible for a 17.5 per cent tax credit on labour expenses. The boundary for regional film tax credits has also been adjusted.
This post was updated on February 22 to add new information about the interactive digital media and regional film tax credits.