Follow Our Lead: Tell BC Government To Keep Promise to Double Arts Budget

Photo: BC Legislature

Photo: BC Legislature

Today, Brenda Leadlay, executive director of the BC Alliance, told the BC Standing Committee on Finance that, while the BC government’s $5 million increase to the BC Arts Council is “a good start,” the increase should be $24 million, the amount promised by BC Premier John Horgan during his election campaign and in his Minister’s Mandate Letter.

The meeting, at UBC Robson Square in Vancouver, was part of the Province’s Budget 2019 public consultation process. The BC Alliance was among a select group that made in-person presentations to the all-party Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services.

But every single person in BC has the opportunity to tell the government to make arts, culture and heritage a priority in its next budget. You can complete an online survey or make a written submission by Oct. 15.

Leadlay told the Standing Committee the $5 million increase is not enough to enable the BC Arts Council to fulfill the priorities of its New Strategic Plan. That plan “focuses on building a sustainable, innovative economy,” Leadlay said. This is “a goal that is strongly aligned with the priorities of the new government.”

Leadlay also suggested that the government take an “integrated approach to spending, with cross-ministry initiatives that recognize that support for arts, creativity and innovation needs to be embedded across all sectors — including education, health, social justice, multiculturalism, immigration, reconciliation, and poverty.

“I believe you all know that creativity and innovation are key to a growing, sustainable future,” Leadlay concluded. “The arts are an important part of your plan to revitalize British Columbia. You’ve made a great start, and I sincerely thank you for that. And you still have three more budgets to keep your promises.”

Here’s Brenda Leadlay’s full presentation.  

2018 Budget Presentation to Finance Committee of the BC Gov’t

Thank you for the opportunity to make this presentation on behalf of the BC Alliance for Arts + Culture, a provincial arts service organization with over 480 members that’s been serving the cultural sector in BC for 31 years.

My name is Brenda Leadlay.  I am the Executive Director, and I am grateful to work on the un-ceded ancestral territories of the Musqueam, Squamish and  Tsleil-Waututhpeople.   

First off, I want to thank you for recognizing the value of arts and culture in BC with the additional $5 million in funding to the BC Arts Council over the next three years. It shows that this government understands that arts and culture are an essential part of who we are, connecting, challenging and inspiring us. 

The benefits of the $5 million increase, since the Spring round of operating grants, has enabled the BC Arts Council to provide supplemental funding to keep its existing clients sustainable and vital — with increases of between 13 to 18%. But the BC Arts Council still has a long way to go to fulfill the priorities of their New Strategic Plan — which is focused on Equity, Diversity and Access, in order to build a sustainable, innovative economy.  This goal is strongly aligned with the priorities of the new government.  

Key objectives of the new BC Arts Council plan include:

1.     Improving sustainability and creative development;

2.     Enhancing engagement with Indigenous arts and culture which needs to be at the forefront because they are an important tool for reconciliation. 

3.     Expanding support for regional arts and community arts; Regional Priorities are very important in the new Plan and also align with the gov’ts vision.

4.     Increasing support for equity, diversity and access; so that the multiculturalism of BC communities is fully represented 

A greater investment in arts, culture, heritage and creativity, is needed in order for the BC Arts Council to implement these important new objectives but also for the government to keep its pledge and fulfill the priorities of Premier Horgan’s Ministerial letter.  

I’d like to recap three of the six priorities that were outlined in that letter to Minister Lisa Beare: 

·      Double the Province’s investment in the B.C. Arts Council over four years. 

·      Establish an Arts Infrastructure Fund to help provide space for B.C. artists. 

·      Work with the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing to develop a community capital infrastructure fund to upgrade and build sports facilities, playgrounds, local community centres, and arts and culture spaces. 

Thankfully, significant new monies have already been committed to that Ministry for the Community, Culture, Recreation and Northern Communities Fund, which is being matched by the federal government. 

Not for profit arts and culture organizations CAN apply for but it will be very competitive - with local gov’ts, indigenous communities and recreational facilities all seeking funding from the same pot of money. 

This is a great new Bi-lateral program with the feds - and I want to ensure there is fair access for the cultural community in BC because our current cultural facilities are aging and many buildings are still not accessible to everyone.  

This will require collaboration between sectors to make the best use of this money. There is an active and growing interest in the cultural sector in regional communities because they know that culture boosts local economies and builds stronger, healthier societies. 

I’d like to suggest that this government take an integrated approach to government spending, with cross-ministry initiatives that recognize that the arts, creativity and innovation are at the heart of a growing, sustainable BC - and that support for culture needs to be embedded across all ministries and sectors – including education, health, social justice, multiculturalism, immigration, reconciliation, and poverty. 

I recently became aware of the work being done in Richmond by the Anti- POVERTY Coalition.  They are using a creative curriculum to teach people living in poverty to write, draw, sing and speak their stories - and they are seeing amazing results.  These people are learning creative skills, and building their self-esteem and their confidence so that they can pull themselves out of poverty.  

The recognition of the value of creativity is growing.  The latest research coming out of the UK, US, Australia and Scandinavia clearly states that the arts make us feel healthier, happier and more connected to each other. The world is beginning to see that individual creative expression is integral to everyone’s health and well-being.    

So, we need you to keep thepromises you made during the election campaign and in the Minister’s Mandate letter: Double the budget of the BC Arts Council from $24M to $48M 

Create an Arts Infrastructure fund for the cultural sector to ensure that we continue to have vibrant accessible gathering spaces.

I believe YOU all know that creativity and innovation are key to a growing, sustainable future. I hope that you also know that the arts should be at heart of your strategy for success.  THE ARTS ARE AN IMPORTANT PART OF YOUR PLAN to revitalize British Columbia. 

You’ve made a great start, and I sincerely thank you for that. And you still have three more budgets to keep your promises.

Thank you.

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