Submission to Vancouver City Council, September 24, 2009

The Alliance for Arts and Culture represents over 350 arts and cultural organizations and artists in Metro Vancouver and beyond.  We offer the following known facts and observations regarding our own sector and the latest iteration of the provincial budget.  Although this submission focuses on the arts and cultural sector, we stand in solidarity with all the sports, environmental, and other community organizations, which have also suffered drastic cuts.  Our social capital is threatened if current trends in provincial funding continue unabated. Gaming funds must be used appropriately and in accordance with the social and moral contract under which British Columbians gave their government the mandate to generate revenues through gambling. 

Many organizations throughout our communities, of all sizes and disciplines, have been affected by the cuts in BC Gaming Commission grants to the sector.  Organizations like the Pitt Gallery, which has operated in our city for 35 years, are closing their doors, hopefully not permanently.  Others are running un-anticipated deficits, appearing as poor managers, when in fact, they are not.  There are pending job losses in the sector and the cancellation of outreach and educational programs as well as touring opportunities.  This year the core investment to our sector provided by gaming grants has been completely withdrawn from 44% of cultural and arts organizations that had received grants last year. 

Forty-four percent is a staggering statistic.  These groups lost 100% of their funding through gaming grants, and for many, this has meant crippling cuts of anywhere from 30-100% of their total provincial support.  We are still collecting data on the impacts on our sector.  Remember that these groups did not lose their funding due to poor performance or for not meeting criteria, but largely because their applications were received after the government freeze; 41% of regular gaming clients that applied earlier received their funding and the remaining 15% are those with multi-year agreements, which were restored.

In the Vancouver Sun, September 19, 2009, Randy Shore provides an informative report on the current status of provincial arts investments, but presents data that refers only to the direct grants offered to the sector through BC Arts Council and BC Gaming Commission.  The apparent reduction, according to Mr. Shore is only 11%, but this is misleading.  As mentioned, these cuts were not made across the board, but singled out a large percentage of regular Gaming clients.  For many this has been a huge blow, including many organizations in our communities.

What is more unsettling for our sector as a whole is the seemingly drastic cut of 85  % that the Ministry of Tourism Arts and Culture has revealed for 2010/11 and 92% for 2011/12 in their Service Plan.  Only the administrative cost of the BC Arts Council is estimated for 2010/11, and 2011/12 with no indication of how the grants budget will be provided, whether through legislated appropriation or through Gaming Grants.   This has the arts and cultural community feeling very uncertain and nervous about the future.  If a fuller consideration is given to the numbers provided in the September 2009 update to the Ministry or Tourism Arts and Culture’s Service plan is combined with the information available regarding the BC Gaming Commissions commitments, the following picture emerges: 

BC Provincial Arts And Culture Funding 2008-2012
Funding Source
2009/2010 Sept
Arts and Culture
BC Arts and Culture Endowment
BC Gaming Commission
Gaming Transfer to BC Arts Council
Supplementary Estimates
Multiyear Commitments

Note 1: For Arts and Culture & BC Arts and Culture Endowment Funds - these include support for the BC Arts Council AS WELL as groups such as Music BC, book publishers, etc. who are not funded through the BC Arts Council

Note 2: 09/10 Total funding amount may increase slightly due to gaming funds granted prior to freeze in Mar/Apr 09 - the total of this amount has not been released by BC Gov

Note 3: Multi-year funding commitment amounts will also change when the total release to arts groups is made public by the BC Gov - estimated at $2-3M

 We can see from this table that there has been a 26% cut to BC Provincial Arts and Culture investment this year.  This makes no strategic sense at a time when we need to support our communities and invest wisely in our future through this economic crisis. The economic, social, health, and educational benefits to our communities created by investing in arts and culture, by all levels of government, are well documented and supported.  It is hoped that the arts and cultural communities in our City can continue to count on the support and influence of this Mayor and City Council, as we urge the provincial government to provide adequate and stable funding for the arts and cultural sector.  Arts are not a frill.

Culture Matters.


Amir Ali Alibhai, Executive Director

Alliance for Arts and Culture 

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