For the first time since 2007, the B.C. government’s standing committee on finance has not recommended an increase in arts funding.
Arts and culture receive just one short line in the committee’s report, released earlier this week: “Recognize the economic benefits of a vibrant arts and culture sector.”
Last year, for the second year in a row, the committee had called on the province to return arts funding to 2008/09 levels. It also recommended that eligibility criteria for community gaming grants be revisited, and that the government reinstate gaming grants for three years to provide stability.
In 2007, the committee called on the government to consider a boost to the B.C. Arts Council and support the province’s artists and cultural organizations, “such that B.C.’s total arts funding from all government sources is not less than third highest amongst the Canadian provinces.” The following year, it recommended increasing the council budget to $32 million.
Amir Ali Alibhai, executive director of the Alliance for Arts and Culture, noted that the committee’s recommendations haven’t held much sway in the past with regards to arts funding. “In the past, they always have [recommended increased arts funding] and it’s never seemed to make a difference,” he said.
Spencer Chandra Herbert, the NDP’s arts critic, said he was dismayed by the committee’s report. “It doesn’t send me a good message in terms of the Liberals’ support for the arts,” he told the Straight. “It also shows me that they don’t understand the economic benefits of investing in the arts, despite their words here. Action has to follow words.”
Chandra Herbert also noted that, for the first time, the bipartisan committee did not work on a consensus, but instead the Liberals released the report with asterisks highlighting what the party deemed the most pressing recommendations. The recommendations regarding the arts was not one of them.
“We had to vote against the finance committee report, which the first time we’ve done that in quite a few years, because the Liberals decided they would do whatever they wanted anyway without coming to some sort of consensus,” he said