British Columbia Budget Contains a Mixed Message for Culture

The province of British Columbia brought down its 2009 budget on February 17, and artists and cultural organizations in the province are now organizing to reverse proposed cuts to cultural funding.

It’s a somewhat confusing tale, albeit one with profound long-term impact. The budget documents released on February 17 called for a reduction of $12.7 million in arts and culture spending in 2009-10 – a 45% reduction that incorporates both a reduction in core support and a significant drop in the endowment draw from the province’s arts and culture fund.

Supplemental budget estimates released February 18 indicated that one-time funding, totaling $15 million, would be directed to arts, culture and heritage for 2009-10, more than compensating for the cut called for in the budget.

At the same time, though, the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and the Arts released its three-year Service Plan, which clearly indicates that spending on arts and culture from the province’s “core” budget is projected to decline from just over $19.5 million in 2008-09 to just under $9.9 million in 2011-12.

On February 19, Minister of Tourism, Culture and the Arts Bill Bennett and BC Arts Council Chair Donald Shumka wrote a joint letter to the BC arts community, confirming that “there has been no funding reduction to arts and culture in the 2009-10 budget [and that] in fact slightly more money will actually be going to arts and culture in the coming fiscal year.” However, the letter was silent on the province’s longer-term intentions: something of profound concern to artists, arts organizations and citizens in the province.

BC arts advocates are now crafting a response, and Orchestras Canada will be working with its member orchestras in BC to ensure that our concerns are heard.

For more information on this, you can visit the website of the (Greater Vancouver) Alliance for Arts and Culture here.

source: Orchestra Canada newsletter.

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