Liberals Pillage Remaining Arts Funding

July 12, 2010

Way back when we learned that the BC Liberal government was planning to cut arts funding in BC by up to 92% (they settled for around 80%) all kinds of weird things were going on. Among them, Gaming was supposed to be administrating the BC Arts Council awards; multi-year Direct Access commitments were, then weren't, then were, now aren't, being honoured; Direct Access funds and Bingo grants were amalgamated into Community Gaming Grants; and money was being transferred around between fiscal years and programs in an elaborate shell game to make it look as though the funding was still there. It was confusing, and gave the impression that nobody really knew what was going on. Recent developments suggest that somebody in government knew exactly what was going on and is now preparing to hijack $10 million of what little funding remains.

During the sudden (as in zero notice to organizations affected) restructuring of provincial arts funding the Direct Access Gaming program was annihilated, but a very small amount was eventually restored, earmarked for "youth programs, and fairs, festivals and museums". Fairs? Since when did arts funding include "fairs"? A prevailing paranoia lingered in the aftermath of the laceration of hundreds of small organizations. We were all justifiably suspicious. "They're going to hold trade fairs", I predicted. "They are going to have some weird corporate business development get-together at the Pan Pacific Hotel and fund it with the last shreds of arts funding and say this money was meant to be used for fairs". So far my prediction has not come true, but there is a more sinister plan emerging - more diabolical than even I could invent.

The only silver lining in the new arts funding plan was a $10 million Arts Legacy Fund that the BC Liberals repeatedly pointed at as an example of their support for arts and culture. A recent Georgia Straight article by Janet Smith reveals that the Arts and Culture Minister, Kevin Krueger, intends to use this money to fund something called "BC Spirit Festival Days". This is to be an elaborate government-controlled multi-community "festival" to run in the three years leading up to the next provincial election. Which means that this money will not necessarily be available to established arts organizations, professional artists or cultural workers. NDP MLA and culture critic Spencer Chandra Herbert speculates that we may be looking at a series of "government propaganda festivals". 

Is this a hair of the dog after the olympic hangover? Have the BC Liberals decided to go into the arts and culture business? Or is it a quick and easy way to siphon 10 million bucks out of the cultural sector and into a long-term election campaign...?

For the Georgia Straight Article by Janet Smith go to: