Draconian Arts Cuts in British Columbia

Flex Your Muscles, BC Arts Community

Fight back against a government that’s singled you out for brutal budget cuts.

By Charles Campbell, 4 Sep 2009, TheTyee.ca

Why has the provincial government singled out the arts for the most brutal budget cuts it has inflicted on any sector of the economy?

The numbers are remarkable — a decline in core funding over two years of more than 88 per cent, from $19.5 million down to $2.25 million, according to the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture service plan released after the budget update on Tuesday. On Wednesday morning, NDP culture critic Spencer Herbert figured that when cuts to gaming funding are included there is a 92 per cent overall cut over the same period, from $47.8 million in 2008-09 down to $3.7 million in 2010-11.

The government can be expected, of course, to protest that it’s not so bad, restore some funding and hope the begging artists will put their caps back on and shuffle away meekly to their garrets, just like Oliver Twist. And so it came to pass on Wednesday, when the province restored at least some of the gaming money that had been promised and then taken away. How many groups will have their funding restored? And for how long? It’s not entirely clear, and arts administrators, who spend their lives waiting for a letter telling them they’ll get money they’ve already spent, can be forgiven their skepticism.

We do know that as arts funding is debated many numbers will be bandied about. Arts leaders may note that overall government spending is rising, and where there are cuts they are generally in the order of 20 per cent. Someone may point out that while the premier’s office budget is being cut to $11 million from $14 million, its budget was just $2.7 million before Premier Gordon Campbell took office. Others will draw attention to the enormous salary increases recently granted to cabinet ministers and senior bureaucrats. I might mention the huge piles of money shovelled in the direction of large BC Liberal donors, like the $62 million annual break on liquor costs given in 2005 to the owners of some private liquor stores.

None of this, however, answers the key question: why has the government, right now, singled out the arts for an unbelievable thrashing?

Read the rest here.

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