BC Arts Funding Cuts – Timeline Overview

by Kenji Maeda on September 3, 2009

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So the last week has been a whirlwind of “WTF?” moments. It all seemed to happen so fast. Money disappears; Confusing messages show up; Money comes back.

Here’s the timeline of events. And who knows what will happen next.

August 17 —

Looking back to mid-August, The Province reported:

Pierre Rivard is trying not to panic about the $40,000 that should have been deposited to his non-profit society’s bank account months ago.

The money, earmarked for cultural programs, should have helped Le Centre Culturel Francophone de Vancouver pay for its week-long festival in June. The event was a success, but the $40,000 grant from the B.C. government hasn’t arrived.

Clearly, Rivard wasn’t the only one concerned at that point as the Vancouver International Children’s Festival was also waiting for their grant money to come through which was expected to be deposited in July.

  • B.C. government could face lawsuits if it fails to honour gaming grant commitments [straight.com]
  • Community groups waiting for grants. ‘Promised’ funding ‘frozen’ for thousands of organizations [theprovince.com]
  • Vancouver non-profit accuses province of reneging on funding [vancouversun.com]

— August 24-26 —

The Straight reported:

The Ministry of Housing and Social Development has announced it will provide gaming grants for a “limited number of arts and culture activities.”

But because the announcement came from both the Ministry of Tourism, Culture, and the Arts and the Ministry of Housing and Social Development,

Amir Ali Alibhai, executive director of the Alliance, called the announcement confusing. “I’m trying to read between the lines,” he said. “It’s the first time I’ve ever seen a joint release about B.C. arts council funding.” [straight.com]

  • B.C. Arts Council grant announcement befuddles community [straight.com]
  • Government: Priorities for gaming grants include “a limited number of arts and culture programs” [straight.com]
  • BC government freezes, then unfreezes, promised gaming funds to community groups [xtra.ca]

— August 28 —

Things really fired up when it was announced that those organizations with multi-year gaming grant commitments would no longer receive the money. This would be a blow to anyone’s budget, and particularly because for some organizations those agreements were used to secure other funding, like for Miscellaneous Productions, a performing-arts group that works with at-risk youth.

Elaine Carol, the company’s co-founder and artistic director, said the amount represents approximately 15 percent of the organization’s budget. “We use that money to feed the youth that come starving to our rehearsals, literally. We use that money to support them with all kinds of art-making and training and attention that they’re not getting otherwise….We’re going to have to cut back in every area.”

She noted that it was because of the promise of gaming money that she was able to secure additional funding: “We make photocopies and we send these letters off to our other funders and say, ‘Hey, look, gaming has guaranteed us funding for three years. So will you give us funding?’…We’re going to have incredible cash-flow problems.” [straight.com]

Amir Ali Alibhai, Executive Director of the Alliance for Arts & Culture later that day in their blog said:

We have been cut as a sector without consideration of the important role we play in civil society and our contribution to social capital. These cuts are not only affecting the arts, but community sports, parent-teacher associations, and many other social profit sectors.
This action reveals a government in panic – so let us not match that reaction.  Let us be calm and think together on how we can survive, though some of us may not. I get that. These cuts will not only weaken our civil society and therefore threaten the means by which democracy can work successfully,  but we will lose jobs, organizations, and skills in many communities around the province, and the economic impacts will be dire. These cuts are not strategic , but wholesale cuts to entire sectors.

— August 29-31 —

Allyson McGrane of Plank Magazine wrote about the history of how gaming money and charities became connected and how gaming money is distributed.

In the beginning, gaming was called gambling.  And it was illegal in Canada under the Criminal Code starting in 1892.  But then in 1901,  a key exemption emerged – gambling was legal if it was a raffle at a bazaar held for charitable or religious purposes.  By 1906, the federal government allowed lottery schemes to be run by charitable and religious organizations.  Thus began the intimate connection of gambling and charities.

I highly recommend you go and read the rest of the article.

More stories on how this would impact the community emerged in the media and a gathering was held on Sunday Aug 30 at NDP MLA Spencer Herbert’s constituency headquarters to address the situation.

  • BC arts cuts – gaming money evaporates effective immediately [plankmagazine.com]
  • Arts community hobbled by $20-million cut in funding [vancouversun.com]
  • Arts groups angry as B.C. government slashes funding [theprovince.com]
  • VIDEO: BC Liberals axing funding for the arts: NDP [ctvbc.ca]

— September 2 —

Wednesday morning continued on just as the previous couple days. More interviews, reports, and articles on how these massive cuts would affect the community.

  • Direct Access gaming grants cuts create ripple effect for Vancouver’s arts community [straight.com]
  • B.C. Liberals hammer the arts [straight.com]

2:30pm hits and Minister Rich Coleman announces that the three-year gaming grants will be fully funded. But the effect that it had on the arts community may be too deep to heal, at least at anytime in the near future. As reported by The Globe and Mail:

The executive director of the Vancouver International Fringe Festival, David Jordan, said that arts groups had no reason to feel grateful for the government’s change of heart. “This was money that we were promised and had already budgeted for,” he said. “It does not quell concern about the long term and the complete attack on, and blanket disregard for culture, by this government.”

The effort around arts funding issues isn’t over including the sustainability aspect of it all.  I’ll end this post with the words of the Amir Ali Alibhai of Alliance for Arts:

This is only speculation but my best guess. It does demonstrate that allies in community and among elected officials can make a difference. We are all happy to hear that the funding for multi-year clients will be forthcoming – but what about the others?

We cannot let this drive a wedge between us; this is a long-term effort and there are still many disturbing circumstances for us to deal with. We have to think about the future.

[Post image by Neubie]

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