On Feb 17, the British Columbia provincial government released its new budget. I was honestly not even going to write anything on it, because it was so depressing. But I do like to fire up the masses if I can, so I am digging myself out of my hole of self-wallowing pity.
Okay, first off, I get that these are difficult financial times. In the past few months, we have gone from “the economy is in a downturn” to the dreaded ‘R’-word: “recession.” Comparisons are being drawn to the great Depression. US President Obama is handing over kazillions (yes, that’s a technical term) of dollars in bailout money, and our own government is saying it’s going into debt, and it’s okay with that if it stimulates the economy.
I also totally get that art is the first thing to be cut back on, along with luxury items. Art is often considered to be a luxury, even at the best of times. But still, this is ridiculous.
The short version of the story is that the government cut nearly 40% of its culture budget: from $19.5 million last year to $11.9 million this year.
From The Alliance for Arts and Culture:
The cuts to arts and culture in this budget are dramatic and potentially devastating. Essentially, it amounts to a 40% cut to core funding, which will further increase over the next two years. This is particularly troubling considering that the 2008/09 Service Plan for the Ministry was planning for significant increases in investments in this sector.
In 2007, B.C.’s creative industries employed approximately 74,000 people and generated $2.3 billion – 1.6 per cent of the province’s GDP. The demand for cultural goods in this province is one of the highest in the country. Not only that, but the province gets back 138% of its cultural investment in taxes. It is more important than ever that British Columbians realize that arts and culture are not frills or luxuries – they are essential to our lives and to our ability to be competitive in the new creative economy which is emerging.
The Georgia Straight says:
Don’t let the rhetoric of the throne speech confuse you. The B.C. Liberal government has declared war on the arts in its budget. And it did so to score cheap political points in rural B.C. to try to win the next provincial election.
The Alliance ends with a call to action: write to your MLA and let them know how important the Arts are. Anyone who attended The Wrecking Ball will know that we can be force to be reckoned with.
Read the entire Alliance article here.
Read the entire Georgia Straight article here.