Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Whither BC: The Sequel

As expected, most arts and culture organizations (along with several other social programs) in the province received letters last week advising them that previously promised revenues from BC gaming revenues were being withdrawn owing to the ballooning deficit and Finance Minister Colin Hansen's revised budget projections (read the Vancouver Sun story here). This despite the fact that most of these organizations had already gone ahead and programmed their seasons in anticipation of the funds they had been contractually guaranteed.

As Lorna Brown noted in a recent email sent to the community urging people to join a Facebook campaign protesting the cuts, combined with the cuts to the BC Arts Council announced in last February's budget, this amounts to a de facto 75% cut to arts and culture in the province. Where else in the world would this be allowed to happen?! We live in a largely information-based and creative economy: why aren't, therefore, the creative industries duly rewarded with stimulus spending the likes of which was lavished on so many other dead or dying industries? When will the people of this province wise up to the dirty tricks of this government? Everyone's in an uproar about the HST (as well they should be--another kick in the pants to arts and culture in the form of higher ticket prices); but this is an administration that has gleefully--and with impunity--lied to us before. And that continues to do so (BC Rail, anyone? Missing emails?).

Of course, the Liberals are hoping the outrage over all of this will blow over as a result of the massive party that will be the Olympics. But what kind of party will it be with no money for the artists and creative producers who are best positioned to showcase the city culturally? I vote for riding this wave of anger right on into the Olympics themselves, letting the world know in no uncertain terms just what price this government puts on the second pillar of the Olympic Movement.

In the meantime, the public must do all it can to support the organizations whose programs and livelihoods are now imperiled. The best way we can do that is by going to see their work. The Vancouver Fringe Festival starts next week--I've just bought my Frequent Fringer Pass. Soon after that it will be time for the Vancouver International Film Festival. Though there's the little matter of teaching to contend with (the sabbatical is officially over today-boo hoo!), I hope to attend as many films as possible. And The Dance Centre's 2009/10 program just came in the mail today. It's chock-a-block with exciting offerings, starting with my SFU colleague Rob Kitsos's new work, Wake, next Friday and Saturday (Sept. 11-12).

Dig deep into your pockets, people, and buy a ticket to these and other events. And, since we can't vote Campbell and the Liberals out of office for another four years, consider doing so to the federal Conservatives instead. I hear Michael Ignatieff has just withdrawn support from Harper's minority government, so I guess that means we're headed to the polls once again this fall.


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