Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Colin Miles urges audience to write to BC government

Colin Miles, regional director of the Canadian Music Centre (CMC), gave a marvelous speech at the Turning Point Ensemble concert at Ryerson United Church in Vancouver on Sunday night, giving a history of the CMC's creation in 1959 and its rapid expansion over the past two decades, which saw a 10-fold increase in the number of active composers living and working in British Columbia.

Then he informed the audience that this wonderful ensemble's funding for next year has not been renewed and asked audience members to stand if they would agree to write a letter to the BC government demanding that the funding be restored. Though the audience was clearly taken by surprise by such a "stand-up-and-be-counted" request, more than 3/4 of the audience rose to their feet.

I urge everyone reading this blog to talk to anyone and everyone you know about the theft by the provincial government of the gaming money that was specifically set aside to benefit charities and non-profits, including all sorts of social services, amateur sports, and arts and culture organisations. Read this article for a backgrounder on why we say the government has "stolen" the money.

Hugh Fraser leads musicians to protest at BC gov't Finance Commitee

Click on the title to read the article from The Tyee.

Colleague Sandra Bruneau reported this to me first; then I got the Tyee article. Sandra reported:

Hugh Fraser, trombonist, led a delegation of BC musicians who  protested today the BC government's massive cuts to arts and arts  organization in the province. The musicians appeared before a meeting of the provincial government's Finance Committee, the members of which, it is  reported, were "speechless."


Outside the committee room, [Nanaimo musician Andrew ]Homzy said, "Musicians are probably the least organized among all the artists." They are vulnerable to these cuts and need support, he said. "We have intellectual resources, cultural resources that cannot be measured in dollars and cents."

Fraser said arts grants make a big difference to musicians getting established. "If I didn't have this kind of funding as a student, I wouldn't be able to do this," he said.

Fraser said he'd had the good fortune to once teach jazz singer Diana Krall. "I know everyone talks about her as an overnight success, but it was 20 years of hard work and a lot of B.C. Arts Council funding that got her out into the world and made her who she is," he said. "When people see models like that, they all of a sudden believe they can do it."

Tourism, Culture and Arts Minister Kevin Krueger cuts off interview

Click on the title to read the article.


Charlie Smith: [In] 2010-11, $2.5 million for arts and culture in your service plan—is that acceptable from your perspective?

Kevin Krueger: That is the amount of money that we need to fund the arts and heritage, cultural branches of the ministry. You saw that this year, money was flowed to the B.C. Arts Council from the gaming portfolio. We will not stop funding the B.C. Arts Council, but we’re in very, very tough financial times.

Charlie Smith: Can you explain to me—because I look at your service plan, and I see $19 million in 2008-09, and I then I skip forward to 2010-11, and I see $2.5 million, and then I got to 2011-12, and I see $2.175 million. It looks like enormous cutbacks.

Kevin Krueger: I just answered that. I just answered it. Listen to your tape, Charlie. Every time I talk to the Georgia Straight…

Charlie Smith: You don’t talk to us.

Kevin Krueger: You know why? Because the last time, it was not a faithful article. It was a biased article. I think you’ve already written your story before you talked to me. When you asked me a question I just answered. I said that’s what I think. See you later, Charlie.

Arts groups are ready to fight for survival

Click on the title to read the article.


I was interested to read a new book, We Know What You're Thinking, by Darrell Bricker and John Wright of Ipsos Reid, Canada's largest market and opinion research company.

Here's how the chapter on British Columbia begins: "This is the place for local arts and culture. People agree emphatically that funding for the arts should not be left up to private business and foundations, but should get a boost from local governments. Ninety-one per cent of B.C. residents praise the selection of [arts and cultural] events and activities in their community, and it's the only region in Canada where there's complete agreement with the idea that a vibrant cultural scene is great for the local economy."

Monday, October 5, 2009

Government is gambling with other people's money

I reprint below a lengthy article from the Province newspaper originally published on September 3 that explains that the BC government doesn't really have the right to make their proposed cuts to the arts and charities. The BC Liberal government proposes cuts of up to 92% to charities and the arts and culture sector in the upcoming budget. But they propose to steal the money from BC Lottery Corp to run government: to steal from charities and non-profits. That money is not taxpayer money and they have no right to steal it to run the government.

You can tell them so by voicing your opinion – "giving advice" they call it – about the upcoming budget on this web site:
The deadline is October 23.

Column: Government is gambling with other people's money
Why the Liberals' gaming-grant shenanigans are everyone's business
By Gillian Burnett, The Province, September 3, 2009

Province web editor Gillian Burnett.
Photograph by: Arlen Redekop file, The ProvinceIn the frenzied runup
to Tuesday's bad-news budget, the Liberal government quietly sent out
hundreds of ticking time bombs and retreated to the relative safety of
their homes for the weekend.

Last Friday, dubbed "Black Friday" by the thousands of B.C. charities
that depend on gaming revenues for their existence, Rich Coleman, the
minister responsible for disbursing the money, sent out a memo. His
message, delivered under the sunny "Best Place on Earth" logo, was to
the point: Dear Community Organizations, We screwed up the numbers, so
you know that cheque we said was in the mail? It isn't.

The tone was brisk. Unapologetic. The gaming gravy train has ended, it
suggested, and in its place we're funding, well, gravy. CommunityLINK,
which supplies lunches to needy kids and was previously paid for by
the education ministry, will be getting your money, in addition to
projects supported by the BC Arts Council, also previously funded by
the taxpayer.

Priorities have shifted, Coleman lectured, and community groups that
we deem expendable — environmental, adult sports groups, alumni
associations, and especially "a number of arts and culture
organizations" — are out of luck.

It got worse. That money hadn't only been for future use. In most
cases it had already been spent, based on formerly ironclad written
guarantees that have simply been trashed by the very officials who
signed them.

Oh puh-lease, I hear some of our readers thinking. We're all
suffering, so why should I get upset about a bunch of fancy-pants
artists when the alternative is to let kids go hungry?

Well, that's exactly what Minister Coleman wants you to think. That
false comparison is calculated to distract from the heart of the
issue: It's not the government's money to take away.

To understand why, we need to go back a few years.

In Canada, before there was "gaming" — a cuddly word that evokes
family Scrabble nights — there was gambling.

And it was bad.

So bad, in fact, that it was illegal for the first 100 years of
Confederation. The only exemption was for charities, which ran
lotteries, bingo halls and casinos, and reaped the profits.

Then, in 1969, a Criminal Code change allowed governments a foot in
the door — but only when a worthy cause was involved. Charities were
their ticket and their moral justification, and still are: Just look
at the pages on the BCLC website trumpeting the motto "When you play,
good things happen."

Smelling easy money, the province, by the late 1990s, was soon kicking
open that door, even while promising to set aside charities' cut in a
trust and ensure direct access to the funds. The contest between a
goliath government and small, varied community interests had
predictable results.

In 1997, when the province, in a reverse Robin Hood maneuver, tried to
rob charities of $24 million to pay for its own "charitable" health
and education services, the NDP government was taken to court. The
following January, when then-deputy premier Dan Miller was ordered to
give the money back by the Supreme Court, opposition leader Gordon
Campbell summed up the decision best:

"Mr. Miller had to give it back," he declared. "It wasn't his money. I
don't trust him, period. And I don't think the charities should."

In June of 1999, the province signed agreements re-committing to their
community partnerships — agreements still in evidence on B.C.'s gaming-
policy website. They pledged, among other things, to consult the
charities' umbrella representative, the B.C. Association for
Charitable Gaming (BCACG) regarding any proposed changes, and
guaranteed a yearly minimum of $125 million with a view to committing
fully 1/3 of ongoing net community casino revenue.

That was 10 years ago, when gaming revenue grossed B.C. about $525
million annually. Last year, net gaming revenue hit an all-time high
of $1.1 billion, yet the charities are getting $139 million, 11
percent less than they got the year before. And the legitimate
recipients still don't know how much of that $139 million will be used
by Coleman's appointed illegitimate recipients.

"And yet somehow the government managed to find $39 million to promote
the Olympics," points out BCACG's Executive Director Cheryl Ziola. The
impact of the cuts is immeasurable, she says. "These cuts are going to
affect hospices, daycares, playgrounds, you name it. In Prince Rupert
alone there are 40 charitable organizations that rely on gaming funds
to provide services."

Most shocking of all, perhaps, is the absence of any attempt on the
government's part to minimize damage.

They could have taken away this money (that isn't theirs to take)
slowly and with warning. Instead, they knocked the door down and set
fire to the furniture, killing some organizations and crippling
others. Some groups had multi-year funding in place they'd based long-
term planning on, only to be told they were broke.

Wednesday, by which time rumblings about potential lawsuits had no
doubt reached the ears of government lawyers, finance minister Colin
Hansen experienced a sudden (partial) change of heart: Our mistake, he
said. We'll honour those multi-year agreements after all, representing
a reinvestment of $20 million over the next two years.

Reached for reaction, BCACG's Cheryl Ziola said, "The fact is, they're
still not fulfilling their funding agreement, and we're going to keep
hammering on that." Plus, she pointed out, they made this sudden
decision with absolutely no consultation whatsoever with the groups in

What about those organizations that didn't have a multi-year deal?
Well, it's their problem, along with their creditors, their laid-off
employees, the venues they'd booked next season that will now sit
empty — and, in many cases, the taxpayer, who would have seen a $1.38
return in tax revenue for every dollar invested in the arts. And keep
in mind, these dollars aren't coming out of taxes to start with.

In effect, the Liberals have handily dumped a portion of B.C.'s
deficit onto the unsuspecting backs of the people in our communities —
often volunteers — who make a daily, measurable, qualitative
difference to all of our lives.

All with money that isn't theirs.

Just ask Gordon Campbell.

© Copyright (c) The Province

National Ballet of Canada suffering

Click on the title to read the article.

Economists for an Imaginary World

Click on the title to read the article.

I have created a link to this article because I believe it is the economic policies of the Chicago School (the Canadian branch being the Calgary School), as adopted by the Bush government in the States and the Harper government here in Canada that results in cuts to the arts and programs of social benefit.

This article by Harold Meyerson outlines how the Chicago School of Economics works with impossibly limited mathematical models that do not take into account human behaviour to explain economic activity and to influence government policy. He compares their economic theories to pre-Copernian philosphers, who argued that all celestial bodies revoled around the earth:

Has any group of professionals ever been so spectacularly wrong? Pre-Copernican astronomers and cosmologists, I suppose, and for the same reason, really: They had an entire, internally consistent, theoretically rich system that described the universe. They were wrong -- the sun and other celestial bodies save the moon didn't actually revolve around the Earth, as they insisted -- but no matter. It was a thing of beauty, their cosmic order. A vast faith was sustained in part by their pseudo-science, a faith from which such free thinkers as Galileo deviated at their own risk. 

I agree with this article in its entirety and encourage those who believe in the church of the free-market to reconsider their faith and join those who wish to live in a society where our affairs are guided by the best science that is comprehensive in its scope.

Maynard Keynes believed in a short work-week and full employment as a recipe for a healthy and happy society. Such a society though, requires less profit for business owners, and so many such business people prefer a model that maintains as high as possible level of unemployment so that the workforce will remain in a state of fear of not being able to keep their job and having to join the poor and destitute. In every society where the experiment of the Chicago School has been attempted, the result has not been the promised "trickle-down" effect of wealth, but quite the opposite: more wealth in the hands of fewer people. See Naomi Klein's web site.

Stephen Harper sings Beatles With a Little Help From My Friends

Click on the title to watch the video.

What this means to me.

Stephen Harper can sing a song! Just like millions of Canadians, he sings his favourite songs. He wants you to know how HUMAN he is, unlike the stiff image that is sometimes presented in the media.

Some say this is evidence that Harper's a nice guy and we should give him a break on his policies. I say it just proves that music is universal and that countless politicians with objectionable policies like to sing and/or appreciate the arts. (I also think this particular appearance is a branding/market strategy that likely comes out of the Harper war-room.)

Singing a song on stage with a famous popularizer (Yo-yo Ma) does not change the cultural fallout from Harper policies. One could also say this is more evidence why CBC Radio 2 is now the Singer-Songwriters' network.  (Remember that the Board of Directors of the CBC is appointed by the Prime Minister's Office.) I don't think Canada's cultural life should be defined by the likes and dislikes of the Prime Minister and his party, do you?

John Oliver on music composition and performance Headline Animator