Friday, September 10, 2010

Open Letter to Minister Krueger from Book Publishers of BC

Click on the title to read the article.


Not only is publishing and the arts in general an economic engine in this province, but they also contribute, just as importantly, to the health and welfare of our communities. In the literary arts sector, our authors tell the stories that define who we are as British Columbians whether urban or rural residents, young or old, aboriginal, scholar, worker, child. Our books reflect the lives of our ranchers, wine makers, stockbrokers, fishers, foresters or art critics; as well, they contribute to Canadian literature and scholarship.

Yet, the institutions that make it possible to ensure our books are read in schools or on ferries, by tourists or residents, are still threatened despite the return of $7M to the BCAC budget. For example, BC BookWorld, a magazine that reviews books and includes articles on our many, many writers and publishers, and which reaches all communities in the province, had its funding cut by 100%. The Magazine Association of BC that works on behalf of literary and commercial magazines was cut by 83.5%, and this association, the ABPBC, that ensures the health of the book industry by offering programs that evaluate books for educational use, that coordinates literary programs such as Poetry in Transit in every community in the province with a bus, and that is working to make our non-fiction written heritage available in digital form in libraries throughout the province, has been cut by 91%. A business person yourself, you can appreciate that cuts of over 20% of operating budgets, is unsustainable. As project clients of the BCAC none of these organizations will benefit from the return of $7M in funding to the BCAC, pointing out the continued need to restore the BCAC budget to its previous level, to include the funding from the defunct Arts and Culture section that originally served these clients, and to ensure stable funding for not just ourselves but all artists, arts organizations and cultural industries.

Friday, August 20, 2010



The Right Honourable Gordon Campbell Premier Government of British Columbia P.O. Box 9041 Stn Prov Govt. Victoria BC V8W 9E1

By mail and email August 20th, 2010 Dear Premier Campbell,

Re: Cuts to the BC arts sector

I am writing again to you today on behalf of the Board of Governors of the Canadian Conference of the Arts (CCA) to express our deep concerns about the devastating cuts of provincial support to the arts and culture communities of British Columbia, as well as about the resignation of the widely respected BC Arts Council Chair, Ms. Jane Danzo.

As the largest and oldest Canada-wide organization in the arts, culture and heritage sector, the CCA does not often intervene in issues of provincial concern. Founded 65 years ago, the CCA’s mission is to be the national forum for the sector and to document and promote the development and implementation of cultural policies at the federal level. Our goal is to encourage and foster the health and growth of this important sector within Canada and to enhance the cultural life of Canadians.

However, we cannot remain silent when we hear how your government abandons its support to arts and culture organizations in British Columbia, many of which are members of ours. Past investments by BC governments, while for decades amongst the lowest per capita in Canada, have yielded remarkable results. Your province ranks amongst the first in Canada for the number and the quality of its artists and creators, notably in the visual arts, who have gained your province and the country an international reputation.

Last year’s success of the BC Scene event at the National Arts Centre was a clear illustration of the incredible talent and creative power of your province’s artistic community. And if further proof were required, all three levels of government recognized the importance of arts and culture by investing considerable sums of money to showcase Canadian and British Columbian talent at the Cultural Olympiad during the very successful Winter Olympics, thus confirming the contribution the arts make to Canada’s image abroad.

It bears repeating once again that the arts and culture sector is at the vanguard of the shift to a post-industrial economy which must be strategically guided by Canada’s various levels of government. According to documents produced by your own Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture, BC’s arts and culture sector employs close to 80 000 people and contributes over $5 billion to the provincial economy. BC has the largest percentage of its labour force in arts occupations and, as such, ranks first amongst the ten provinces. The arts are a growth sector in most Canadian cities and Vancouver boasts the third largest concentration of professional artists in Canada.

Moreover, British Columbia’s population represents much of the cultural diversity that increasingly characterizes Canadian society. As such, investing in the arts and culture sector should be a strong component of your government’s strategy to tap this inexhaustible natural resource to advance creativity, boost the economy, lead to greater social cohesion and contribute to our identity as a nation.

In this context, we are appalled to hear the extremely severe financial cuts that BC arts organizations are being hit with further to your government’s decisions, both through cuts to the budget of the BCAC and through the elimination of support from gaming grants. This is made particularly dramatic given the fact that like the rest of the arts and culture sector across the country, those organizations still have to feel the full impact of the recent recession. We are equally concerned that major policy shifts, made without consultation with the BC Arts Council, have set irresponsible and indefensible precedents.

On that front, we want to reassert the importance of the arm’s length relationship which must exist between governments, politicians and cultural granting agencies. Arts and politics do not mix well: this is why so many countries, including Canada and most provinces, have established independent Arts Councils and rely on peer jury systems as the best possible way of granting money to artists and cultural organizations. This is a characteristic of healthy democracies and remains the best way to encourage innovation and creativity in a nation. Like our colleagues in BC, we applaud Ms. Danzo’s courageous decision to resign in protest of both the drastic cuts imposed by your government and the fact that BCAC does not possess the independence normally given to such granting agencies.

For all those reasons, we find it ill-advised that provincial investments in the arts and culture sector be drastically and unfairly cut to help balance the books. With all due respect, we submit that this is a strategic error that will have negative impacts not only on tourism and economic development but also severely compromise the role your province plays in defining Canadian identity at home and abroad.

The Canadian Conference of the Arts therefore urges you and your government to think of the long-term interests of British Columbians and to reverse the current policy regarding the arts, which can only be described as short-view and contrary to the interests not only of British Columbians but of all Canadians. We also submit that the BC Arts Council should be restructured on the model of other Arts Councils in Canada and in other countries and enjoy the independence which is necessary to a thriving arts community.

Yours truly, Kathleen Sharpe President

CC The Hon. Kevin Krueger, Minister of Tourism, Culture and the Arts The Hon. Colin Hansen, Minister of Finance and Deputy Premier

Monday, August 2, 2010

A Response to Arts Funding Cuts

A Response to Arts Funding Cuts


We are the land of Glenn Gould and Nickelback, Jon Vickers and kd lang, Margaret Atwood and Doug Coupland, Luminato and The Fringe — and every kind of art in between.

Where does the government imagine these artists come from? Do they wander in off the street, fully-prepared to perform? Of course not. They are trained, educated, given apprenticeships and innumerable opportunities to perform. They are given forums like festivals and films and much more, and they are given the means to make art.

Some philistines argue that the arts should pay their own way. This is aberrant nonsense. Canadian art is more than arenas full of visiting American rockers. Canadian art is who we are as a people.

Money is NOT the measure of merit. It is a means of supporting merit.

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Wednesday, July 28, 2010

A less proud country

A few months ago, Ned Franks, a retired political science professor and constitutional expert, spoke in the wake of the proroguing of Parliament (yet again). He gave compelling statistical evidence that the rapid turnover of MPs and senior ministry staff in recent years has left Parliament weak and dysfunctional. Parliament sits less now, and when things don't go the way the PM likes it, he just shuts it down. A power vacuum has been created, and the PMO is rapidly filling it."We should call him King Stephen the First of Canada," says Franks, "for that, in effect, is the way he is behaving."
A less proud country
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GVPTA | Vancouver Live Theatre News

GVPTA | Vancouver Live Theatre News


Kevin Krueger, BC’s Minister of Tourism, Culture, and the Arts, recently announced that this $10M (curiously similar to the amount missing from the BC Arts Council operating budget) will be allocated to 2010 Sports and Arts Legacy Fund and the creation of “Spirit Festivals.” There are still no details regarding these festivals. Minister Krueger says “[The Spirit Festivals] are intended to build on the phenomenal success of the Cultural Olympiad.” (Read the coverage here or here.)

You know what would be a perfect way to build on the success of the Cultural Olympiad? Not cutting core funding to the professional arts organizations that actually made it happen. Call me crazy.

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Friday, July 9, 2010

Bulk of $10-million arts legacy fund going to B.C. Spirit Festival Days, NDP MLA says | Vancouver, Canada |

Bulk of $10-million arts legacy fund going to B.C. Spirit Festival Days, NDP MLA says | Vancouver, Canada |


“They’ve eviscerated the B.C. Arts Council by cutting them by 50 percent, they’ve decimated gaming funding. People just want stable funding for the arts, distributed by a jury process,” Chandra Herbert said.

“I hope these are not going to be government propaganda festivals,” he added, pointing out the festival will run in the three years that lead up to the next election.

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Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Terrace: Art gallery future uncertain after losing gaming grants

Terrace: Art gallery future uncertain after losing gaming grants


Members called the gaming commission while filling out grant papers in early April and were told they no longer qualified because the program had changed and only youth oriented groups would be receiving money, said Irving.

The art gallery has been here for 29 years and was free to visit.

About 6,250 visitors come to the gallery every year and about 22 classes have come through the gallery this past school year.

“The loss of the gallery would be a serious blow to local artists,” said Irving.

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Thursday, May 27, 2010

The Truth About BC Gaming Grants

by Spencer Chandra Herbert, MLA, Vancouver West End

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Dear Friends of BC Arts and Culture,

This week we learned that the BC Liberal government has dealt another blow to the arts and culture community.  It was brought to light that the limited gaming funds announced in the March 2010 Budget in fact exclude a large number of the arts and culture festivals and programs for children previously believed to be supported by the gaming branch.

In the March 2010 Budget the BC Liberal government announced its 50% cuts to funding for arts through BC gaming grants, and the arts community was understandably disappointed.  What remained was funding for youth programming, as well as fairs, festivals and museums. 

Arts and culture organizations that work in these areas breathed a sigh of relief that funding for their programs would not be axed, unlike so many other arts and culture initiatives that were denied gaming funding this year.  Festivals and fairs as well as youth focused arts organizations have been planning their season’s programming, and spending much time putting in their applications for gaming funds confident that they were eligible to be considered to receive support from the gaming branch.  

Unfortunately I learned this week from Ministry officials that the BC Liberal government has decided behind closed doors without notification to anyone that the definition of a "community cultural celebration" does not include "fringe festivals, dance festivals, film festivals, writers festivals, and music festivals" which are now largely ineligible to receive support.  I asked what their definition of youth and children's programming was and they told me that unless youth, or children were the performers and the producers of the show then companies that produce shows for young audiences were ineligible.  

It seems that the BC Liberal government believes that they know best what is "worthy" arts and culture in BC and which is not.  This is a perfect example of why peer reviewed funding bodies like the BC Arts Council are important.  They take the politics out of who receives support, and put those decisions in the hands of the community. 

Myself as Critic, Carole James, and the entire Official Opposition continue to speak out and call on the BC Liberal government to repeal its devastating cuts to arts and culture in BC.  Today I stood up in the Legislature to decry this recent blow to BC's arts community - you can click here to watch my questions to Minister Coleman and read the recent Globe and Mail and Georgia Straight articles on these cuts. We encourage you to write to Minister Coleman and Minister Krueger to protest this unfair and arbitrary decision.

As the summer approaches and I return from Victoria when the Legislature closes in early June - I look foward to working and meeting with artists, arts and culture organizations, and your supporters.   I welcome your emails and phone calls with feedback, suggestions and ways that we can work together to restore much needed funding and support for arts and culture in BC.

Spencer Chandra Herbert
Official Opposition Critic for Tourism, Culture and the Arts
MLA - Vancouver West End

Thursday, May 6, 2010

The Tyee — Whose Digital Media Revolution?

The Tyee — Whose Digital Media Revolution?


Why would a media fund dedicated to "innovation" and "leveling the playing field" provide guaranteed envelopes of cash to old media outlets that are the least likely to innovate, while not even consulting with many of the media innovators in this country? Furthermore, why has neither the public nor many media innovators in this country been consulted, especially when there exists clear evidence that public and independent media organizations are more likely to provide innovative content and services.

Most importantly, the industry consultation neglects citizens -- you and I -- who will be responsible for contributing $134.7 million per year to the fund. Shouldn't we have a role in deciding how the money is spent?

Monday, May 3, 2010

On closing music programs and Programs of Choice in the Vancouver Public School System and province-wide

An Open Letter to the Vancouver School Board and the Government of British Columbia.

On the subject of closing music programs and Programs of Choice in the Vancouver Public School System and province-wide.

I write to you today, on "Music Monday" May 3 (link to press release below), to argue against the closure of music programs and Programs of Choice in BC Schools. My name is John Oliver. I am a full-time freelance composer whose works have been commissioned by major Canadian musical institutions, including the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra and Canadian Opera Company. My composition, "Five-ring Concerto," was commissioned by Vancouver's Turning Point Ensemble as part of the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics Cultural Olympiad. As part of my collaboration with Turning Point Ensemble, I am working as an invited guest with young composers at a Metro Vancouver secondary school. This music program is so vibrant that there are over 20 young composers eager to learn from a professional composer. I am also the father of two daughters, aged 11 and 13, enrolled in French Immersion programs in the New Westminster school District and active in the school music programs.

I attended Lord Byng High School from 1973-77. At that time, the Byng Band did not have a string section, but it was a respected band program. When I was growing up, there were no band programs in elementary schools at all, but most high schools had music programs with concert band at the core. Because I had demonstrated music talent early, my family paid for private guitar and clarinet lessons while I was in elementary school, though we had to pinch pennies to do so. It wasn't until I entered the high school band program that I was able to explore other instruments, such as flute, the various saxophones, bass clarinet and percussion.

In grade twelve I designed a special "directed-study" course, investigating music notation history from the earliest examples of music being written down to the most avant-garde and contemporary music notation. I was able to do this because during grades ten and eleven I had taken part in a satellite program for gifted, self-motivated students at Byng called "Self." This self-directed studies program encompassed English, History, and Physical Education. Students were required to design their own course of study in these subjects, picking their own activities and topics for study and essay-writing. We also produced our own theatre productions and planned educational trips.

I owe a great deal to the program offerings at my high school. I became a composer because of the breadth and depth of experience I gained within the Vancouver public school system Programs of Choice.

If the Vancouver School Board decides to close the band and other Programs of Choice, they will do irreparable harm. They will deprive our children of a hopeful, bright, interesting, and engaging school experience. They may save some money this year and next, but we will all pay for it in the end, including the cost of servicing the social ills that come with bored youth.

I believe that the BC government must stop funding private schools and put the savings into the public education system. Why should scarce public dollars fund private schools? Why should the wealthy be able to benefit from the mixture of public and private funding that will allow their private school to afford to offer a music program, while kids in public schools have their music program taken away from them?

Music Monday Press Release:

[Link to this article using tinyURL: ]

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Tovey on cuts to band programs at Vancouver School Board

Click on the title to read the article. EXCERPT:

The proposal to cease investing in the Band and Strings Program is one that the VSO strongly urges the VSB to withdraw. In many Vancouver schools we have witnessed first hand the benefits of the VSB supported band and strings program.  The option of a user-pay or school funded program does not embrace the inner city child whose only connection with live music may be the saxophone or drum set that has been offered to them. The saving of half a million dollars is paltry when  considering  the life enhancing benefits of this contact with the world of music.  In fact, I doubt this amount would even buy a family home within 10 blocks of the illustrious VSB building on West Broadway. When I heard the actual figure I found it hard to believe so much had been achieved with so little.

I do not bring these remarks to you from a lofty aesthetic perch. I grew up in England in the East End of London – my father died when I was a boy. Without the band and orchestra experience that I benefitted from in the state school education that I received, I would never have been able to compete and succeed in the music profession.  As a single parent my mother could not have afforded the cost of these activities.  I have a personal motive for standing here tonight – I don’t want a kid like me to fall through the cracks because of this proposal.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010


Click on the title to read the article. EXCERPT:

[BACKGROUND: The BC government is requiring BC schools to "meet their budget targets" with far less resources than ever before.]

"The budget shortfall affects all school districts in BC. Band programs across the board are on the chopping block. If children don’t have access to art programs in school, many will not have access, as parents can’t afford private lessons. What state is this province going to be in 5, 10, 20 years if children aren’t exposed to quality artistic practices through school? Please pass this call-out onto anyone who has a story to tell, we need them all."

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Notes on a World Class City: Why I have declined to participate in the Olympic Celebrations : Vancouver Verse

Notes on a World Class City: Why I have declined to participate in the Olympic Celebrations : Vancouver Verse

by Brad Cran, Poet Laureate of the City of Vancouver

Why have you not heard from the Poet Laureate of Vancouver during the leadup to the Olympic games? Click on the title to read the entire blog post from the Vancouver Verse Web Site. Every creative person in the city should read this to understand the corporate sponsorship problem of our Olympics.

If the muzzle clause, the harassment of journalists and the decimation of our cultural funding structures on the eve of the Cultural Olympiad were not enough to upset the ghost of George Woodcock then I’m sure this internal Library memo sent out to Vancouver Public Library staff should do the trick:

“Do not have Pepsi or Dairy Queen sponsor your event. Coke and McDonald’s are the Olympic sponsors. If you are planning a kids’ event and approaching sponsors, approach McDonald’s and not another well-known fast-food outlet. “

“If you have a speaker/guest who happens to work for Telus, ensure he/she is not wearing their Telus jacket as Bell is the official sponsor.”

“ If you have rented sound equipment and it is not Panasonic or you can’t get Panasonic, cover the brand name with tape or a cloth.”

“If you are approaching businesses in your area for support and there is a Rona and Home Depot, go to Rona. If there’s only a Home Depot don’t approach them as Rona is the official sponsor.”

If this is coming from our libraries, the custodians of the written word, where do we find the civic freedom that George Woodcock cherished and represented? Where do we find the essence of our highest civic honour, The Freedom of the City?
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John Oliver on music composition and performance Headline Animator