My letter to Rich

To:
Rich Coleman, Minister responsible for Gaming;
Kevin Krueger, Minister of Tourism, Arts & Culture
Premier Gordon Campbell

cc: Scott Fraser, MLA

Dear Honourable Members,

It’s finally sinking in, just what your BC Liberal government has done to arts and culture in B.C. Your most recent kick in the teeth will cripple the creative life of this province for decades.

Your unprecedented, sweeping and brutal cuts display an astonishing ignorance of what holds a society together. As government, are you merely the manager of our economy? Or are you the stewards of our society? Because a society requires much, much more than a balanced till at the end of the day. Exactly what else could be the topic of an interesting debate, but one ingredient every side would agree on is that a functioning society requires a strong culture as the glue that holds it together. This is harder to count than dollars, which is why it takes wisdom and vision to properly lead. The cuts you have just affected, I’m afraid, put you out of that club.

In an economic downturn, interest in culture expands. There’s a reason visionary leaders, like President Obama in the U.S., have increased cultural spending in these recessionary times.

But even on strictly practical terms, culture is an important industry — a bigger employer in our province, I hear, than your darlings forestry and mining combined. Given the wages most arts workers earn, government investment in culture makes for a hell of a good employment program — by your own figures, an employment program that actually makes money back for the government. Sounds like a win-win to me; I wish you’d explain why it’s not to you.

What industry could possibly survive 90% cuts in one year? What responsible government would make 90% cuts to any industry (unless, of course, its unspoken agenda was to cripple that industry permanently)?

As someone who has put many thousands of volunteer hours over the past several years into organizing cultural events in my region, your blanket cuts are a backhanded slap in the face. They will quickly wipe out whatever progress I and my colleagues have made, throwing us back a decade or more. They are a clear indication that your government thinks little of our cause, and values nothing of what we are trying to do.

Yes, yes, you will no doubt cite our dire economic times, tough decisions have to be made, etc. But arts funding is a comparative pittance, yet we seem to have a bottomless bucket of money to throw at the Olympics, a two-week orgy meant to showcase B.C. to the world. What, pray tell, are we going to have left to showcase a year or two down the road, when all our cultural organizations are on their knees or dead? Those myriad investors supposedly attracted to B.C. … what will they be doing with all their free evenings? Ice skating?

Study after study has shown that “cultural creatives” — the people who drive the new economy — choose to live and work where there is a lively, engaging culture, and lots of it. For myself, culture life is in the top three criteria of deciding where I want to live. Thanks to your blindingly short-sighted cuts, I am rethinking whether B.C. is a province worth living in.

You and your government should be seriously rethinking those cuts. You should be not just reversing them, you should be pouring more money into arts and culture. Another mine, another dozen fish farms, another thousand square miles of timber cut … these are not things to make us proud. A rich, varied, shining culture, on the other hand….

Sincerely,

greg blanchette. Tofino, BC

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One thought on “My letter to Rich

  1. Hi Greg,
    Thank you for a very honest, passionate and well thoughtout (and written) letter. I strongly agree with all you sentiments.

    Unfortunately, despite your sound arguments, the people you are writing to just dont give a shit. That is the saddest part of a “democratically- elected” government making decisions that are to the benefit of a few and a consequence to the many.

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