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B.C. Arts Council report confirms the

province’s strong cultural base, with the

over 25,000 working artists in the province

comprising 1.08 percent of the population.

That’s the largest percentage of working

artists in any province’s labour force.

As for the federal Conservative

government, they’re recent converts to

understanding the bang-for-buck in the

arts sector. But this change of view only



a majority government

slipped through their fingers in 2008.

Remember the Prime Minister’s poor

judgement when he said, “I think when

ordinary working people come home, turn

on the TV and see a bunch of people at,

you know, a rich gala all subsidized by tax-

payers claiming their subsidies aren’t high

enough, when they know those subsidies

have actually gone up – I’m not sure that’s

something that resonates with ordinary

people.” Funny, but since then, Mr. Harper

has been singing a different tune while

playing the piano at a gala event at the

National Arts Centre – which itself was

originally built with taxpayer’s money.

Heritage Minister James Moore has

been echoing the Conservatives’ mea culpa

for the PM’s election gaffe with country-

wide announcements like last September’s

commitment of $467,000 to support the

Vancouver International Film Festival

(VIFF). At the press conference Moore

said, “There’s a strong fiscally conservative

argument for supporting the arts. This has

to be a central component if we’re going

to deal with economic recovery… Writers

create things of social and economic value

out of nothing more than their own know-

ledge and imagination… Infrastructure

without the kind of activity that artists

provide is culturally and economically


Our arts and cultural sector is not

only sustainable, it is an economic driver

that is so important to support. I am

perplexed to observe that our government

has ignored an industry that contributes

$85 billion and over 1 million jobs to the

Canadian economy. It just makes sense to

invest in arts and culture as studies show

that for every dollar of initial expenditure,

anywhere from $8 to $11 is generated in

economic spin-offs.

In fact the 1 million jobs in arts and

culture is on par with the agricultural,

forestry, mining, oil and gas industries


, as the Conference Board of

Canada has shown. But most Canadians

wouldn’t know that considering the short

shrift arts and culture gets compared to

those heavy-hitting industries.

As B.C. NDP Arts Critic Spencer

Herbert says, the forestry industry sup-

plies wood for stages, theatre-goers eat in

restaurants, and tourists need hotels to

stay in. Today, tourism is the province’s

fastest-growing economic sector and our

arts and cultural industry plays a vital

part. Yet despite B.C. Finance Ministry

reports from as recently as September

2009 which state, “in recent years, a more

diversified economy has emerged, sup-

ported by many non-resource activities

such as film, food and tourism, and other

value-added industries,” the provincial

government’s arts cuts continue unabated.

A vibrant arts and culture community

plays a key role in spurring sustainable and

vibrant communities, where we can take

advantage of the myriad networks that will

move Canada’s economy forward. In doing

so, all levels of government must take into

consideration how to shape our economy.

And, that must include artists and the

cultural identity we bring to our nation.

Besides all the numbers and state-

ments I’ve thrown around in this article,

it is clear that the “arts and culture” of a

nation are just as viable and important as

the food grown by farmers, or the goods

produced by manufacturers. Artists mir-

ror the heart and soul of a nation – the

palette of who and what we are.


D. Neil Mark

has been an

actor and writer for nearly

20 years. Last fall he was

elected to the UBCP Council

and joined the


editorial committee shortly

after. In August 2002, he rode his bicycle

from Vancouver to Toronto to raise funds for

two charities and check out the ACTRA offices

along the way. D. Neil is one proud Artist.

by D. Neil Mark

B.C. slashes arts budget by


Our cultural industry

contributes $85 billion,

and over 1 million jobs

to the Canadian economy

Learn more at

Artists fight back