The Vancouver False Creek riding is truly blessed to have one of the greatest concentrations of arts and cultural activities and facilities in the country. Arts and culture entertains us, educates us, enriches us, and employs us.
In such a small area we have the Orpheum, the Queen Elizabeth Theatre, the Playhouse, the Vancouver Art Gallery, the Arts Club Theatres, the Centre for Performing Arts, Scotiabank Dance Center, Contemporary Art Gallery and countless galleries and studios.
Residents and tourists come to our neighbourhoods to enjoy the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, Bard on the Beach at Vanier Park, the Fringe Festival, the Vancouver International Film Festival, the Jazz Festival, First Nations Performance Talking Stick Festival, Ballet BC, Gallery exhibitions, dance, theatre and so many more.
We are going through financial times that require sound fiscal management and controlled spending with little appetite for tax increases. We have tremendous social obligations in both education and health which account for an enormous amount of provincial spending. These two areas account for $30 billion and 68% of the entire budget with continuing upward pressure on these and other priorities.
So what is to happen to our contributions to Arts and Culture?
Recently it was announced that the Vancouver Art Gallery would potentially move to a yet to be built new Gallery at Larwill Park. This is very exciting for our neighbourhood. However, the new Gallery is contingent on the VAG raising $100 million from the Federal government and $50 million from the province, over and above the $50 million already committed by BC.
That kind of undertaking seems daunting for any government, as it does for private donors and patrons who are so generous to our arts and culture communities.
But our need to contribute to large scale projects should not overshadow our additional need to contribute to smaller but equally as valuable arts and culture endeavours. We cannot let the arts get lost among massive budgetary demands.
When I was Mayor, I was committed to revitalizing Vancouver’s artistic and cultural industries and initiated a $60 million upgrade to Queen Elizabeth Theatre, the Vancouver Playhouse, and the Orpheum Theatre and supported the revitalization of the Cultch. I also increased the city’s arts budget by $500,000 annually which was significantly greater than what was done before or since.
I view public expenditure on the arts as an investment. There are several benefits to this investment.
Arts generate both jobs and taxes. Our investment in the arts helps develop a skilled work force that contributes to the economy. It supports jobs for not only artists, but technicians, designers, and many others.
Not only do arts and cultural organizations purchase goods and services, but those who come to enjoy the arts help the local economy by purchasing tickets, visiting restaurants, staying in hotels and shopping in our city.
Arts are a tremendous complement to children’s education. Think how fortunate the students of our riding are to have so much culture a walk away.
Art in our community improves our quality of life. It adds vibrancy to the places we live. As we discovered during the Olympics, art installations in public spaces create a sense of gathering, perspective and pride.
Our galleries preserve our culture and heritage while expanding our understanding of the culture and heritage of others. When we are long gone it will be our artists who will define us to future generations.
We are so fortunate to live in a neighbourhood so rich in Arts and Culture.
As your MLA for Vancouver-False Creek, I will commit to ensuring that the needs of our artistic communities and facilities do not get lost in the shadow of our much larger government obligations.