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Artists stimulate economy better, cheaper

If Finance Minister Colin Hansen wanted to create jobs, spending on the arts would have been a better way to do it, says one observer.

The budget Hansen presented today included $2 billion for accelerated infrastructure projects, cost shared with the federal government. Added to other projects underway, that's $14 billion the province is pouring into infrastructure.

That translates into 88,000 jobs, said Hansen.

That sounds like a lot, until you do the division—it comes out to $159,091 per job.

Sure, you get things like bridges and hospitals included in that, but the arts have lasting effects too, and would have created more jobs in a hurry.

“$160,000 would fund an entire organization,” said Ian Case from the ProArt Alliance of Greater Victoria. That would be enough to put on a festival that would generate employment for as many as 200 people, he said. It would pay for a small opera or a symphony.

“They're looking at supporting one single person in the construction industry for that kind of investment,” Case said. “You could have four or five full-time staff for an arts organization.”

Instead the arts got a cut of 40 percent next year and 50 percent the year after that, he said. “That's gargantuan . . . This is an industry that generates 78,000 jobs in the province.”

The arts enjoyed more funding than usual last year thanks to BC 150 spending, he said, but the cuts far exceed what was added. “They've rolled us back to sometime in the early '90s, maybe even the '80s, level of funding.”

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee’s Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria. Reach him here.

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