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Arts funding good for economy, says NDP

B.C. NDP leader Carole James pitched increased arts funding as an economic stimulus today, a common theme of her recent campaign announcements.

“It’s a smart investment in difficult economic times to invest in arts and culture,” James said, citing job creation and tourism revenue as spin-offs.

The NDP leader made similar statements yesterday about her party’s platform on minimum wage, affordable housing and education on her five-stop morning blitz through Metro Vancouver.

The party would provide a $50 million arts capital fund and restore arts cuts made in this year’s budget, James said today at Vancouver’s Firehall Arts Centre.

“As New Democrats we will make sure the funding is there for you,” she told the crowd of arts and NDP supporters.

Core arts and culture funding was reduced by over 40 per cent in this year’s budget, which has so far been offset by supplementary funding provided to arts groups, said Amir Ali Alibhai, Executive Director of the Alliance for Arts and Culture.

But the government’s three-year budgetary service plan shows sustained cuts of over 40 per cent and there has been no commitment that supplementary funding will be available, he said.

“I believe that [this year’s supplementary funding] is a way to deflect the attention from the fact that a cut has been proposed,” Alibhai said. “It’s not something that we can expect in future years.”

Alibhai said he was pleased James was giving attention to arts issues and applauded her announcement.

“Given the state of the economy I think that’s a bold move,” he said. “It was really encouraging to hear that the arts weren’t being viewed as something of a frill.”

However, he said the announcement was a reaction to the budgetary cuts and he would have liked to see the NDP commit to long-term growth for the arts economy.

The Alliance scheduled an all-party arts forum for this week but cancelled after no Liberal candidate was available to attend.

Instead, the group organized a live Internet blog with Vancouver-Fairview Green Party candidate Vanessa Violini, and NDP arts critic and Vancouver-West End candidate Spencer Herbert.

Bill Bennett, Minister of Tourism, Culture and the Arts, sent a statement on behalf of the Liberals that was posted on the blog.

Garrett Zehr reports for The Tyee.

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