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Arts advocates seeking commitments from leadership candidates

An arts advocacy group is planning to seek support from the candidates in the campaigns to lead British Columbia's main political parties.

“As you probably know, B.C. stands last in all provinces and territories in terms of public investment for operating grants for arts organizations,” Alliance for Arts and Culture executive director Amir Ali Alibhai wrote in a draft open letter to candidates dated Jan. 6. “This must be changed, for the cultural, economic and social health of our province.”

The letter, which is being circulated within the arts community before being sent to candidates, seeks commitments to:

* return to “overall actual funding levels” from the 2008-2009 budget year including grants from gambling revenues and continuing to provide the arts legacy fund to the B.C. Arts Council;

* either honour the 1999 commitment to provide 33 percent of gambling revenues to charities and non-profits, or renegotiate the agreement;

* move towards raising B.C.'s per-capita funding of the arts, culture and heritage to “at least the national average”;

* enter a consultative process with the cultural community aimed at developing a “coherent and sustainable vision for cultural development and arts policy” in the province.

The letter notes that the alliance is seeking commitments, not “unclear reassurances.” The Liberals, NDP and Conservatives all have leadership contests happening in the next few months.

An alliance newsletter says the organization plans to circulate a final draft of the letter next week and will release the responses publicly. “We will then continue to persistently bring campaign conversations about arts funding and cultural policy development back to those four points, until we are satisfied that we know exactly where each candidate stands,” it said.

“We will move into the upcoming provincial election knowing who we believe really supports our sector and who we feel is dealing in the platitudes and bromides we have become too familiar with,” said the newsletter.

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

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