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BC publishers rally against funding 'clearcut'

After a few days’ reflection, B.C. book publishers and their supporters are recovering from the shock of the “clearcut” by Kevin Krueger’s Ministry of Tourism, Culture and the Arts. The cuts removed funding from the Association of Book Publishers of British Columbia ($45,000), BC BookWorld ($31,000) and the BC Association of Magazine Publishers ($20,000). Those interviewed by The Tyee expressed feelings ranging from bafflement to fury.

(Full disclosure: I’ve published at least one book with each of the publishers quoted here.)

Scott McIntyre of D&M told The Tyee the cuts wouldn’t directly affect his firm, but warned, “These cuts will do damage to the voices of B.C.” He speculated that the fall in provincial revenues must have been deeper than forecast. “But why was Krueger’s ministry gutted? These cuts are small potatoes in the scheme of things.”

McIntyre deplored the withdrawal of funding for BC BookWorld, a quarterly magazine offering news and reviews of books and authors. “It’s had a real impact; it’s the heart and soul of the industry here.” He expressed the hope that in time “the government will see the error of its ways” and restore funding.

Rolf Maurer, publisher of New Star Books, said the cuts were “disconcerting to say the least,” though he doesn’t expect much impact on his company in the short term. But he worried about losing provincial funding. “Sixty percent of our support is federal and forty percent is provincial. If we lost some or all of our provincial support, it would affect our ability to operate.”

Maurer noted that the federal Conservatives have committed to long-term support for publishers over the next five years. “The last arts cuts we saw were by the Liberals in the 1990s,” he said. “Over all, the Conservatives have spent more than the federal Liberals.”

Alan Twigg, publisher of BC BookWorld, said he learned about the loss of his magazine’s $31,000 funding via a phone call. “That’s 15 percent of our budget,” Twigg told The Tyee. “Provincial funding allows me to undercharge publishers for their advertising.” He added that the 50,000 copies printed of each issue reach twice that many readers.

He said he can’t keep track of the emails coming in. “Now I have two jobs: running the paper and managing the outrage I’m getting.” Twigg said he was encouraged by the rapid creation of a coalition to fight the cuts; it now has a Facebook group. He expects to replace his government funding with voluntary subscriptions to BC BookWorld.

The executive director of the Association of B.C. Book Publishers, Margaret Reynolds, said she’d felt distressed by the cuts to her organization: “We’d expected to tighten our belts, but this is 100 percent.” The ABCBP lost its entire $45,000 grant. “The government has been involved with us since the 1980s, and we’ve built an infrastructure for publishing. You can destroy that very easily.”

Richard Day, publisher of Self-Counsel Press, told The Tyee in an email:

“We are horrified by the cuts announced by Campbell. Self-Counsel was among the founding members of the ABCBP. ... We see the ABCBP as essential to help make our otherwise tiny voice heard in the corridors of power in Victoria. ...

“We have watched inexpensive provincial programmes to help school libraries acquire BC books gutted, while truck loads of money were being tossed at American film and TV producers so that they might come to our beautiful province and make movies and TV serials which pretended the location shots were in an American city.

“And now, with the Winter Olympic Games bid won and the Games just days away from opening, we are yet again watching an all-out assault on culture in this province, as devastating cuts are being made to funding for the ABCBP, BC BookWorld and BCAMP. Considering that ‘culture” was one of the pillars of the Olympic bid, this is quite stunning.”

Crawford Kilian is a contributing editor of The Tyee.

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