B.C.’s culture minister unveiled a funding boost for arts and culture groups on Thursday, but faced jeers from the film industry for failing to boost tax credits.
Bill Bennett announced $6.25 million in new funding for the B.C. Arts Council and expanded arts programs, including after-school sports, art education and scholarships.
“We just think for the arts and culture community and for the creative industries, that this is a really important announcement, and frankly probably would have got lost in all the politics and details of the provincial budget in a few weeks,” Bennett said in an interview.
The funding is part of B.C. Creative Futures, a three-part strategy to support success in the province’s creative sector. In addition to funds targeting young people and adults preparing for the workforce, the plan also includes a new body called Creative B.C. and the already announced expansion of the Emily Carr University of Art and Design.
The new money, combined with a pledge to hold steady on community gaming grants, means arts funding is stable and now built into the base budget of the Ministry of Community, Sport and Cultural Development, Bennett said.
“In general, this is the largest amount of funding that any B.C. government has ever put into arts and culture,” he said.
MediaNet executive director Peter Sandmark, whose organization assists Greater Victoria artists with independent film production, is a fan of funding increases for the industry, regardless of the size.
“Any increase is helpful and will stimulate activity,” he said.
A number of local groups, including MediaNet, stand to benefit from funding earmarked for emerging creative leaders, he said.
“A lot of arts organizations already have youth programs, or are interested in developing them. That’s how you develop your organization and your audience.”
But not everyone was pleased with the announcement. At his Vancouver news conference, Bennett faced angry film-industry protesters calling on the government to match Ontario’s film and TV tax credits to keep productions from leaving B.C. to film elsewhere.
“If we match Ontario [film tax credit rates], it’s going to cost the public $100 million,” Bennett said. “And then, a month or two weeks later, Ontario is going to increase their tax credits, and we’re going to be in the same situation again.”
He said he hopes the new Creative B.C. can provide suggestions beyond tax credits to help support the industry.
Creative B.C. will take over from the B.C. Film Commission and B.C. Film + Media, to research the best ways to support the film and TV industry and make a business case for more taxpayer support, Bennett said.
The creation of Creative B.C. is something NDP critic Spencer Chandra Herbert said he’s been advocating for since 2010.
Studying film and tax credits now only shows the Liberals haven’t been doing their job on the file for years, he said.
Chandra Herbert likes the promise of funding, but noted that the Liberals also pledged to hold arts funding steady in 2009 — only to cut it after an election.
“I think we just have to take it with a grain of salt,” he said.
— With a report from Mike Devlin
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