Where was Woodsworth when Vancouver cut funding to the arts?

Post by Daniel Fontaine in


Some of the tools Vision/COPE used to help trim the arts budget in Vancouver last spring
Some of the tools Vision/COPE used to help trim the arts budget in Vancouver last spring

There has been a lot of talk lately in British Columbia about funding for the arts. When I worked with the previous NPA administration, Councillor Elizabeth Ball was our resident expert and advocate when it came to supporting Vancouver's artists. During her three years on council, Ball quietly and methodically was able to convince her NPA colleagues to support significant increases to the city's arts and culture budget.

Ball initiated the Vancouver 125th anniversary celebration, the new cultural tourism strategy and countless other arts initiatives. She and the mayor also successfully lobbied for Vancouver to play host to the Junos by ensuring the necessary funding was secured. The one thing Ball would never have accepted was an overall cut to the arts budget during her term on council.

That's why COPE Councillor Ellen Woodsworth's "emergency" motion being brought to council next week is simply laughable. The motion pertains to concerns she has over provincial cuts to the arts which were outlined in last week's budget. What makes her motion look silly is that her own Vision/COPE government just finished cutting the arts budget last spring, while pumping millions of new dollars into the police budget.

While I share Woodsworth's concern about the impact of budget cuts to the arts, I have to ask why she was so silent when her own government was cutting arts funding last April? Where was her outrage? Where were her petitions? Where were all the well crafted emergency motions? There was nothing but silence as Vision/COPE cut the budget for the office of cultural affairs in Vancouver.

I completely understand that if you're a city councillor in Vancouver, beating up on the big bad province will score you some cheap political points back home. Nor do I doubt Woodworth's sincerity when she indicates she has concerns over cuts to the arts. However, I simply find her motion hypocritical given her own government's record when it comes to funding the arts.

In a news release issued by COPE, Woodsworth even has the audacity to state:

The City of Vancouver is committed to supporting the arts and culture community in the city, but we can’t do it alone. We require provincial and federal funding and partnerships to maintain a vibrant and healthy arts and culture community. Not only does supporting the arts make good sense for our communities, it’s the economically prudent thing to do.”

After years of funding increases to the arts as well as new programs and initiatives, one of Vision/COPE's first acts as government was to cut the arts budget in Vancouver.

That's why perhaps she and her Vision colleagues should tone down the rhetoric a notch, pull back her motion that will go nowhere, and pay a visit to Victoria to meet with some of the MLAs in charge of the arts budget.

Those lobbying efforts might actually end up going a long way to getting the funding for the arts she is seeking, rather than opening up a public boxing match in the chamber. Oh well, I guess it makes for good politics.


The arts sector of this economy is being treated like a punching bag by all three levels of government including Vision's new council at a time banks and American corporations like GM are being spoonfed billions - in US it's Trillions - of taxpayer dollars.

The argument that's made is that it's necessary to save jobs. In which case we must ask what about the thousands of arts jobs at risk right here in Vancouver?

What's that old song? "You don't know what you've got till its gone?"

We've already lost 100 well-paying, high-knowledge green jobs when the federal government shut down the CBC Radio Orchestra - one of those cultural assets that once distinguished Vancouver in all of North America. Now gone and never to be replaced. Are those jobs at GM somehow more worthy?

Where is the city's leadership? I've posted an article on the issue at: http://www.seanbickerton.com


Just read your post. Well done and it is a must read for anyone who cares about the arts in Vancouver!

Check out BCWineLover.com!

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