Monday, December 9, 2013

B.C. legislature should have arts and culture committee

Source: Georgia Straight
by LANA POPHAM on DEC 9, 2013 at 11:38 AM
IT WOULD BE hard to imagine this time of year without the performances and festivals that we look forward to, the books and magazines we curl up with, the museums and galleries we make time to visit, the movies that dazzle us, and the culinary delights that entertain our tastebuds.

This is a time of year when arts and culture are all around us, making the holiday season special and bringing together family, friends, neighbours, and communities.

Every day of the year, people in creative industries across B.C. are making our province a better and more vibrant place. While we know that the arts are essential, we often think less about the impact that our creative industries have on our economy.

That impact is huge. Arts and culture in British Columbia employ more than 87,000 British Columbians, including almost 26,000 artists. In 2007, the creative sector GDP was estimated at $4 billion, and its growth between 2002 and 2007 outpaced the growth of agriculture, forestry, fishing, and hunting combined.

The arts are critical to the tourism strategies of towns and cities across B.C. Cultural festivals, performance, and institutions keep visitors coming back year after year and help support our local and provincial economies.

Yet something important has been missed at the provincial level that would give the creative community the stage it needs to further develop its significant economic contribution.

As the New Democrat critic for arts and culture, small business, and tourism, I believe that more should be done to connect the dots between government policy and the economic impact of arts and culture in this province. That is why when the legislature convenes in February, I will call on the government to create a Select Standing Committee on Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy.

Currently in B.C. there are nine legislative standing committees that have a mandate to bring together MLAs from all sides of the legislature for in-depth policy discussions on particular topics. These committees can ask for input from members of the public and stakeholders, giving people who are experts on the issues direct access to the parliamentary process.

The Select Standing Committee on Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy could help create and move forward a vision for arts and culture—something that is currently missing in B.C. We could follow the lead of provinces like New Brunswick and Saskatchewan in developing a guiding creative economy policy, which would acknowledge the essential nature of the arts in this province and encourage growth.

While the Liberal government has recently focused on young people in the arts, it is important to carry this support further with a strategic plan. Otherwise, young people who get involved today may face a vulnerable path if they decide to embrace a career in a creative field.

This committee would help fill that gap by forging stronger connections between people working in the arts and the people making arts policy so that the decisions we make today will keep the creative industries thriving in this province for years to come.

This committee could also help forge stronger connections between arts leaders and tourism advocates, including Destination B.C., the Crown corporation charged with promoting tourism in the province. Formalizing this connection and making the arts a more central part of our provincial tourism strategy is a simple and long-overdue step that could lead to improved regional economies, protection and support for our unique cultural institutions, and more stable careers for those working in creative industries.

When the legislature returns in February, I hope all MLAs will join me in taking this important step. At this time of year, as all of us enjoy the incredible work of people in creative industries, it’s a good time to remember the significant economic contributions of these industries. A Select Standing Committee on Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy can help set the stage for even more economic success.

Lana Popham is the MLA for Saanich South and the B.C. NDP critic for small business, tourism, arts, and culture.

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