3 Recommendations for the 2024/25 Provincial Budget
Every year, the Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services holds a public consultation on the next provincial budget. British Columbians can share their thoughts, ideas, and priorities through a variety of participation options.
All British Columbians are able to share their thoughts, ideas, and priorities. The Committee will review all input received and make recommendations to the Legislative Assembly for the next provincial budget.
The BCMA encourages our members to make the voice of our sector heard by submitting a written submission. Written submissions are being welcomed until Friday, June 16 at 2:00 pm. To submit, visit the 2024 Budget Consultations website.
Participate by providing written input through the submission form.
On Monday, May 29 BCMA Executive Director, Ryan Hunt, presented to the Standing Committee in Victoria and made the following three recommendations:
Sustainable sectoral funding
Having witnessed two closures of cultural institutions this year, the Bateman Gallery and Point Ellice House Museum & Gardens, it is clear that BC’s arts, culture, and heritage sector stands on fragile footing as society recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic.
For decades, provincial arts funding has not kept pace with the ever-increasing cost of living and now our sector is grappling with the highest rates of inflation in the past 40 years. In order to keep up with the cost of inflation over the past year, the BC Arts Council budget would need to be raised from $39.61 million to $41.35 million. I recommend that the Province of BC increase the BC Arts Council budget to $50 million annually and work with the sector to create a sustainability plan to ensure the future health and vibrance of BC’s arts, culture, and heritage.
The BC Arts Council is the primary funder of museums, galleries, and Indigenous cultural centres in British Columbia and yet, only a tenth of the more than 400 museums receive operating assistance funding. Without an increase in funds, new museums will not be able to receive this essential funding, and more irreplaceable sites will be lost.
Our sector is recovering from nearly 20 years of the Province of BC investing less in culture than any other province in the country. While our sector is deeply appreciative of the actions the Province has taken to remedy this chronic underinvestment, the compounding impact of COVID, high inflation, and a general affordability crisis threatens to erase any gains we’ve made in the past five years.
Emergency response planning
In the past three years alone we have lived through a once-in-a-century pandemic, more severe temperatures and rainfall than have ever been recorded, and so many wildfires and associated smoke events that I’ve honestly lost count. Two museums in Lytton were destroyed by the 2021 wildfires and it is honestly a miracle that more severe damage has not been inflicted on our communities’ irreplaceable arts, culture, and heritage.
I recommend that the Province of BC fund the development of an emergency preparedness and response plan that consults the arts, culture, and heritage sector, Indigenous communities, and organizations like the BC Heritage Emergency Response Network. It is an undeniable certainty that we will experience additional disasters and we must learn from these recent experiences to ensure that we do not continue to lose that which cannot be replaced.
We commend the Province for programs like the Community Economic Recovery Infrastructure Program (CERIP) and the BC 150 Time Immemorial Grants for providing significant investments in new heritage infrastructure and climate mitigation projects, but since both of these grants were oversubscribed by tens of millions of dollars, there continues to be significant unmet demand in the sector. Infrastructure is only one part of a disaster mitigation plan. To safeguard the irreplaceable, we need funding to strengthen infrastructure, a province-wide emergency preparedness training strategy, clear systems in place for emergency response, and an equitable plan for the timely administration of recovery funds.
Failure to plan for emergencies will result in a failure to respond.
Stable funding for Indigenous arts, culture, and heritage
We urge the Province to ensure that funding for Indigenous arts, culture, and heritage is sustainable and reflects UNDRIP/DRIPPA.
Two examples of this would be ensuring that key organizations like First Peoples’ Cultural Council have long-term funding for their heritage and arts programs. Additionally, we urge the Province of BC to create an ongoing fund that supports Indigenous communities in rematriating, or returning, their stolen arts, culture, heritage, and ancestors.
Dan Smith, founding member of the BC Museums Association’s Indigenous Advisory Committee and a member of the Wei Wai Kum First Nation in Campbell River stated that “True, meaningful and lasting reconciliation must include the return of our ancestors back to the Nations where they were taken from. We must work together to realize this, and in doing so free our children and their children from the sacred obligation we have for finding our ancestors and bringing them home.”
While the repatriation funding offered by the Province in 2017 and 2020 made a tangible impact on communities across the province, British Columbia has a moral obligation to establish dedicated, reliable, and accessible repatriation funding that centres the autonomy of Indigenous peoples. The 2020 Repatriation Grants had more than twice as many requests than available funding and since nearly half of the funds went to rematriation research, this means that even more communities have identified the location of their belongings and ancestors and are ready to bring them home.
By funding rematriation, the Province of BC takes tangible action in supporting reconciliation and helps begin to heal the wounds caused by the theft of belongings and ancestors. As the BCMA stated in our presentation to the Standing Committee on Finance in 2022, even a modest annual grant of $750,000 to support repatriation would be world-changing for communities that want to heal wounds that have been left open for nearly two centuries.