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An Open Letter to Minister Krueger from the ABPBC

September 8th, 2010

Dear Minister Krueger:

The Association of Book Publishers of BC (ABPBC) would like to commend you for the action you took last week to restore some of the funding to the BC Arts Council. We believe this is the right thing to do, not only to ensure that the economic and social health of British Columbians may continue to be served by the arts community in the province, but also to ensure integrity in the delivery of arts funding through an arms-length body using peer review assessment.

The ABPBC is also pleased that the government has in part heeded the recommendation of the Standing Committee on Finance and Government to restore arts funding, which was based in part on their acceptance that the arts contribute $1.36 for every $1 invested. These are difficult economic times in which all sectors must contribute to ensuring the financial health of the province, but the cuts to the arts in BC were disproportionate to other sectors. Cutting a sector that contributes considerably to the economic success of our province is not good management and was seen as such by thousands across the province.

In addition to serving the interests of publishers and writers, the ABPBC constituency includes business leaders, critics, journalists, community leaders, aboriginal groups, librarians, environmentalists and academics, to name a few. Politically, our constituency is equally diverse. We are ourselves small businesses who are used to the vagaries of complex markets, so we sympathize with the difficult job the current government of BC faces. But many within our constituency, from all political stripes, are questioning a government that has instituted policies in a rather haphazard manner and without concern for the public good. Your announcement to transfer $7 million from the Arts Legacy Fund to the BCAC demonstrates that you are listening to these many supporters of the arts and goes some way to balancing the disequilibrium of the cuts to our sector.

Thankfully, book publishers who receive Block Funding support from the BCAC and who had been told to expect a cut of more than 50% in the next funding round, have now been assured that they can expect, with the restoration of funding, comparable levels of support to last year. This and your letter of August 30 to our association affirming your commitment to the Block and Title Funding programs as well as the hugely important Book Publishers Tax Credit will ensure that our members will be able to continue to produce the many hundreds of excellent titles our reading audience has come to expect.

But there is much work to do. Not only is publishing and the arts in general an economic engine in this province, but they also contribute, just as importantly, to the health and welfare of our communities. In the literary arts sector, our authors tell the stories that define who we are as British Columbians whether urban or rural residents, young or old, aboriginal, scholar, worker, child. Our books reflect the lives of our ranchers, wine makers, stockbrokers, fishers, foresters or art critics; as well, they contribute to Canadian literature and scholarship.

Yet, the institutions that make it possible to ensure our books are read in schools or on ferries, by tourists or residents, are still threatened despite the return of $7M to the BCAC budget. For example, BC BookWorld, a magazine that reviews books and includes articles on our many, many writers and publishers, and which reaches all communities in the province, had its funding cut by 100%. The Magazine Association of BC that works on behalf of literary and commercial magazines was cut by 83.5%, and this association, the ABPBC, that ensures the health of the book industry by offering programs that evaluate books for educational use, that coordinates literary programs such as Poetry in Transit in every community in the province with a bus, and that is working to make our non-fiction written heritage available in digital form in libraries throughout the province, has been cut by 91%. A business person yourself, you can appreciate that cuts of over 20% of operating budgets, is unsustainable. As project clients of the BCAC none of these organizations will benefit from the return of $7M in funding to the BCAC, pointing out the continued need to restore the BCAC budget to its previous level, to include the funding from the defunct Arts and Culture section that originally served these clients, and to ensure stable funding for not just ourselves but all artists, arts organizations and cultural industries.

We call on the government of BC to stabilize arts funding and improve the delivery of arts programs in the service of the public good. The Olympic legacy should be celebrated, but in a way that makes economic and cultural sense. We have such a wealth of talent and business expertise in the province, let’s really live up to the fact that we are the most literate province in North America; let’s honour our aboriginal peoples and their artistic and cultural contributions; and let’s make sure our symphonies, artists, writers, theatres and cultural industries in all communities will thrive and contribute, in the best of all possible ways, to the lives of all British Columbians.

Minister Krueger, we believe that you want to support the arts and that you are open to listening and working with us to provide the best possible outcomes for your constituency. We take heart that you have affirmed the BC Arts Council as an autonomous and effective body for the delivery of programs to artists, arts organizations and cultural industries. You have clearly reconsidered the value of the arts to all British Columbians. We look forward to improved communications with the arts community and cooperation with the government to help us deliver the work we do best for all citizens of the province.

Yours truly,

Andrew Wooldridge
President, Association of Book Publishers of BC

c.c: Hon. Gordon Campbell