For those of you who couldn’t be there at the ArtsVote forum in Calgary two weeks ago, it’s well worth having a look at the video from this event.
There were some interesting policy proposals that were put forth, and it was also interesting to see which policies or specific commitments candidates chose to be silent on.
The event was well-attended, and there was a strong media presence. A brief report can be found here, but of course it’s much more informative to watch the entire event.
A few things struck me about the conversation that day:
Almost all of the candidates asserted that the provincial government should play a strong role in supporting the arts. But there was very little in the way of specific statements or commitments about funding levels for the arts, other than a promise from the NDP to raise the funding levels for the Alberta Foundation of the Arts, and a pledge from the Alberta Party to increase arts funding by 20%, and to make 3-year commitments to arts organizations to provide some stability in their planning and operations.
[Update: more specific platform statements about funding can be found here.]
The host of the event, Russ Bowers, pointed out that the average salary of Canadian artists is about $24 000 a year, even though artists are often among the most highly-educated citizens. Several candidates picked up on this theme, and pointed out that artists would benefit from general policies that make life easier for those who fall at the lower end of the income spectrum. For example, David Swann of the Liberal Party argued that Alberta’s flat income tax penalizes artists, and that adequate funding for the arts would be difficult to come by until a more progressive tax structure is implemented. William Hamilton of the Evergreen Party argued that we need to implement income averaging for artists in order to reflect the fact that their income is typically very uneven from year to year.
The issue of an arms-length relationship of the arts from the government came up a couple of times in the conversation. Mike Blanchard of the Wildrose Party suggested that one way to accomplish this was to encourage partnerships between arts groups and corporate sponsors, and proposed that his party would implement more generous tax incentives to sponsors of the arts.
Hopefully, this will be just the beginning of the conversation. I was heartened that this forum took place so early in the election campaign. If you have any reactions to what you heard at this forum, we’d be glad to hear it, and gladder still if you took these up with your local candidates.