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Artsnb Chair Says Government Move a Deliberate Attempt to Muzzle Board

February 8, 2016

Read the report by Dr. Monica Gattinger entitled Provincial Arts Funding in New Brunswick: A Provincial and Comparative Assessment.

Artsnb Chair Says Government Move a Deliberate Attempt to Muzzle Board

In a meeting on Sunday evening, February 7th between artsnb’s executive committee, the Minister of Tourism, Heritage and Culture, Bill Fraser and Serge Rousseau, Minister of Education and Early Childhood Development, it was revealed that the government is already putting the finishing touches on a new “governance model” and legislation that could strip artsnb of its mandate within the next 5-10 days.

“The actions Minister Fraser is taking right now will wreck something that has been working for over 25 years through successive Liberal and Conservative governments,” says artsnb chair Pierre McGraw, “does this government really want to be the regime that re-politicizes arts funding?”

The New Brunswick Arts Board Act of 1989 came into force to create an arm’s length institution designed to administer taxpayer funding for artists and arts organizations to ensure equity and the absence of any form of political interference or personal bias by government employees.

As a governing body, with laws and regulations for the equitable treatment of all geographic areas, cultural and language groups and arts disciplines, artsnb is required to publish its granting decisions with full transparency.

“artsnb is designed to administer taxpayer funding for arts in a manner that ensures the complete absence of any form of political interference or personal bias by government employees,” says McGraw, “As soon as our staff are replaced by government, the new staff will be subject to the Civil Service Act, which means that they answer only to government, and cannot advocate for artists, speak freely to the media, or criticize government practices without reprisal or potential dismissal.”

It is the duty of artsnb’s board of directors to examine whether or not THC is administering funding with the same best practices, transparency, and legal vigor as artsnb and other jurisdictions. Upon review of THC documents that are available to the public, we found it was insufficient for analysis.

This deepened the concern of the board and a decision was made in Spring of 2015 to file a right to information request for 10 years’ worth of files detailing the department’s funding practices and decisions.

“It was at this time that the department completed blocked our board nomination process,” says McGraw, “which we interpreted as a deliberate action to undermine our bylaws.”

 

THIRD PARTY REPORT BY DR. GATTINGER TO BE RELEASED FEBRUARY 9 AT TUESDAY PRESS CONFERENCE

 

The ten years of documents resulting from artsnb’s right to information request was sent to Canada’s leading cultural policy expert, Dr. Monica Gattinger at the University of Ottawa, whose independent report will be released to the public on February 9th. Upon receipt of Dr. Gattinger’s research proposal, Artsnb’s board, in the spirit of transparency, shared it with the Department and invited their feedback on suggestions or modifications.

The report, titled “Provincial Arts Funding in New Brunswick: A Provincial and Comparative Assessment”, consists of an “independent external assessment of the province’s funding model to identify areas of strength and weakness, and opportunities for greater inter-organizational collaboration”, and offers analysis of the province of New Brunswick’s model of arts funding in comparison to that of other provinces, including Nova Scotia.

“The release of the report comes at an important moment in which the New Brunswick government is in the process of re-evaluating the structure by which arts funding in the province is administered,” says McGraw, “Dr. Gattinger’s research is welcomed by artsnb as an impartial, 3rd party source of analysis to ensure that informed, evidence based measures are taken into account with regards to the decision by government to eliminate artsnb.”

Key recommendations in the report include:

  • Consolidation of creation based programs – artsnb’s “articulation around creation-based funding” would make it the best positioned to deliver all creation-based programs.
  • Expanded collaboration between the Department of Tourism, Heritage and Culture and artsnb to provide better and more efficient services to the New Brunswick arts community.
  • Strengthening of program guidelines and administration within both artsnb and the Department of Tourism, Heritage and Culture.

The Board and the Executive of artsnb have expressed their willingness to examine Dr. Gattinger’s findings with Premier Brian Gallant and Minister Bill Fraser in order to work together to ensure that best practices are applied to the province’s arts funding administration. The report presents a number of opportunities to that end, and it is artsnb’s hope that it will be the Premier’s wish to work with the Board to implement the structure that will be in the best interests of the arts community and general public.

 

Members of the press are invited to join artsnb for a press conference on Tuesday, February 9th at 10:00 am.

 

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The New Brunswick Arts Board is an arm’s length arts funding agency with a legislated mandate to facilitate and promote the creation of art as well as administering funding programs for professional artists in the province.