This letter to Minister Bill Fraser was published in the February 12th edition of the Telegraph Journal. It is published here with permission from the author.
Letter to Tourism, Heritage and Culture Minister Bill Fraser
There is an old saying: He who pays the piper calls the tune.
The changes proposed for the New Brunswick Arts Board are concerning, not so much because of the $400,000 cut – money, after all, can be restored – as for the structural changes involved.
In law, employees hold a duty of loyalty to their employer – the body that signs their pay cheques.
At the moment, the staff of artsNB give their loyalty to their board of directors.
The board hires the executive director, who manages the operation on their behalf. The buck stops with them. They pay the piper.
Move them to the government payroll, and staff loyalty, by law, goes to the government. The government makes the policy decisions, directs employees, manages the operation.
The board of directors, now powerless, becomes merely an advisory committee. What was once an arms length operation – with government funding, but independent – becomes a branch of the provincial government.
The former board can recommend until it is blue in the face, but it cannot act in any meaningful way to represent the interests of the artists and arts organizations that are so important to the economic, social and spiritual life of New Brunswick.
This is not theoretical. If someone on the staff of artsnb in this new arrangement were to act on direction of the board in contravention of direction from the government they would be guilty of insubordination – a firing offence in labour law.
The proposed change is no mere tinkering with administration. It guts the autonomy of the Arts Board. If it is allowed to go through, we will live to regret it deeply.