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Pauline Bourque – Letter to artists

 

April 18, 2016

Dear professional artists,

Yesterday, April 7th 2016, we, a group of concerned citizens and artists, met with Minister, Bill Fraser, over the drastic cuts at ArtsNB. He came to the meeting accompanied by the Deputy Minister as well two of his directors and the MLA for Moncton. We made our case and they made theirs. He made it clear that they are not going back on their decision to make the cuts. In other words, the cuts are there to stay. They did however, tell us about the new legislation. The one hour meeting lasted three hours. A lot was said on each side of the table.

On the way back home, I had two hours to ponder on what was said. And today, I take the opportunity to share some of my thoughts.

The Minister read the changes they are making to the law. It sounds good. He said they had strengthened it and I agree. However, the $ 400 000 cuts they are making over the next two years at ArtsNB will make it impossible to administer that new legislation. In two years, the administration budget will go from $541,000 to $141,000. As of April 1, 2016, they have already lost $200 000. It’s like they’re saying to you, professionnal artists, « here is a beautiful, very powerful car but we won’t give you the steering wheel to drive it ». Are they pernisciously reeling ArtsNB back into government over a two year period? If that is the case, they’re bringing ArtsNB back to 1989. They ask for our trust. Should we trust them?

I also discovered the following as I was preparing for the meeting: In 1993, The Lottery Trust Fund Act, guaranteed $400 000 for ArtsNB. In 1997, the law was modified to increase the guarantee to $700 000. That meant that ArtsNB could get no less than that amount. In 2008, the Liberal government changed the law, gave it another name and removed the guarantee. No one knew of this change in legislation. It was done with no warning or discussion whatsoever with the arts community. They ask for our trust. Should we trust them?

Another fact. In 2006, Bernard Lord’s government announced an extra $ 1 000 000 to go to the arts and cultural community. Of this amount ArtsNB received a grand total amount of $75 000. Eight years have passed before any increase. No extra money came to ArtsNB from THC until 2013-2014 when the new cultural policy was adopted. That pumped an amount of $200 000 of new money in ArtsNB’s coffers and then distributed in the grants programs. A year later, they received an extra $ 200 000 from the new Liberal government. Then, exactly one year after that, the same Liberal government announced cuts of $ 400 000 over two years in ArtsNB administration. They giveth and then they taketh away. They ask for our trust. Should we trust them?

We need to remember a bit of history. In 1987, during a major Forum on the Arts, the New Brunswick professional artists of all cultures asked for an Arts Board. It was given to them in 1989. In 1995, in another major Forum on the Arts, the same professional artists asked that the Arts Board become arm’slength. It was given to them in 1999. All of this happened through consultation with professional artists. In 2016, the Liberal governement cut major financial resources to ArtsNB (the Arts Board) without proper consultation with the professional artists. We’re stuck with a « fait accompli ». They made changes to the law with a very small group of people sitting around a table. They ask for our trust. Should we trust them?

They are presently talking about a new law on the status of the artist. I can’t wait to see what that hotrod with no steering wheel will look like.

Dear professional artists, if you say nothing out loud to denounce this type of behavior from our government, it will continue, not only in our sector, but in every other sector that affects our daily lives. I ask you to speak out, as professional artists as well as citizens of this province, if this, in any way, bothers you.