Fifth Session, 41st Parliament (2020)
Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services
Wednesday, June 17, 2020
Issue No. 119
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The PDF transcript remains the official digital version.
Bob D’Eith (Maple Ridge–Mission, NDP)
Doug Clovechok (Columbia River–Revelstoke, BC Liberal)
Donna Barnett (Cariboo-Chilcotin, BC Liberal)
Rich Coleman (Langley East, BC Liberal)
Mitzi Dean (Esquimalt-Metchosin, NDP)
Ronna-Rae Leonard (Courtenay-Comox, NDP)
Nicholas Simons (Powell River–Sunshine Coast, NDP)
Budget Consultation Presentations Panel 1 – Arts and Culture
Budget Consultation Presentations Panel 2 – Arts and Culture
Budget Consultation Presentations Panel 3 – Arts and Culture
Wednesday, June 17, 2020
1)Music B.C. Industry Association
2)Canadian Media Producers Association, B.C. Branch
3)Motion Picture Production Industry Association
6)Western Canada Theatre
7)B.C. Alliance for Arts and Culture
8)Kamloops Art Gallery
10)Capitol Theatre Restoration Society
11)Key City Theatre
12)Union of B.C. Performers
13)B.C. Public Library Partners
14)B.C. Library Association
15)Association of B.C. Public Library Directors
16)B.C. Library Trustees Association
17)Exploration Place Museum and Science Centre
18)Association of Book Publishers of B.C.
Clerk Assistant, Committees and Interparliamentary Relations
WEDNESDAY, JUNE 17, 2020
The committee met at 9 a.m.
[B. D’Eith in the chair.]
B. D’Eith (Chair): Good morning, everyone. My name is Bob D’Eith. I’m the MLA for Maple Ridge–Mission and the Chair of the Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services, a committee of the Legislative Assembly that includes MLAs from the government and opposition parties.
Today I’d like to acknowledge that I’m joining you from the traditional territories of the Katzie and Kwantlen First Nations.
I’d like to welcome everyone listening to and participating in this virtual public hearing for the Budget 2021 consultation.
The committee typically visits communities around the province to hear from British Columbians about their priorities for the next provincial budget, but due to COVID-19 and the pandemic, all public hearings are being held virtually this year.
Our consultation is based upon the Minister of Finance’s budget consultation paper that was released to the public on June 1. We invite all British Columbians to participate by making a written submission or by filling out the online survey, and you can get details on the website at bcleg.ca/fgsbudget. The consultation closes at 5 p.m. on Friday, June 26, 2020.
The committee will carefully consider all of the input and make recommendations to the Legislative Assembly on what should be in the Budget 2021. The committee intends to release its report sometime in August.
As far as the format, presenters are being organized into small panels based on theme. Today we’ll be hearing about arts and culture, music and libraries. Each presenter has five minutes for their presentation. Following presentations from all panellists, there will be time for questions from committee members. You have five minutes for your presentation, and we’d really appreciate it if you could stay to that time limit.
Just a note that today’s meeting is being recorded and transcribed, and all audio from the meetings is being broadcast live via the website, and a complete transcript will be posted.
I now have the honour to have our members of the committee introduce themselves. Today we will start with Rich.
R. Coleman: Good morning. I’m Rich Coleman. I’m the MLA for Langley East.
I am in the Kwantlen First Nations territory.
D. Clovechok (Deputy Chair): Good morning from the Kootenays. I’m Doug Clovechok. I’m the MLA for Columbia River–Revelstoke.
I sit today on the shared territories of the Shuswap and Ktunaxa Nations.
B. D’Eith (Chair): And Doug is also the Deputy Chair.
R. Leonard: Good morning, everyone. I’m Ronna-Rae Leonard. I’m the MLA for Courtenay-Comox.
I’m sitting here in the traditional territories of the K’ómoks First Nation.
D. Barnett: Good morning. I’m Donna Barnett. I’m the MLA for Cariboo-Chilcotin.
Today I’m on the traditional territory of the Secwépemc people.
M. Dean: I’m Mitzi Dean. I’m the MLA for Esquimalt-Metchosin. I go by pronouns she/her.
I’m honoured today to be on the traditional territory of the Songhees, Esquimalt and Scia’new Nations.
N. Simons: I’m Nicholas Simons.
I represent Powell River–Sunshine Coast, Coast Salish territories of the Tla’amin and shíshálh Nations.
B. D’Eith (Chair): Great. Also assisting us today are Karan Riarh and Stephanie Raymond from the Parliamentary Committees Office and Dwight Schmidt from Hansard Services.
I’ll just take a moment to thank everyone in the committee’s office again and Hansard for all the amazing work they’re doing and also recognize the work they’re doing to get the Legislature back next week. It’s an amazing task, and we really appreciate all that work.
Okay. Next up we have our first set of witnesses in arts and culture — Lindsay MacPherson, Music B.C.
Please go ahead.
Budget Consultation Presentations
Panel 1 – Arts and Culture
MUSIC B.C. INDUSTRY ASSOCIATION
L. MacPherson: Good morning. My name is Lindsay MacPherson, and I’m the executive director of the Music B.C. Industry Association. We support the growth and development of B.C.’s music creatives and professionals and are made up of 1,100 members.
I’d like to take a moment to thank Minister Beare and her team for their continued support and the province for their commitment to our sector with a third-year renewal of the Amplify B.C. music fund earlier this month. I would also like to applaud the province’s quick action in providing vital funding relief through the Showcase BC program, which directed $750,000 in microgrants to support content creation from 740 music creators.
Earlier this year our sector was hard hit, following the onset of COVID-19. It’s been said before, and it bears repeating. The music sector, and particularly the live sector, was the first to close and will be the last to reopen. This pandemic has led to significant hardship for artists, companies, gig workers and suppliers who are essential to the live music ecosystem.
Initial findings from a survey measuring the impacts of COVID-19 on the music industry, led by the Canadian Independent Music Association on behalf of the Department of Canadian Heritage, reported that 96 percent of B.C. music businesses have been negatively impacted by COVID-19. When asked how long they’d expect to sustain their career with current or anticipated cash flow, only 3.8 percent of artists and companies stated they could operate their business for one year without support.
We are thankful for another year of Amplify, which will begin to stabilize, support and sustain the music industry during this pandemic. As an industry that is a significant employer and economic contributor to this province, we need a long-term commitment now more than ever before. Amplify has allowed us to retain our talent, and now we need to ensure our workers don’t leave the industry for good, during a time that feels like there’s no end in sight.
With a strict public health order of no concerts above 50 until there is a vaccine comes a grim reality that recovery for us is going to be another two years minimum. Today we ask that the province make a three-year commitment to the Amplify B.C. fund, beginning next year, at $7½ million per year. The multi-year investment will instil hope and provide certainty that support will be available through Amplify programs in order to operate, create and innovate while restarting the sector.
I’d like to address the unique nature of this fund, which is one of the few opportunities open to the commercial sector, who are often not eligible for other measures of support. As many as 70 percent of Canadian live music association members do not receive sector-specific support from federal government programs such as FACTOR and Canada Council. These members include B.C. small venues, talent agents and event suppliers who are fundamental to the live music sector, an industry that contributes $815 million in GDP to the B.C. economy.
Multi-year commitment means preserving these jobs and helping our small venues stay alive so that emerging talents have a place to perform and incubate. A multi-year commitment means funding to create new IP will be there, that travel subsidies for touring and live performances when it’s safe will be there.
This is an artist’s number one source of revenue, which has a domino effect for B.C.’s broader ecosystem and labels, management companies, music publishers and talent agencies. Our industry needs a stand-alone commitment, through this fund, to recover now and get back to a place of driving the economy. A $7½ million investment in Amplify stimulated $29.9 million in expenditures in supported companies to employ 3,200 people, with 300 new hires.
Last year Music B.C. was able to maintain our 75 percent increase in federal funding support from FACTOR because of the $1.2 million investment from Amplify into our organization. With this funding, we showcased 430 B.C. artists across the province and in the Pacific Northwest.
We led B.C.’s presence at 16 domestic and international trade events, showcasing 80 B.C. artists and helping 50 industry professionals build global connections, most notably during our third annual trade mission to India and first trade mission to South Korea. Both export missions were made possible with $78,000 of Amplify funding, which resulted in deals worth $500,000 to $1 million for each initiative. B.C. is on the map as an industry leader because of these initiatives.
Six hundred and forty-four individuals benefited from educational activities, including our annual mental health and respectful workplace seminars. We were also able to continue developing music city strategies in Vancouver, Victoria and the Central Okanagan.
Though this year threw us a curve ball with COVID-19, our incredible artists were the first to show up, offering their talent for free through live-stream performances. Our industry, though currently in a fight for survival, has demonstrated resilience and has fostered community and collaboration across our vibrant, diverse province.
A long-term commitment from the province means there will be a music industry to come back to, and it’s a public acknowledgment that we need music, much like we need the arts as a whole, to heal our communities during this unprecedented time.
B. D’Eith (Chair): Thank you very much, Lindsay.
Next up we have Tracey Friesen from the Canadian Media Producers Association.
Please go ahead, Tracey.
CANADIAN MEDIA PRODUCERS
ASSOCIATION, B.C. BRANCH
T. Friesen: Thank you, Mr. D’Eith, and nice to see some familiar faces.
I’m coming to you today from the territory of the Stó:lō Nation.
I am the managing vice-president of the Canadian Media Producers Association, B.C. branch. Five months on the job, so it’s been an interesting ride so far.
Our organization represents 100 members. These are B.C.-based, independent production companies of all sizes producing Canadian content and doing service work of all genres.
I’m here today with one main request of the Budget 2021 process and a couple of timely and important considerations as well. Increase Creative B.C.’s budget by $5 million. This will allow them to get back in the game of film and television production financing. Also, support any industry diversity and anti-racism initiatives. Finally, stand with us to advocate to the federal government that B.C., this province, gets its fair share of public funding.
I know that this regional thing has been an issue for years and a theme. But this year, with the COVID federal emergency relief fund, the disparity was stark, really noticeable. As you know, B.C. is Canada’s leading production centre. We’re now at 3.4 billion or 37 percent of all volume. But the domestic volume in B.C. is just a fraction of that. We’re doing 17 percent only of Canadian television and 6 percent of Canadian feature film volume.
In 2018, on the Telefilm front, they invested just over $5.5 million in this province, $40 million in Ontario and $45 million in Quebec. During the pandemic, this disparity became really obvious. Heritage came through with $115 million emergency relief fund. We’re really grateful for that. But it was delivered only to pre-existing clients of the Canada Media Fund and Telefilm.
The CMPA surveyed its membership nationally, and then we doubled down our team here in B.C. and connected with over 80 percent of our membership. The findings were astonishing. Across Canada, 37 percent of producers did not access this emergency relief. Here in B.C., that rose to 60 percent.
Why couldn’t they apply? Simple. Because they haven’t been clients of these agencies. Some are producing ineligible genres. For most, they’ve just never been supported, never broken through, not on the roster these last years.
Why is that? There are a few reasons. It’s complex, but relevant here is that there’s little to no representation from these agencies locally, and there are policies that become self-perpetuating. It’s a vicious circle. The more you get, the more you get is what tends to happen, and there’s no provincial production funding, unlike Ontario and Quebec where there’s a lot.
This kind of homegrown support not only gives confidence in the international market when our producers are seeking co-production partners, but it helps often close financing or can trigger important national money.
Our B.C. producers are creative and entrepreneurial, yet they shared with us real vulnerabilities in this survey right now. There’s never enough development money to create original IP. Insurance looms heavy. This is something the CMPA is working hard on. There will be additional costs related to the health and safety protocols, of course, coming post-COVID. But over and over again, they raised regional inequities.
The B.C. government is a major supporter of the film and television industry, especially through the crucial and stable tax credit program. That stability is key. We appreciate that, as well as the historically collaborative relationship with everyone, and we can do more.
To repeat the CMPA B.C.’s key suggestion for Budget 2021, we ask you to consider increasing Creative B.C.’s budget by $5 million, which could allow them to reinstate Canadian production financing.
Even this degree of investment would help leverage more federal funding and could go a long way toward righting the systemic imbalance. There’s more data and stuff in the presentation that was sent to you yesterday.
I’m happy to answer questions when we get to that part.
B. D’Eith (Chair): Thank you so much, Tracey.
Next up we have Phil Klapwyk from Motion Picture Production Industry Association.
Phil, please go ahead.
MOTION PICTURE PRODUCTION
P. Klapwyk: It’s nice to see you all this morning. I’m Phil Klapwyk, the vice-chair of the Motion Picture Production Industry Association of B.C. and the business representative of IATSE Local 891.
I’m proud to be here today to talk about B.C.’s motion picture production industry, which integrates physical production, visual effects, animation and post-production. Truly, we create world-class entertainment right here in British Columbia.
Over $1 billion in private sector investment helps create 70,000 skilled jobs, which translates to an over $3.4 billion contribution to B.C.’s GDP. Yet that’s just a tiny part of a global demand. The spend in this sector is over $1 trillion worldwide, which means that we have lots of room to grow, and we will, simply because of B.C.’s talent pool, beautiful locations, outstanding infrastructure and stable, competitive tax incentives.
I’d like to dispel a bit of a myth. Vancouver is not Hollywood North. All of British Columbia is. The industry’s growth in the Interior and all throughout Vancouver Island has been tremendous in the past few years. In fact, we are looking forward to a major Warner Bros. series landing in Victoria this summer.
Truly, no matter where you live in B.C., you probably know somebody who works in film, are related to someone who works in film, or you’re already part of the family. It’s not just actors and camera crew. World-class visual effects and animation studios service productions from all over the world and even create Oscar-winning feature-length movies right here in British Columbia.
Although we rely on a global workforce in this sector, the system is set up to transfer the skills from the international to local workers. Just like we grew the talent pool in physical production, we look forward to a time when we can fully crew the sector with B.C. talent. In post-production, the pandemic has proven that it doesn’t matter where you live in the province. This sector will find talent wherever it resides.
Although the industry reinvests in its workforce every single year to ensure that we have top-quality talent, we can do more. We look forward to partnering with the provincial government to address skills gaps outlined in a recent labour market report, especially where the programs can address equity and diversity.
Now turning to COVID. March 11 is the day that someone on Riverdale had reportedly come in contact with a COVID-positive friend. That production shut down out of an abundance of caution. By the end of Friday, March 13, almost every single physical production in the province had closed their doors or had plans to shut down the week after. We went from our very best February that we have ever had to virtually 95 percent unemployment overnight.
At Local 891, I can tell you that our payroll dropped from $15 million per week to less than $100,000. Yet from day one, all of the industry stakeholders have been collaborating on a safe return to production strategy, in accordance with the public health office orders and recommendations as well as the WorkSafeBC regulations and guidelines.
We want to thank the leadership of the B.C. government and Dr. Bonnie Henry, and the citizens throughout the province, for their part in flattening the curve of B.C. Just because of this, we are recognized as one of the safest jurisdictions to return to motion picture production.
During the pandemic, the B.C. government assistance programs for workers and companies have had a significant positive impact on this sector. With the weekly updates from the government and the PHO, we have been able to provide regular updates to our client base as to the progress in our resumption of production plans.
Throughout the crisis, Minister Lisa Beare has engaged with Creative B.C. and the motion picture advisory group drawn from the executive board of MPPIA. This conversation and collaboration has proved invaluable to maintaining positive progress as we mitigate the impacts of COVID-19.
MPPIA has committed to the priority of addressing diversity, equity and inclusion throughout our workforce. Our equity and inclusion working group, drawn from multiple stakeholders across the industry, has been meeting over the last two years to forward this cause. We are committed to measuring our progress and setting realistic goals to make meaningful change. We can do more to make our workplaces reflect our communities.
Finally, a note about Creative B.C. Under the leadership of CEO Prem Gill and with the expertise of B.C.’s film commissioner, Marnie Orr, Creative B.C. has become essential to the fabric of the motion picture industry in B.C.
This is why, just like every other year we present to this committee, we are seeking additional investment in Creative B.C. so that they can leverage their programs to ensure the continued growth and success of the sector. Also, the stability and reliability of the tax incentive programs have always been essential ingredients in the success of the industry, and we’re asking for your continued support of the status quo in this area.
Thank you for your continued support of the creative industries and motion picture production in B.C.
B. D’Eith (Chair): Thank you very much, Phil.
Next up we have Brenda Bailey from DigiBC.
Please go ahead.
B. Bailey: Thanks, Bob. Good morning. It’s a pleasure to speak with you today. My name, as Bob mentioned, is Brenda Bailey. I’m the executive director of the interactive and digital media association also known as DigiBC. We represent the small, medium and large companies creating interactive digital media, including video games, virtual and augmented reality.
Before I begin, I first want to thank you and the provincial government as a whole for how our health care crisis is being managed. It’s clear that the COVID-19 response has been informed by evidence-based decision-making and non-partisan collaboration. This is truly heartening for all British Columbians.
During a time when people need to be isolated, creative technology can be a bridge that brings us together. B.C. is a global leader in creative tech and an economic heavyweight. The industry supports more than 16,000 jobs at 600 companies throughout the province. It generates $2.3 billion in global sales annually.
The effect of COVID-19 on our sector has been a bit mixed. DigiBC members tell us that some of the smaller studios are struggling due to the usual business development markets being cancelled during the economic downturn. However, the good news is that the majority of our members are thriving, in fact, benefiting from increased video game consumption as people shelter at home. Studios are currently hiring. In fact, there are hundreds of jobs open in B.C. right now.
Due to the pandemic’s social and economic restrictions, people are feeling increasingly isolated and alone. More Canadians are experiencing mental health issues. A University of Saskatchewan study published just last month said playing video games can promote mental wellness by decreasing anxiety, allowing players to connect with others, and feelings of belonging and control. Amidst COVID-19’s tragedy and loss, there is a silver lining. The creative tech sector can help people weather this crisis and build resilience.
I grew up in Nanaimo, and I’m proud of my Vancouver Island roots. I’ve worked in this industry for almost two decades, and I know the power creative tech has to build inclusive, innovative and interconnected communities. I’m also one of the first women to found and run a video game studio. I’m passionate about matching youth, particularly Indigenous and other underrepresented groups, with creative tech careers.
As you well know, COVID-19 has disproportionately affected women and immigrants. DigiBC is committed to diversity and connecting those groups with creative tech jobs. We provide educational programming in high schools from a race and gender lens to ensure all students are invited to consider a career in our sector.
Another glimmer of good news in these times: our members tell us that the industry does, in fact, have room to grow. The numbers support this, too. With your help, we can create jobs, and we can do it in a way that helps those who’ve been hit hardest in the economic effects of the pandemic.
We have three specific proposals. It’s proven that tax credits in our industry lead to growth and job creation. Two of our proposals reflect this and relate to the existing interactive digital media tax credit. B.C.’s is at 17.5 percent, the lowest in Canada of those jurisdictions that have tax credits for this sector. Compare, for example, Ontario, at 40 percent. This means we have room for incremental growth.
First, we’re proposing an additional 5 percent diversity and inclusion tax credit calculated on an individual employee basis for employing underrepresented employees in technical positions. For people of colour, LGBTQ, persons with disabilities and women, while they’re increasingly part of our industry and while we value the growth we’ve seen, we think this incentive will assist in having remaining barriers be removed.
Secondly, we strongly urge some modifications to the tax credit to help create jobs in hard-hit areas. An additional 5 percent tax credit for studios and companies locating in regions beyond Lower Mainland and greater Victoria would stimulate the economy in these areas, which have been hard hit by a downturn in both natural resources and now tourism.
Next, we recommend levelling the playing field with other Canadian jurisdictions by increasing the base interactive digital media tax credit to 25 percent of eligible salaries and wages. This has the potential to create 10,000 new jobs in a five-year time frame.
Lastly, we echo one of the recommendations from former innovation commissioner Dr. Alan Winter’s final report. He noted that we need to offer incentives for companies to create and locate intellectual property and the associated jobs in B.C.
I know my time is short and your days are long. Thank you for your consideration.
B. D’Eith (Chair): Thank you very much to everybody. It’s a bit bittersweet for me. I guess, Tracey, with your presentation, that sort of the last of the old guard is gone, including me. But so nice to see so many fresh faces and energetic and impassioned advocacy for the creative industry. Thank you so much for everything you do.
First up we have Mitzi Dean. Go ahead.
M. Dean: Thank you, everybody, for your presentation and for your support for everybody in your sectors trying to continue through the COVID situation.
I really appreciate that all of you are talking about diversity and inclusion. I’m interested in…. You’ve come up with some suggestions around tax rates, for example. But I’m interested in the restart after COVID and how we can use that as an opportunity to really accelerate ways of increasing diversity and inclusion.
I’m also really interested…. One of the speakers mentioned about measurement — measuring and tracking progress. How are we actually doing that? What performance measures are being used? One of the issues that we find in just gathering a benchmark to be able to measure progress against is that we don’t have good data. We don’t have data that’s disaggregated, either. I’m really interested in any of you with your ideas about how we really accelerate that work and how we’re measuring it.
P. Klapwyk: I’ll jump in on that, Bob.
B. D’Eith (Chair): Go ahead, Phil.
P. Klapwyk: Last fall Creative B.C. had been spearheading a labour market impact or report. That relied on a lot of survey data for a demographic analysis of the industry. Couple that with an internal survey of my local, as well, when we were doing a gender equity pay study. We have a fairly decent demographic sample of the physical production sector. We are relying on some of that data to try to create programs that will integrate more equity and inclusion in the industry.
We’re starting to embrace working with women in trades, which is a B.C. Federation of Labour program. We would really like to change the gender makeup in our industry, but we are plagued with all sorts of issues that we really don’t know how to speak to. So we’re turning to professionals who actually have the background to address this.
At this time, it’s really important to allow those voices that actually have the experience to speak and to listen. Our equity and inclusion committee at MPPIA does include Doreen Manuel, who is one of the leading Indigenous filmmakers in British Columbia. We also are listening to others who represent less-represented segments of our industry, as well. So we’re turning to the professionals and those with experience to address the programs.
In terms of setting benchmarks going forward, that has yet to be developed and to actually see what the metrics are, because just self-reporting isn’t necessarily going to actually capture the change. So we are early on in that phase, but we hope to have something in place.
B. D’Eith (Chair): Thanks, Phil.
Go ahead, Brenda.
B. Bailey: Thank you for the question, Parliamentary Secretary Dean.
You know, the test we used to do I would call the bathroom lineup test. When I first started working in the industry back in the early 2000s, I would go to these huge conferences and see giant lineups in the men’s washroom and march right into the women’s. That doesn’t happen anymore. It’s an informal test, but a telling one.
We’ve started collecting data. We are currently, in the sector, doing a sector labour market partnership measurement. That’s one of the pieces of data we’re looking at. I can tell you that we did some research last year with funding for respectful workplaces from Creative B.C.
One of the most interesting things that we found of the 400 people that responded to our survey is that when we see increases of women entering studios, we also, parallel, see increases in people of colour measurements. Said a different way, when we really focus on hiring more women, a sub-outcome that wasn’t necessarily planned for is that the number of people of colour increases as well. That was an unexpected finding, but one that we’re very happy to see. So it’s important to know that as we do this work, that result is something we can achieve.
B. D’Eith (Chair): Thank you, Brenda.
Go ahead, Lindsay.
L. MacPherson: Hi. Thank you for the question. Yes, I would echo what everyone is saying here — that there’s still a lot of work to do in capturing this data. I can say that for our own programs, we’re nearly there, with 43 percent of our funding programs supporting women in music. The work is, clearly, ongoing.
We at Music B.C. hold an annual respectful workplace workshop, which is mandatory for board and staff. It’s open to the industry, and it’s work that extends beyond our office location. We’ve included a budget for an equity consultant in our fiscal 2021 admin budget and are looking to make a bylaw change to allow for appointed board positions to ensure that we have those underrepresented voices at the table — and then carving off the specific funding programs that will support underrepresented groups, much like the Vancouver music fund did last year.
B. D’Eith (Chair): Thanks, Lindsay.
Go ahead, Tracey.
T. Friesen: I can add a couple of points or save more time for questions. Should I do a couple of quick ones? This is such an important issue.
Three pieces. In terms of data, we do work with the federal agencies. This is something that we do well. They’ve been tracking National Film Board, CMF, Telefilm, and that is one source of data for creators which is helpful. Another piece is…. CMPA has supported Women in View, and they released a gender-specific and tied with diversity report in December with really strong findings that corroborate what Brenda said, in terms of putting women in the position of showrunner: it changes the nature of the whole crew. It’s a very important piece of information.
Lastly, with the MPPIA committee, also Creative B.C.’s working group, there’s a draft pathways document that we’re all working around that identifies best practices in jurisdictions around the world related to requirements, incentives, pilot programs, training and directories. We’re all meeting about this, in fact, this afternoon.
B. D’Eith (Chair): That’s great, and a very, very important topic. We’re very lucky to have Prem Gill at Creative B.C, who is obviously an incredible champion for equity and inclusion. So I think that really helps all of the creative industries.
I have a question for Tracey just in regard to leverage. Perhaps you could just talk us through a little bit more. I know that not having that domestic seed money stops us from being able to access Telefilm and others. But can you maybe just drill down a little bit more into how that investment will sort of multiply out?
T. Friesen: Sure. It happens both at the front end and the back end of the financing process. Early money in, first money in, is often really hard to get, and a show of support from your province that this project is worthy of development and, in fact, production investment speaks volumes in terms of instilling confidence in other parties who might come to the financing table, not only within Canada but outside of Canada.
Then the inverse — toward the end, at times, there’s a gap in the financing structure. It’s almost ironically built into the way the public system works. You can get a broadcast licence. We rely heavily on our tax credits. They’re a really important component of the financing scenario. Then there’s money that doesn’t…. Producers are struggling to complete. Being able to access Telefilm or Canada Media Fund money to become a part of the overall financing structure…. If there is equity, like investment, production money, from the province, even if it isn’t of the scale and scope of the national funds, it helps to close that gap and complete the whole picture.
B. D’Eith (Chair): Great. Thanks, Tracey.
Lindsay, you talked a little bit about how the music industry and how Music B.C. had spent a lot of time on trade shows and trade missions and showcasing.
I’m just wondering what you see during this period and over the next year or year and a half in terms of pivoting and how you can continue those international connections. What do you see is going to happen, and how can the money from Creative B.C. and from the province, through Amplify, be used to really continue to enhance the careers and the industry?
L. MacPherson: We have the unique challenge this year of pivoting a lot of our old Amplify B.C. money into online programming, so the export program has very much been put on hold. But there is an opportunity to coordinate these international connections, still, in digital B2B speed meetings.
There have been various surveys that have gone out to ask buyers: would you take on an artist simply from watching a showcase on line? The results weren’t great. For example, the Reeperbahn Festival that we attend annually in Germany. This fall, they’re going ahead with it, but they’re limiting it, of course, to European artists and industry.
But we are in conversation about still accessing those international delegates to make sure that these artists’ careers aren’t just totally put on hold and totally stagnant. We’re also using some of our funding to put into market primers for the European territories and for Japan so that, when it is safe to do so and we can travel again, those artists have that resource to tour in those markets.
B. D’Eith (Chair): Thanks, Lindsay.
Brenda, just a question in regard to the tax credit idea, especially in regard to getting production outside of, let’s say, the Lower Mainland and into other parts of British Columbia.
I know a lot of people are working at home. I’m just wondering: is the model changing at all in terms of employment? Are we going to see these sorts of large office space–type productions, or are things going to decentralize? How would that work with a tax credit like yours?
B. Bailey: I think the answer is, not to be cheeky, yes; we’re going to see both of those things. I think the model is changing.
We’ve been comfortable with the work-from-home model for quite some time, particularly in video games. But generally, there are some types of development that you really do want to be in the same space for. For example, if you’re doing anything with mocap, that’s not something that can happen from home — or finaling a game. The collaboration that you have in a studio is considered very valuable. Testing as well. So it’s probably true that we’ll see some hybrid model going forward.
It’s very interesting to look at the question: if we do move into a more distributed workforce model, what does that mean in terms of the dispersion of the industry throughout the province? I’ve long been advocating to see more studios set up outside of the Lower Mainland and Victoria. I grew up on the Island, and a lot of my cousins — I’m the oldest cousin; I have many young ones — are still resource-based-economy folks. It’s been really tough on people to transition.
Unlike things like wood and fish, you know, we can move computers anywhere where we have accessible broadband and power. It’s an industry that has the ability to really grow in the province and actually help us transition our economy.
I also think that the skills you build in this industry are so pertinent to so many other types of technology that it’s a really great place for people to come and really develop their skills. I think of ourselves as the Trojan Horse for young people entering technology because it’s such an appealing space and a great place to learn.
D. Clovechok (Deputy Chair): Well, thank you very much, you guys, for your presentations. As the co-critic for Tourism, Arts and Culture…. I’ve been in tourism all of my adult life, so the arts and culture piece of this has been just an incredibly enjoyable learning curve for me. Congratulations on all the fine work that you do.
I don’t have a musical bone in my body, Lindsay, so I appreciate all the work that you guys do.
Just a question, to Brenda as well. We’re certainly seeing a migration of young millennials coming into rural British Columbia where I live — it’s remote where I live — for the same reasons. As long as there’s the broadband, they’re working from here. We’re really excited so see that.
From the Creative B.C. and motion picture side, we are certainly trying to promote more of those kinds of opportunities out here. We had The Mountain Between Us that was shot right here in Invermere. What a great experience.
A quick question for Phil though. What does the restart look like, and how long do you see that taking? Are there really any advantages for Canadians here? We’ve got a lot of folks that are out of work. American film people are going to have to quarantine for 14 days once they get here. Is there a real opportunity for B.C. here to really kind of push our own agenda and get people trained up?
P. Klapwyk: A tremendous opportunity, in short. The very first film production that is actually shooting right now is up in Kelowna. It is a Canadian story with a Canadian producer, Canadian stars who happen to be married, so the whole social distancing aspect goes away. Now they can actually kiss on screen, which is fantastic. It’s also in a region that is burgeoning and has a ton of homegrown talent up there. We have tremendous opportunity here.
The border quarantine will definitely impact service production. There’s no doubt about it. But we are happy that we will gain that confidence of the quarantine period — that the people who are coming across the border will not be bringing or shedding the virus as they enter our workspaces.
Our return-to-work strategies are complicated. Motion picture production, especially physical production, is a communal storytelling art. It requires a lot of close contact. In the industry, we have professionals that have been doing this for 30, 40 years, and now they have to learn new processes of how they’ve done the exact same job, and they have to adapt.
We’re really encouraged by all of the other industries that have found ways. I just went to a pub last night for a burger. I went to the Witch, and it’s a totally different experience. But that just proves to me that we can do film catering in a different way and achieve the same result. Hair and makeup. My wife went and had her nails done. We can definitely accomplish that.
The creative professionals in the industry have the logistical ability to figure it out. They’re creative problem-solvers, and we’re not worried about it. We have a great opportunity to increase the talent on screen, to rely on Canadian performers, but we need to protect them. We need to make sure that everybody can go to work in a safe space. I’m confident, honestly, that we’re going to have safer workspaces than we had before COVID-19. It’s a really positive thing in a lot of ways.
B. D’Eith (Chair): Great. Well, thank you very much for that. We’re out of time now, but I wanted to thank all of you, of course, for all the work you’ve done during the pandemic. I know it’s very, very difficult for everybody, and different parts of the creative sector are affected in different ways. Everybody is all hands on deck. We’ve seen an amazing amount of resiliency and creativity from the entire sector, all of the sectors. Thank you so much. We appreciate all of your comments.
With that, we are going to take a short recess until 9:50. Thanks, everyone.
The committee recessed from 9:42 a.m. to 9:50 a.m.
[B. D’Eith in the chair.]
B. D’Eith (Chair): We are continuing with presentations in arts and culture.
First up we have Daniel Mills from Kamloops Symphony.
If you could please stay to the five minutes, we’d really appreciate that. What we’ll be doing is going from panellist to panellist, and then ask questions at the end.
If you wouldn’t mind starting, Daniel, that would be great.
Budget Consultation Presentations
Panel 2 – Arts and Culture
D. Mills: Chair D’Eith and members of the Standing Committee on Finance, thank you for having me here today. My name is Daniel Mills, and I had the pleasure of stepping into the role of executive director here at the Kamloops Symphony 12 short but also very different months ago.
I’m speaking from Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc within the unceded traditional lands of Secwépemc Nation. Thank you so much for having me again.
Over the last three seasons, the Kamloops Symphony has delivered over 25,000 ticketed experiences to those in the interior of B.C. through our core programming of presenting professional orchestral concerts. Led by our music director Dina Gilbert, we have made large strides in the professionalism of our organization through the standardization of musician hiring and implementation of creative programming. We, along with the network of other regional orchestras in British Columbia, are a major provider of work for classical freelance musicians in the province, and we’re proud to serve the musical sector in this way.
As with the other organizations who are joining me today, outreach and education continues to be a crucial part of what we do. We have recently formalized the creation of our symphony chorus that offers 70 amateur singers in the region the chance to perform along with the orchestra twice a year. Furthermore, before our operations were slowed in mid-March, we had reached over 2,000 students through our educational student matinees and other outreach activities in schools.
Like most professional arts organizations in B.C., we are very fortunate to receive provincial operating funding from both the B.C. Arts Council as well as B.C. Gaming through their community gaming grants. Both support our core programming in critical ways and allow us to deliver the meaningful experiences I have described previously. As such, we are very much in support of the government’s previous pledge of doubling the funding to the B.C. Arts Council that was put forth. This would allow organizations like us to pursue relevant programming for our region’s community, particularly programs to better reach all members of the community.
Along that line, we also call for the continuation of the community gaming grants program. In our case, the financial impact of this program is even greater than that from the B.C. Arts Council. With the uncertainty around gaming in the province currently, we urge the committee to consider renewing their pledge to these programs and current recipients.
Of course, the environment in which we operate today has drastically changed amidst the current pandemic. Like most performing arts groups, we were forced to cancel the remainder of our 2019-20 season out of safety concerns for large gatherings. We’d like to express our gratitude for the arts and culture resilience supplement made available through the B.C. Arts Council that has helped us through this time. However, given that our traditional performance format will not be possible any time within the next six to 12 months, due to projected timelines around the gathering of the people, we are having to change how and what we are programming come the fall in order to continue producing meaningful work.
To this end, we have elected for much smaller performances in mostly virtual settings until our normal operations can resume. This will pose a considerable logistical and financial challenge for us, particularly in terms of revenue generation, as previous ticketing models will no longer be relevant.
Although we are confident we have the tools to get through this transitionary phase, we risk being able to support as many artists as we are accustomed to and ask that the B.C. government commit to further transitionary supports to arts organizations amidst the COVID-19 pandemic so we can employ our people and cultural workers in the province at levels we were used to pre-pandemic.
Finally, although talking about physical space for performances where large groups can gather may seem irrelevant in today’s circumstances, the lack of music-specific performance space in Kamloops continues to be a major limiting factor for the Kamloops Symphony, in terms of venue availability, flexibility in our programming and the very sound produced by the orchestra.
A proposed Kamloops centre for the arts was to be a new home for us. As you may know, this was to be brought to referendum a few months ago. It was then postponed due to the pandemic. This was going to be a new concert venue for us but also a home for our outreach program.
Although the municipal referendum for support may have been postponed, I firmly believe that this project is far from dead and is still a very-much-needed facility for Kamloops and everyone here. As such, I’m highly encouraging that this committee consider future support of major infrastructure spending, particularly towards the creation of cultural spaces such as the proposed Kamloops centre for the arts. Although our performance venues may have gone dark, I believe that this industry will be back and that the people of British Columbia will have the need for cultural spaces more than ever.
To sum up my presentation, I therefore urge the committee to just consider the following four actions in the next budget: (1) commit to the doubling of the B.C. Arts Council budget, (2) commit to renewing B.C. gaming grants for charitable organizations, (3) offer support to cultural organizations to aid in their transition through the COVID-19 pandemic, and (4) commit to infrastructure funding for large projects, particularly cultural spaces.
Thank you kindly for your time and consideration and all you do for the people of British Columbia.
B. D’Eith (Chair): Thank you, Daniel. Appreciate that.
Next up we have Evan Klassen from Western Canada Theatre.
Please go ahead, Evan.
WESTERN CANADA THEATRE
E. Klassen: Good morning, everyone. Mr. Chair and committee members, thank you so much for allowing me the time to speak to you today. My name is Evan Klassen. I’m the manager director here at Western Canada Theatre in Kamloops. I’m also speaking today on behalf of James MacDonald, our artistic director, and Tim Rodgers, our board chair.
WCT and our leadership are grateful to live, work and tell our stories on the beautiful and traditional territory of the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc.
This is, of course, my second annual presentation to this committee. Last year I spoke to you extensively about Western Canada Theatre’s community impact. Just to save time on today’s call, I’ve included our organizational profile as an appendix to my speech text in your packet.
Since I have the benefit of following my colleague from the Kamloops Symphony, I would also echo their thanks for the B.C. provincial government’s past support of Western Canada Theatre and the arts sector, in general, via the B.C. Arts Council. I echo their voice in expressing that there is continued need for increased support via the B.C. Arts Council and the gaming branch. These are both vitally important sources of funding for us as we continue to serve an expanding community.
WCT’s programming aligns well with the B.C. Arts Council’s strategic plan, and our ability to deliver on these strategic aims is directly tied to the funding that we receive from the province. The province’s continued increased investment in the B.C. Arts Council is absolutely critical, and we encourage the province to complete the promised doubling of the B.C. Arts Council budget.
At top of mind today, however, is the impact that COVID-19 has had on the performing arts, particularly venues and theatres. At the outset of the crisis, theatres were some of the first public venues to close, and we have been playing our part in helping to flatten the curve ever since. The performing arts rely on the ability for people to assemble in large numbers in order for our business case to be viable. WCT, operating on a $2.9 million budget this past year, suffered over $500,000 in lost revenue. We will not be able to weather an extended closure without some form of recovery support.
We are grateful for the province’s actions to date in supporting our sector, for providing the additional resiliency funding through the B.C. Arts Council, as well as advancing funds on next year’s grants to help with cash flow. However, additional investment is still needed in order to keep our organizations in existence, and I would encourage the province, through Minister Beare at Tourism, Arts and Culture and through the B.C. Arts Council, to deliver sustained additional recovery funding for our sector.
Nevertheless, of course, we look forward with optimism. Kamloops is a city that is seeing tremendous growth, and because of this growth, our physical buildings are absolutely at capacity. WCT annually reaches 35,000-plus audience members through our productions, theatre school and outreach activities locally, and through our touring programs, we reach thousands of other British Columbians right across the province.
As an organization, we have outgrown our facilities. Our construction shops, rehearsal rooms, classrooms, office spaces are all at capacity. We have looked to that proposed Kamloops centre for the arts project as a means to alleviate those needs. Though that referendum isn’t moving ahead at present, our space needs do remain, and our drive to see a facility realized in Kamloops remains strong.
As a result, we would encourage the province to prioritize the building of arts infrastructure as part of its future commitments, particularly now, as a means to stimulate the economy and building activity following COVID-19.
Another important means for the arts sector to recover is by increased philanthropic giving. Here in Kamloops, we are fortunate to have a core, loyal audience who support the theatre both in attendance and financially. However, in order to stimulate philanthropic giving to the arts, tax incentives must also be considered. We encourage the province to prioritize the creation of new tax incentives for giving to the arts. This will allow us to better harness our community presence in tangible new financial ways.
In recent weeks, we have been reminded of the role that the arts must play in reflecting the diversity of our community and the role that we play in promoting equity, diversity and inclusion in all we do. Here at WCT, we actively strive to build empathy and understanding within our community through storytelling. It is for this reason that we saw over 41,000 citizens tune in to our live stream at the onset of the pandemic or how we see children across Kamloops building their communication skills through our online, ongoing series of theatre training.
Storytelling is a salve in these troubled times. The work is more important now than ever before. It is with the province’s continued and increased investment in our sector that we continue to be able to thrive while doing this vital work.
Thank you so much for your time this morning.
B. D’Eith (Chair): Thank you very much, Evan.
Next up we have Brenda Leadlay from the B.C. Alliance for Arts and Culture.
Hello, Brenda. Please go ahead.
B.C. ALLIANCE FOR ARTS AND CULTURE
B. Leadlay: Hello. Thank you so much for having me. As you know, I represent the B.C. Alliance. It’s a provincial arts service organization with over 470 members of arts, culture and heritage organizations and individuals from across the province.
I’d also like to acknowledge that I am an uninvited guest on the ancestral traditional territories of the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh people.
First off, I really want to thank this government for their commitment to make life affordable, to deliver services that people can count on and to build a strong, sustainable, innovative economy that works for everyone, not just the wealthy and the well connected.
The value and impact of the entire not-for-profit sector delivers on these values in a significant way, often supporting communities that are marginalized and racialized. Not-for-profits, however, have not been meaningfully recognized and supported by governments, despite the fact that they serve thousands of people, contribute to their well-being and improve their quality of life. Not-for-profits put people first.
We ask that this government remain true to its values and prioritize people and communities and economic sustainability over economic growth. We specifically ask that you consider the role that the arts play in our lives during COVID-19. During this time of isolation, people have turned to the arts and creativity more than ever to maintain their mental health, whether that means watching an online performance, inventing games with their children or baking bread.
The COVID crisis has deeply affected the arts and culture sector, who were among the first to shut down and will be the last to open up. Our impact survey shows the devastating financial impact on both large and small organizations as well as individual artists, who have been hit the hardest. Some organizations will not survive. We are particularly worried about Indigenous, black, artists of colour and those living with disabilities.
We know that this government believes in the value of the arts, both socially and economically. Over the past three years, you have increased funding to the B.C. Arts Council by $10 million. It has been that money that has enabled the B.C. Arts Council to respond to the clients with relief funding at this time of COVID. It has also meant that more artists and more organizations are able to access government funding to create work that benefits their communities.
So why support the arts? Well, because they contribute to the well-being of society, because they prioritize inclusion and build resilient communities and because they serve people in their own communities. Like other front-line workers during COVID, artists need to earn a living wage. The creative sector employs over 98,000 people. In other words, we create jobs and stimulate the economy by providing other jobs, especially in hospitality and tourism.
We ask you to continue to empower the B.C. Arts Council so that they can invest in Indigenous arts and culture, in equity, diversity and access, in sustainability and creative development and in regional arts and community arts. This is the most direct and effective way to ensure that the resources can reach and support individual artists and arts organizations to serve their communities.
We are asking that the government honour their commitment to double the budget of the B.C. Arts Council to $48 million. This will enable stability and address the funding inequities of the IBPOC artists. Invest in the arts so that a respectful, inclusive and equitable society can take root and flourish in this time of transformation.
We ask that you recognize the arts in your $1.5 billion action plan for recovery by filling the gaps left by the federal government so that arts and cultural organizations can survive this pandemic.
We ask that you extend the B.C. book publishing tax credit, which ensures B.C. publishers can keep sharing B.C. stories.
We ask you that offer tax incentives for individual and corporate philanthropic support of the arts.
We also ask that you communicate to the public the important role the arts have played in maintaining people’s mental health during the pandemic.
Finally, we ask that you offer tax breaks for patrons to reengage in cultural activities and products — to encourage them to buy books and attend concerts and theatres and movies and museums and trips to national parks.
Although we know that the arts won’t be the first priority for this government, we ask you to think long term about the need for stability in our sector. COVID has proven how vulnerable we are to disruption. It has also shown how essential the arts and creativity are to peoples’ lives.
I ask you to invest in the future and to invest in creativity, critical thinking, innovation and leadership. Investing in the arts is investing in all of those things.
Thank you so much for your time.
B. D’Eith (Chair): Thank you very much, Brenda.
Next up we have Margaret Chrumka from the Kamloops Art Gallery.
Please go ahead, Margaret.
KAMLOOPS ART GALLERY
M. Chrumka: Chair D’Eith and members of the Standing Committee on Finance, I’m speaking to you today from Kamloops, the traditional unceded lands of Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc and Secwépemc’ulucw, the traditional territory of the Secwépemc people.
As you mentioned, my name is Margaret Chrumka. I am the executive director of the Kamloops Art Gallery. I acknowledge here the gallery board of trustees, staff, volunteers, supporters and all our visitors, who contribute to the cultural vibrancy of our community.
The gallery fosters community engagement with art through exhibitions, programs and our collection of art. We see 35,000 visitors annually, mount and present up to 12 exhibitions a year through four seasonal exhibition cycles and provide a range of programs, including tours, talks, slams, hands-on workshops and camps for people of all ages. We also maintain a 3,000-plus collection of artwork that represents our exhibition history and the works of excellence created by artists in British Columbia and Canada. We believe passionately in the power of art to help people to imagine and create a better world.
Up until March 16, the arts were, I would say, thriving in Kamloops. I acknowledge and thank you for the increase to the B.C. Arts Council budget in 2018 and 2019, which translated into an 18 percent increase in 2018 for the gallery and 10 percent in 2019. This added support, and your and the B.C. Arts Council’s recognition of our efforts, is greatly appreciated. We operate on $1.1 million to $1.3 million a year and are anticipating a $300,000 deficit as a result of COVID.
As reported in our 2019 annual report, we at the Kamloops Art Gallery saw a 9 percent increase in engagement at our exhibition opening receptions, a 9 percent increase in annual memberships, a 22 percent increase in individual donations and, most significantly, a 53 percent increase in participation through our school programs. As a result of the increased support from the B.C. Arts Council, we were able to grow this program, and the investment realized success. For the first two and a half months of 2020, we were on the same growth trajectory.
We ended 2019 with an exhibition from the Morris and Helen Belkin Gallery at UBC — Hexsa’a̱m: To Be Here Always, an exhibition featuring the work of Indigenous professional and emerging artists, responding to local issues through art. This exhibition worked to create a space for dialogue and conversation around land and water rights and has forged relationships and shared understanding locally.
By connecting us, art and culture foster empathy and an understanding of the broader human condition beyond our own. In light of the recent protests sparked by the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, the need for galleries and art institutions to continue to provide this space and opportunity is amplified yet again.
Today I call upon the B.C. government to continue in your commitment to double the B.C. Arts Council budget over four years and to increase resiliency support as we work to remain connected with our now smaller audiences face to face and our much larger audiences on line, with a reduced opportunity to receive admission fees, program fees, gallery store sales, facility rentals and revenue through large-group fundraisers.
I’ll end by sharing. You may be aware, as many have mentioned — the speakers just before me — that the Kamloops Centre for the Arts Society was formed this time last year to realize a much-needed centre for the arts in Kamloops to serve the region. This centre would provide critically needed art collection storage space for the Kamloops Art Gallery, works of art that represent our cultural heritage and maturity as a province. The centre would also provide performance and rehearsal space for the KSO and Western Canada Theatre. Along with Daniel Mills and Evan Klassen, I too am one of 12 community leaders on this board.
Before COVID, we were days away from a city referendum, allowing the city to borrow up to $22 million in support of this $70 million project. We had the support of mayor and council, the Thompson-Nicola regional district board of directors and 5,000 paid members in the lead-up to this referendum. A class D estimate, along with a business case, was also in place. This is a critically needed project for Kamloops, one where we will be looking for provincial support in the future.
Thank you very much for the work you do in support of the social and economic health of our province. I greatly appreciate the time you have offered me here today.
B. D’Eith (Chair): Thanks, Margaret, and thanks to all the presenters. Questions from members?
I have a question for Brenda. It’s in regard to the B.C. Arts Council funding and the COVID-19 response. I’m just wondering if you’ve had a chance to hear back from any members about B.C. Arts Council’s response to helping non-profits. I’d love to hear your feedback on that.
B. Leadlay: Absolutely. Well, obviously, cash flow has been the biggest challenge for most arts and cultural organizations. When the B.C. Arts Council advanced us our 2021 grants money — they’ve advanced half of it; they’re about to advance the next half — that’s going to make a very large difference.
They’ve also been able to provide some…. What do you call it? I keep getting confused between recovery and relief. They’ve provided relief funding to all of their operating clients and some of their project clients as well, which has also really helped to cover some of our losses in earned revenues and fundraising. I don’t think, without the increase that you guys gave to the B.C. Arts Council in the last few years, that they would have been able to do that.
Of course, that raises the question of where we’re going to be in 2021, when we need that money that we’ve already used this year to cover losses and how we will survive 2021 and into 2022. There’s a fear, of course, that venues won’t be open until there’s a cure for the virus.
B. D’Eith (Chair): Thanks very much, Brenda.
M. Dean: Thank you so much for your presentations and for all of the culture and pleasure that you and the people who you represent provide in different communities.
I’m interested in how you work with Indigenous communities as government provides some funding and support for your agencies. Some of the models are very white, western, colonial kinds of methods of performance, like a symphony and a theatre. How are partnerships built? How does this investment also benefit revitalization, protection and appreciation of Indigenous arts and culture as well?
B. D’Eith (Chair): I think that’s to everybody, but Evan, go ahead.
E. Klassen: Thanks, Mitzi, for the question. I think in this day and age, partnership is the approach that needs to be taken when working with our Indigenous communities. Western Canada Theatre has a long history of working with Indigenous playwrights and Indigenous artists to bring their work forward and support their work. I think it’s an essential component of the role that arts and culture play in reflecting that back to our society.
As far as efforts go currently, we were, pre-COVID, on the cusp of launching an Indigenous component to our theatre school. We operate a theatre school, training children and youth of all ages. We were about to launch a program — in partnership with the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc and some teachers over at their school — to actually bring that education into an Indigenous culture and have it actually fully integrated as part of their programming over there.
Unfortunately, that’s another one of those programs that, due to COVID, has been delayed. I don’t think it’s off the table, but it’s something that will be happening in the future. It’s certainly something that’s top of mind for James and me as we set our programming and goals for the organization.
B. Leadlay: I would also just like to add to that that our sector has been very much engaged with the Indigenous communities around the province. We recognize that as a priority for us. At the B.C. alliance, we have been working on decolonization of not only our organization but also our board and our staff procedures.
Last year we worked with an Indigenous curator who designed our annual festival. We’ve been involved with Indigenous communities, helping with the Walk for Reconciliation, helping with telling the stories of survivors of residential schools, and trying to give people access to local Indigenous Elders around the Lower Mainland. We are very committed and determined to bring Indigenous knowledge and the wisdom of the Elders into our programs and into our processes — really, in our structures.
B. D’Eith (Chair): Thanks, Brenda. Did anyone else…?
D. Mills: Symphonies across the country are definitely facing this, and we’re no exception. Of course, orchestral music, in essence, is traditionally rooted in Western European tradition. Therefore, there is an inherent challenge to that. The direction the Kamloops Symphony has taken right now is that we are in the process of establishing a committee on the government side to figure out what ways we can establish partnerships that would be meaningful both to our original art form and to ways of integrating Indigenous art forms here.
The last concert that we were able to put on before we had to cancel the rest of the season did feature a premiere of a work with a Shuswap artist, where she brought her own original song and then, with a composer, wrote a piece around that. She performed that with our orchestra to start off that concert.
That was one of a few steps we’ve taken to try and find meaningful ways to combine what we know as classical music with the more traditional and, ideally, reach further audiences and go from there. It’s definitely a work in progress. It’s something that we’re very aware of and are working towards.
B. D’Eith (Chair): Thanks, Daniel. Margaret, did you want to comment on that?
M. Chrumka: Yeah. I mentioned Hexsa’a̱m, which was here October to December last year. That was an initiative out of the Belkin gallery at UBC and did involve work that was done in Kingcome Inlet with artists in that area. In bringing it here, we were very sensitive to the fact that the land rights and water rights in Kingcome Inlet are very different from what’s happening in Kamloops. So we did involve members of the Neskonlith and Secwépemc Nations in realizing the exhibition here.
It was an extremely powerful three months for us, with many open-door and closed-door panel discussions with Elders from the different nations in our territory and the many artists that work within our region. We have a long history of working with Indigenous artists, curators and community partners in realizing exhibitions here. It’s not something that has been impacted by COVID. It’s just something that we continue to do in all our programming.
B. D’Eith (Chair): Thanks, Margaret.
R. Leonard: I don’t know if Nicholas is on or not — he’s apparently had his sound cut out — but I wanted to relay that he used to work with Kamloops Symphony orchestra, playing cello. He often serenades us with his performances, and he’s done some live performances.
That’s something that I’m interested in — seeing, if this is a continuing situation where we’re living in a very virtual world, if it’s even possible. I had some people try to sing “Happy Birthday” to me this past weekend. With the sound delays and everything, it was…. I’ll say it was interesting.
You know, it’s getting kind of late for this question. But how are you able to embrace this virtual world and try and lift up the arts through the virtual platform?
B. D’Eith (Chair): All right. Who wants to step into that one? Let’s go.
M. Chrumka: We’re a little fortunate. The visual arts are a little more fortunate, obviously, than the performing arts. One of the efforts that we’re focusing on…. We’re really focusing far into the future, because we know we need to start planning now for what’s going to be a year ahead of us.
In October, every two years, we do a new media event outside, in unexpected places throughout downtown Kamloops, of video projections. If you’ve ever been to Toronto and Montreal, it’s a Nuit Blanche version. It’s a very affordable way to support artists. You receive their artwork on a USB stick. The cost is in the equipment and the projections and the security around all that.
In Kamloops, we’ll see 22,000 people out for these nine days to see what we call Luminocity. That’s being offered again in downtown Kamloops. We’re conscious of: how can we involve Western Canada Theatre and the symphony in this event that’s going to bring so many people together in a safe environment, be it outdoors and at night?
I think it’s the strength of the three of us that have, year after year, spoken to this committee as a group. We continue to support each other and find ways that we can work together to be strong in the arts together here.
B. Leadlay: We started a program in 2018 with the support of the Canada Council digital fund called Digital Ladders. We were able to offer digital training by bringing digital technologists from, really, all over Canada and some from the United States to work with arts organizations and individual artists here. We’ve just had that program renewed for a second year, so we’re about to launch that in July. It’s called Digital Ladders 2. It will all go on line. It has been adjusted and redesigned to accommodate virtual reality.
We’re also going to be doing a project called the Artist Brigade, artists for climate action. We’ll be doing that partially on line and partially on sites that have been affected by the climate crisis.
Our sector, I think, has done a remarkable job of pivoting. Much of it has been thanks to the digital moneys offered by the Canada Council for the Arts.
B. D’Eith (Chair): Last comment, Evan. Then we’ve got to break, unfortunately. Please go ahead.
E. Klassen: I would echo some of those comments as well — that there are some opportunities that can be seized. For instance, we had a performance that was in rehearsal at the start of this pandemic that we were able to pivot into a live stream and make a really unique experience.
However, as performing arts and theatre organizations, we’re particularly challenged by moving things digitally. Our business model relies on large numbers of people assembling for performances. Now, some of that….
Obviously, there are some opportunities. You know, as we look at recovery, all options are on the table: moving to small-scale events, moving to events that have augmented live-stream components. There are lots of things on the table. But at the core, as a regional theatre, moving digitally is not our core business model. It certainly will be a factor, but it definitely poses challenges as well.
B. D’Eith (Chair): Great.
Sorry, Daniel. We’ve got to move on, unfortunately.
Thank you so much. I just wanted to say, on behalf of the committee as well, that we certainly all appreciate everything that you’ve done in terms of pivoting during a very, very difficult time to address the pandemic — all the work that you’re doing and the creativity and resilience that you and your members are showing. It’s quite remarkable, actually. It’s a testament to how strong the arts and culture community is in British Columbia. So thank you for everything you’re doing.
With that, I will take a short recess. We’ll be back at 10:30. Thank you very much, everyone.
The committee recessed from 10:25 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.
[B. D’Eith in the chair.]
B. D’Eith (Chair): We are still continuing with arts and culture.
First up we have Tarun Nayar from 5X Festival.
Budget Consultation Presentations
Panel 3 – Arts and Culture
T. Nayar: Thank you so much for having me. My name is Tarun Nayar. I am really honoured to be speaking with you today, and I appreciate the chance to speak.
I wanted to start off by saying that black and Indigenous lives matter. I wanted to thank you for all of the work that you are doing in currently supporting anti-racist initiatives.
I founded and toured the world with a made-in-East-Vancouver band called Delhi 2 Dublin. I now run the largest South Asian youth event in Canada, called 5X Festival, and I also ran a record label devoted to breaking homegrown South Asian talent called Snakes x Ladders. All three of these projects have been funded by Amplify B.C.
Everyone knows that we make stars here in Canada. Our secret formula is support of the music industry. We have our Carly Rae Jepsens, and we have our Michael Bublés. We also have our Jazzy Bs. One of the largest Punjabi singers of all time is actually a proud product of Surrey.
Then, on the underground, we have these wonderful stories like bbno$ and MANILA GREY, who some of you may not have heard of, but they’re doing literally tens of millions of plays on Spotify. They are very much a product of the Vancouver that is today. I think we’re just learning who we are here in British Columbia musically.
You know, we got caught up for a while in…. Not caught up, but we had our sort of Sarah McLachlan and Bryan Adams days. Now, with shifting demographics — with 51 percent of Vancouver as BIPOC — we’re also seeing success stories in terms of J-pop, Cantopop, Punjabi music and electronic music. All of these things were at the fringes but, through the democratization of music, have now moved to the fore.
When this is paired with government support, what we get is a super-powered cultural incubator for the next generation, rich and diverse, in which everyone — all races, religions, sexualities, genders — can find a place. But this culture-building does not happen overnight. It takes some time to build, and then it will give back forever.
This is forward-thinking antiracism. This is not the antiracism of panels and think tanks. This is antiracism on the ground, through the creation of culture with antiracism baked into it. Through creative support of diverse communities, now, more than ever, this is of essence. I’m ridiculously excited about what the future brings.
What I’m advocating for is ongoing permanent support, through Amplify B.C., fixed in the budget at $7.5 million a year. As you know, there is no other fund of this nature. This is the only provincial support for the private music sector. We don’t have tax credits in our industry. You know, I’m a feel-good type of person, but there’s also an important economic aspect to this argument. Music is not only a social and cultural asset but also a significant employer and economic contributor to the province.
To address the elephant in the room, COVID happened. The live music sector was hit first, and it was hit hardest, and it will be the last to come back. My own festival was expecting $250K in revenue between May and June, which did not happen. That has enormous downstream effects, as well, on contractors, on artists, on fans.
So I wanted to deeply thank you again for your support of the year 3 Amplify B.C. renewal. It’s actually impossible to overstate how important this is. This is literally lifeblood into our industry. I really wanted to deeply thank you for that and also encourage you strongly to permanently support this really important fund.
That’s all I have for you today. Thanks for listening.
B. D’Eith (Chair): Thank you very much.
Next up we have Stephanie Fischer from the Capitol Theatre Restoration Society.
Stephanie, please go ahead.
CAPITOL THEATRE RESTORATION SOCIETY
S. Fischer: Good morning. My name is Stephanie Fischer. I’m the executive director of a 400-seat theatre in Nelson, B.C.
I have been involved in the arts for many years. I’m a member of the culture development committee for the city of Nelson and the vice-chair of the Columbia-Kootenay Cultural Alliance. I was named presenter of the year by the B.C. Touring Council and received the B.C. Medal of Good Citizenship in 2019.
I would like to acknowledge that I work and live on the traditional unceded territory of the Sinixt Arrow Lakes people and Yaqan Nukiy–Lower Kootenay Band peoples.
I would like to speak to the importance of the arts and culture sector and the economic and social recovery across all sectors. We know that the arts play an important role in the well-being of citizens. The more cultural activities people report attending, the better is their self-reported health, according to a study by Hill Strategies in 2018.
The arts sector is vast in size, scope and complexity and makes a significant and meaningful impact on the economy and lives of people across British Columbia. Eighty-five percent of people aged 15 and older were involved in either participating or enjoying arts presentations in 2016.
Now COVID-19 has been, and continues to be, a perfect storm that has impacted all non-profits, no matter the size, subsector or location. The economic recovery of our province, I believe, depends on the non-profit sector being able to continue balancing the space between governments and the private sector to address unmet community needs and interests. To that end, it’s critical that the government continues to support the sector well into 2021 to overcome the financial strain COVID has caused. Arts and culture are critical to the recovery.
Theatre venues, especially, are designed to uplift the voices of diverse communities and diverse peoples. As arts presenters, we showcase and celebrate the lives of all British Columbians, and without the arts venues, we are easily able to slide into assumptions about our homogeneity.
We really have to rise to the challenge, and we can do it, but we cannot do it on our own.
In order to provide continuity and resilience for the sector, we are going to need long-term and broad financial support, such as arts funding moving away from almost exclusively funding projects towards a mix of more tier, operation and core funding to improve organization stability and mixing in project funding — and the B.C. government supporting municipalities to ensure that they have funding to support the maintenance of arts infrastructure such as live performing arts venues, galleries and museums, even if they’re not housed in municipal facilities.
Our last suggestion is that B.C. Gaming is considering a program for arts venues for core funding, in addition to the community gaming grants for programs.
In closing, I would like to thank the province for their quick and well-thought-out response in dealing with the current pandemic.
B. D’Eith (Chair): Thank you very much.
Next up we have Galen Olstead from Key City Theatre.
KEY CITY THEATRE
G. Olstead: Thank you so much for the opportunity to present to the Standing Committee on Finance today.
My name is Galen Olstead. I’m the managing director at the 600-seat Key City Theatre in Cranbrook. I’m a board member on the British Columbia Touring Council and a director on the Columbia-Kootenay Cultural Alliance.
I’d like to recognize that I work and live in the traditional territories of the Ktunaxa people. I also wish to echo that black and Indigenous lives matter and to thank the province for its efforts in working towards diversity and equity in our culture.
The theatre I work for is part of a network of venues across the province and across the country that underpins the live performance industry. Rural venues like mine serve as central community hubs that are catalysts for community arts and emerging artists. This network often provides the only outlet for professional culture in our respective regions. Professional artists and companies depend on this network and on presenters like myself to create tours for their work. To put it simply, if there are no venues and no presenters, there is no functional live performance.
It’s obvious that the live performance industry has been particularly hard hit by the pandemic, and the outlook for the future looks somewhat bleak, as we consider a prolonged period of time where groups of more than 50 cannot gather. Ultimately, this means that the financial viability of this network of venues and presenters is now in doubt.
Many venue operators are facing the challenge of what to do next and how to plan for the future. We’re asking ourselves: should we continue to keep staff employed and for how long, or should we close down operations? What keeps me up at night, besides the fear of my own venue closing, is what the impact of a sectorwide closure of these facilities will mean to the performing arts sector for our province.
British Columbia has one of the greatest cultural infrastructures in the world, but I believe that the foundations that we’ve built over generations will be severely damaged or lost if support is not provided. I believe that the impact of widespread or even partial closure will be most felt in rural communities, so in order to provide continuity and resilience for the sector, we’re going to need some short-term but broad financial supports.
To sum those up, we’re going to need to maintain existing core funding. We’re going to need to encourage municipalities to maintain funding for arts infrastructure. We need the continuation of a wage subsidy, and we need consultation with our sector to identify gaps that are not covered by those other means — things like fixed overhead or wages that are not already covered.
I thank you for your time today and for your consideration, and I greatly thank you for all the efforts to make our communities safe and continue to remain vibrant.
B. D’Eith (Chair): Thank you very much, Galen.
Next up we have Nitha Karanja from the Union of British Columbia Performers, UBCP and ACTRA.
Please go ahead.
UNION OF B.C. PERFORMERS
N. Karanja: I would like to echo the words of my predecessors, acknowledging that I’m presenting to you today from the unceded ancestral and occupied traditional lands of the Musqueam, Tsleil-Waututh and Squamish Nations of the Coast Salish peoples.
My name is Nitha Karanja, and I’m honoured to represent UBCP-ACTRA here, and I thank you all for the opportunity. The Union of B.C. Performers proposes a labour-based film and television tax credit that will incentivize the hiring of Indigenous people, women, racialized people and people with disabilities in the B.C. film and television industry.
UBCP-ACTRA is an autonomous branch of the Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists, which is the national organization of professional performers working in English-language-recorded media in Canada. UBCP-ACTRA represents the interests of about 7,300 members across B.C. Our union is a vocal advocate for the arts and the right of Canadians to have opportunities to tell and see our own stories.
I would like to applaud the work of this government and the Liberal and Green Party caucuses in prioritizing and valuing equity and inclusion. I would like to draw specific attention to the current government’s mandate, which is to — and I’m quoting from the ministerial mandate letters — “create good-paying jobs in every corner of the province, and ensure that people from every background have the opportunity to reach their full potential.”
Now, I would like to tell you a little bit about our membership and why this work is so critical to us. Our membership is comprised of a rich diversity of B.C.’s talent. We are women. We are racialized. We are Indigenous. We are people with disabilities. Yet many of our members have few opportunities to work in the film and television industry, because it is overwhelmingly homogenous and does not reflect the abounding diversity of the society that we live in.
As onscreen workers, we performers have a pivotal role to play in reflecting back a vision of society to our viewers that celebrates our diversity and challenges the damaging stereotypes and narratives that act as instruments of systemic racism and xenophobia. “If you see it, you can be it.” This is the power and significance of diversity in our motion picture industry.
And we, like all British Columbians, are navigating unusual and unsettling times. We are acutely aware that Indigenous people, women, racialized people and people with disabilities are disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and in the resulting economic downturn. These people are the first to lose jobs when work shuts down and the last to be called back when it starts up again. These people are often primary caregivers for immediate and extended family, and as such are more affected and infected by this novel virus.
So as we navigate the economic restart of our province and the motion picture industry, it is critical that we find ways to address the economic exclusion of equity-seeking groups.
Similarly, around the world and here in B.C., the Black Lives Matter movement has sparked conversations around race, inclusion and xenophobia. Thousands of British Columbians, like my colleagues on the panel here today, are calling on government to make real change toward reconciliation and to break down the systemic barriers that shackle equity-seeking groups.
Many studies and an abundance of evidence point to a lack of representation of equity-seeking groups in our media. We have seen gaps in the film and television industry before, and they have been successfully addressed through the B.C. tax credit system.
For example, the digital animation or visual effects tax credit, called DAVE, and the regional tax credit have succeeded in addressing shortfalls in post-production work and in growing productions outside of the Lower Mainland respectfully. In the 2018-2019 fiscal year, the DAVE tax credit was leveraged by 96 percent of the certifications that were approved by Creative B.C. that year. Meanwhile, over a third of certifications accessed the regional tax credit. So these two tax programs are a resounding success.
We believe that the equity film incentive can do the same for underrepresented workers. We believe that at this critical moment in history, where the entire world is having conversations about racism and xenophobia, B.C. can set itself apart as a safe and equitable motion picture destination that will attract many companies and businesses that are looking to invest in diversity and create productions that are more inclusive. Now is the time.
On behalf of our 7,300 members, many of whom are Indigenous, women, racialized and people with disabilities, I am very pleased to present to you today and thank you for this opportunity. I look forward to supporting this government and the various caucuses to realize our shared values and create opportunities for all in the film and television industry.
B. D’Eith (Chair): Thank you very much, Nitha.
Questions from members?
N. Simons: I just want to thank all of you for the work you do for British Columbians. I think you have allies on this committee who have worked in the performing arts and others who enjoy performing arts, and I think highly of the importance of arts [audio interrupted].
B. D’Eith (Chair): You’re cutting out, Nick. Nick, why don’t you write down your question in the chat, and I’ll read it. Okay?
M. Dean: Thank you to you all for your presentations today, and thank you for the emphasis on diversity and inclusion. It’s something we’ve talked about with other representatives from your sector. So I’m just interested in how much collaboration there is across the sector to make sure that there’s that shared commitment and sharing of ways of being successful to making sure there’s more diversity and inclusion.
B. D’Eith (Chair): Who would like to answer that?
Nitha, go ahead.
N. Karanja: Thank you for that question, MLA Dean. Yes, we have found, especially in recent years, that across our industry there is absolutely a broad base of support for strategies around increasing representation, providing more opportunities for underrepresented groups and breaking down systemic barriers to entry.
We work alongside other labour unions, but we also work alongside a variety of different stakeholders. We work alongside studios, producers, employers. This is definitely, I think, across the sector.
We have found that there’s a lot of support for this work and a real interest in understanding how we can best address these issues, and I believe that there are lots of very important ways to address these issues. Of course, from our perspective, we believe that the film industry has seen a lot of success by leveraging our tax credit system. We believe that this is a way that our leadership, this government, can ensure that an investment in diversity and inclusion will end up in the pockets of the workers, because this is a labour-based tax credit.
To answer your question, I would say that there’s a lot of support across the board, and we’re really excited to work with you and other stakeholders on this work.
B. D’Eith (Chair): Would any of the other panellists like to weigh in on that one? Okay.
I just wanted to say that Nicholas Simons was basically saying that he apologized that he couldn’t have his video on because of his Internet connection and that he wanted to thank you all for everything that you’re doing.
R. Leonard: Thank you all for your presentation. I wanted to especially acknowledge the enthusiasm that we heard from 5X Festival, Tarun. I really appreciate the direction that you are going in.
It’s one of the things I’ve been saying. This virtual world is great, but it’s a little bit two-dimensional. If we’re going to actually thrive in this environment, we’re going to need those creative minds and talents to bring us to another level. I really, really appreciate that enthusiasm and the framework that all of you have put to increasing our diversity and inclusion, and in really driving home a culture that is intolerant of racism. So I thank you very, very much.
T. Nayar: Bob, do you mind if I quickly respond?
Thank you, MLA Leonard. I also wanted to say that I think a lot of us that are sort of duking it out in the trenches of the arts and culture industry came to this from a creative background. I think that makes us quite resilient to these radical changes, because we’ve been dealing with radical changes for our whole lives, adjusting to very uncertain territories and uncertain incomes. So I think we’re resilient, and I think that that has led to some really interesting solutions.
Until we get to when we can actually gather again in person, I think your support of initiatives that look at novel ways that we can relate to each other and spread arts and culture at this time is also really appreciated across the board. The interesting thing about some digital solutions — I’m not the biggest fan of virtual stuff either — is that they can break down systemic barriers in ways that are not possible when you’re dealing with a more fixed infrastructure. Again, thank you for your support.
B. D’Eith (Chair): Wonderful. I’ve got a question for Nitha, just in regard to the structure of what you’re proposing with tax credits. Are you talking about some sort of increased level of bonus percentage for certain hires? What’s the best way, do you feel, to approach this?
N. Karanja: Yes, we think that that model would be very workable — what you’re suggesting — which would be kind of like a bonus. So if you were to meet certain benchmarks that would be laid out, based on your hiring of these equity-seeking groups that we’ve laid out, then you would qualify for that additional tax credit bonus. We’ve seen that model in other jurisdictions, and we think that it is a viable one.
There are other structures that I think could achieve the same, whether it’s not a threshold but a point system — something like this. But I think that what you’ve laid out is, essentially, what we were thinking of.
B. D’Eith (Chair): Great. Tarun, just in regard to Amplify B.C., you’re calling for it to be in the budget because it’s year to year. It has been year to year, and this year it has pivoted to be more flexible and deal with some of the challenges of COVID.
Going into 2021, though, how should that be approached for the long-term recovery of the music industry? One of the things I heard during my consultations were the words “flexibility,” “consistency” and just that ability to plan. I’m wondering what your thoughts are on that.
T. Nayar: Thank you so much, Bob. I appreciate that question. As you know, everyone’s dealing with the same thing at the moment. I think the music industry was hit really, really hard, really quickly. We went from a situation where we were planning a 15,000-person party in Surrey to just not doing anything. Now we’re doing a bunch of Instagram Lives and app-based stuff.
For the future, because we don’t know what the future looks like, I think flexibility is key. Having some way for us to know that the province has our backs going forward and that this funding won’t expire and then we all have to find new jobs and have to stop working in arts and culture — I think that certainty would be extremely appreciated.
I know that so many of my friends are out of work at the moment, whether they’re contractors or artists or whatever they are. I think that flexibility and building it into the budget for at least the next two to three years until we see a recovery, because the industry has just been absolutely devastated, as you probably know.
B. D’Eith (Chair): Great. Thank you very much.
Any other questions from members? Okay.
Well, seeing none, I want to take a moment on behalf of the committee to thank all of you for your presentations and, of course, your passion for arts and culture and the creative industries and, also, all the work that you’ve done during the pandemic. I know it’s been difficult for everybody. In particular, arts and culture and music have been just hit so hard by all of this, and just to see the creativity and the resilience is very inspiring. So thank you very much, everyone, for the work you’re doing.
With that, if we could have a short recess until 11:10. Thanks, everybody.
The committee recessed from 10:57 a.m. to 11:10 a.m.
[B. D’Eith in the chair.]
B. D’Eith (Chair): Next up we have a panel on libraries.
First up we have Kevin Millsip from B.C. Public Library Partners.
Kevin, please go ahead.
Budget Consultation Presentations
Panel 4 – Libraries
B.C. PUBLIC LIBRARY PARTNERS
K. Millsip: Thanks very much for the opportunity to present. My name is Kevin Millsip, and I’m presenting this morning as the co-chair of the B.C. public libraries.
I’m coming to you from the territories of the Musqueam, Tsleil-Waututh and Squamish Nations.
The Public Library Partners. We are made up of four organizations, and collectively, we work together to advocate on behalf of libraries in B.C. First of all, I want to thank the provincial government for the recent one-time $3 million investment in digital infrastructure for public libraries. You have probably seen the announcement of the launch of the online Summer Reading Club, evidence that this money has already been put to good use. You’ll see more news and information on how those funds are being invested over the next weeks and months.
I just wanted to say very quickly that this next provincial budget is, we feel, the time for greater public investment in all aspects of the public realm, public services and public infrastructure, including not-for-profits. We’re going to need a lot more investment in all of these areas to be able to support a just economic and social recovery.
The Public Library Partners have two asks. We’re asking for a longer-term commitment from the provincial government to increase the annual operating grant that goes from the government to public libraries each year from $14 million a year to $21 million a year. Now, as you all know, that grant has been at $14 million for over ten years, which just means that with a frozen budget over time, it’s harder and harder to do more with what is essentially less. We’re asking for a commitment over time to lift that amount up.
In terms of this budget cycle, we are asking for another one-time investment of $3 million. That would be used for education, training and professional development. Now, we would be using these funds both internally and externally. I’ll explain.
Internally, the funds would go to work with people working in libraries, as well as the volunteer trustees who are on all of the boards of governance of libraries across the province, to provide education in a number of areas. This would include work on closing the digital divide, providing universal broadband access, designing and delivering online education and engagement opportunities, work on decolonization and reconciliation, work on anti-racism and more.
In terms of the externally focused work, that would be work done with users of libraries, which is the majority of folks in the province. Now, these funds would go towards education and training in areas like mental health and well-being, employment engagement, skills and development training for young people, education on how to identify credible information sources, support for newcomers, support for new parents. There’s an exhaustive list. I won’t work all the way through it, but you get the picture.
We know that a lot of our community-building and community-focused work is going to be happening on line for the next period of time. We want to raise our collective capacity to do that well.
Just very quickly, to summarize: if we really want to come out of this in a way where we can take better care of one another and with a more just and equitable society, then we’re going to need more investments in all aspects of the public realm, and libraries are a key component of the tapestry of public infrastructure that we know people are going to rely on ever more as we come out of this pandemic.
To paraphrase the words of Tiff Macklem, the new governor of the Bank of Canada, money is literally cheap right now, and it’s going to be for some time. We’re encouraging you to use the money for good, and public libraries are a great example of a good investment.
Thanks for your time. I’ll pause there.
B. D’Eith (Chair): Thank you very much, Kevin.
Next up we have Annette DeFaveri with the B.C. Library Association.
Please go ahead, Annette. Thank you.
B.C. LIBRARY ASSOCIATION
A. DeFaveri: My name is Annette DeFaveri.
I’m speaking with you this morning from the unceded territories of the Coast Salish peoples, including the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh Nations.
I’m presenting this morning on behalf of the B.C. Library Association. The B.C. Library Association represents library staff from across the province.
We represent unionized staff, non-unionized staff, staff from large libraries, staff from small libraries. We represent staff from public, academic and special libraries. The association also represents B.C. libraries as institutions. These range from our largest university libraries to our small, local public libraries.
We also are privileged to represent many library stakeholders, and these include publishers, literacy organizations and library vendors. The B.C. Library Association was founded over 100 years ago and has had a steady, progressive and relevant role to play as an essential part of the infrastructure of B.C.’s library environment.
The request from the B.C. Library Association to those of you on the select standing committee is a simple one. Please invest in libraries. As you’ve just heard Kevin say, there hasn’t been an increase to provincial funding in ten years. But think about the seismic changes that we have experienced in the past decade.
Social media is now a key pathway for our personal communication and for all levels of news acquisition. Think about legalizing marijuana. Think about same-sex marriage. Consider Uber, Amazon, Google. Think about our reliance and use of cell phones. Think about how our behaviour has changed in airports. Think about how we use apps. Think about our appreciation of blogs and podcasts. Think about celebrity chefs, foodies and going green.
These things and so much more all directly intersect with libraries, and they intersect with libraries, because libraries support, inform and help manage the changes in society that our community members experience.
Libraries have never been in the background. We are always in the foreground when our communities experience social, economic, philosophical and cultural change. Libraries are here when times are good, and we are here when times are hard.
We have been successful without an increase in provincial investment largely because of the commitment to serve our communities from our library leaders and from each individual library worker. Look, no one decides to go into library work because they’re looking for fame and fortune. We go into library work because we are committed to serving our communities.
I ask that this committee specifically considers recommending that the provincial government invest in the professional development and mental wellness of those people working in libraries. Library associations, libraries specifically and all of those groups that support libraries have the ability to provide provincewide training and provincewide support for our library members and for our community members. Please help us do that.
Finally, let me ask you all to imagine one thing that I’m pretty sure no one has asked you to imagine today. I ask you to imagine that I am Jimmy Stewart in the movie It’s A Wonderful Life. Imagine that I have the ability to show you what the future will look like if we fail to invest in libraries today. This is not a future I think we want to face.
Instead, please encourage investment in libraries so they can continue to build strong and healthy communities. Thank you for hearing me, and thank you for your time.
B. D’Eith (Chair): Thank you very much, Annette. We appreciate that.
Next up we have Elizabeth Tracy, Association of B.C. Public Library Directors.
Please go ahead, Elizabeth.
ASSOCIATION OF B.C.
PUBLIC LIBRARY DIRECTORS
E. Tracy: Hi. Thank you for having me. My name is Elizabeth Tracy, and I have the privilege of addressing you today from Whistler where I am grateful for the opportunity to live, work and play on the unceded territory of the Squamish and Líl̓wat Nations.
I’m here today representing the Association of B.C. Public Library Directors, a membership organization representing and supporting and advocating for B.C.’s library directors. I appreciate the opportunity to be here today in collaboration with the B.C. trustees association, the B.C. Library Association and the B.C. Libraries Co-op. Offering more than books, libraries are some of the most used social infrastructures in our community.
We are experts in filling critical societal gaps, whether it be newcomer services to welcome and ease integration experiences of new immigrants, tax assistance, Internet access, workforce technology skills development, support for new parents, summer reading clubs or connections to social and government services.
Libraries have built relations in their communities that position them to be trusted sources for information to the extent that other organizations and services increase their own visibility and improve their community connections by collaborating with libraries. During times of economic hardship, we know that the need for library services increases as people look for accessible ways to reinvent themselves, connect with their families or escape the pressures of everyday life.
We are grateful to work with a government committed to making life more affordable, improving services that people need and creating a sustainable economy. Through the B.C. Library Partners work with Minister Fleming and the Ministry of Education, we appreciate the connections that have been made between the work of libraries and this current government.
We ask you to think about the value that is derived from the provincial government’s contribution of $14 million to B.C.’s public libraries and how, while the cost of doing business has increased since 2010, libraries have continued to manage to do more with less.
With difficult economic times ahead, libraries across the province are preparing to emerge from the pandemic to meet greater social needs while reinventing the way we serve the public to keep our staff safe and communities healthy. This includes our predominantly female workforce, which has been hardest hit by the pandemic, and many of whom are juggling the care of young children and elders while working.
With this, we ask for your commitment of $21 million in 2021 so that we can improve our ability to meet the needs of individuals, families and communities across the province. Our members, along with their staff, are on the front lines of community issues like unemployment, racism, homelessness, learning loss, adult literacy, reconciliation and social isolation. They are doing everything they can to develop a skilled library workforce to manage the growing complexity in social needs and technology while still catering to people’s research, reading and literacy needs.
With all of this, they struggle to understand why the investment they make in individuals in their communities has not warranted a minimal inflationary increase since 2010, particularly when we know that for every dollar invested in public libraries, they deliver nearly three times the initial investment. This return on investment represents a savings to every British Columbian who uses this library service, and in return, makes their life more affordable.
On behalf of the Association of B.C. Public Library Directors and the B.C. Library Partners, I thank you for this opportunity to share what libraries are doing in their communities — actually, your communities — and thank you for your consideration and support of an inflationary increase in 2021.
B. D’Eith (Chair): Thank you very much, Elizabeth.
Next up we have Babs Kelly from the B.C. Library Trustees Association.
Please go ahead, Babs.
B.C. LIBRARY TRUSTEES ASSOCIATION
B. Kelly: Thank you and good morning. As you know, I’m Babs Kelly.
I’m working and living in Prince George on the traditional, unceded territory of the Lheidli T’enneh, where the two rivers meet.
I’m going to go a little bit off script for a moment here. I’ve noted that we’re all giving territorial acknowledgments, and what a wonderful cultural shift that has been throughout the B.C. government and throughout public libraries.
I just want to say, as I listen to those, how important they are. It gave me a moment to reflect on why it is that we do this. From my family, which is Kashechewan from northeastern Ontario, we speak of all of our friends and relations. I like to think that that’s what we’re doing this through these budget consultations. We’re thinking about the impact of this on all our friends and relations.
So thank you. Thank you for this cultural shift, to everybody, and the importance that it is.
Now I’ll get back to why I was asked to be here. I am here today representing the B.C. Library Trustees Association. Our mandate is to represent, connect and support the nearly 700 volunteer trustees across the province who, on behalf of their communities, govern B.C. public libraries.
I’m grateful to be here today with our sector partners, the B.C. Library Association, the Association of B.C. Public Library Directors and the B.C. Libraries Cooperative. We work together to represent the shared interests of our members and are known as the B.C. Public Library Partners. The provincial government and Minister Fleming are supporters of B.C. public libraries and have voiced their appreciation for what B.C. public libraries do to further the goals of the provincial government.
Across B.C., public libraries are the only public spaces that provide equitable access for all British Columbians to the tools, resources and expert staff for learning, exploring, creating and connecting with others and for furthering individual, family and community goals such as education, housing, jobs, reconciliation, social inclusion and anti-racism. Public libraries are there for the big discussions and learning that brings us together and fosters social well-being for everyone.
The role of public libraries is broadly recognized and appreciated. As such, the provincial government engages with us and builds shared goals and outcomes with us. We are part of what makes B.C. successful.
But since 2010, B.C. public libraries have been stuck at $14 million annually from the provincial government. That funding is spread thinly across the province through a variety of annual operating grants, support services and one-time grants. When inflation and increased services demands are factored, our sector is being left far behind by the provincial government. Thus our ask for $20 million in 2020, which was strongly supported by elected officials and community members in last year’s budget consultations. One year later, we’re still stuck in 2010, and now we’re asking for $21 million in 2021.
Our members of BCLTA, who volunteer to govern in accordance with the B.C. Library Act, are committed to their communities, to public libraries and to their legally binding fiduciary responsibilities. As they fulfil their governance duties, they are struggling to make sense as to why the provincial government has not yet resolved this funding issue, given the value that B.C. public libraries deliver to the provincial government and across the province.
As such, we are compelled, on their behalf, to call on the provincial government to address the stagnant funding of the past decade, to close the gap on the funding that has been lost through lack of increases and to make a commitment to supporting ongoing, reliable funding that is directed to the operations of public libraries and, at the very least, includes annual increases to account for inflation and the ongoing costs of delivering public library services throughout the province. Investing in B.C. public libraries is investing in B.C. communities.
On behalf of the B.C. Library Trustee Association board and members, I thank you for the time and energy that you are each putting into these public consultations and for listening to the concerns and needs of the nearly 700 volunteer trustees governing B.C.’s public libraries.
B. D’Eith (Chair): Well, thank you very much to all the presenters. I must say that I’d be lying if I didn’t say that when I think about people working in libraries, I don’t think about the sort of passion that you’ve displayed here. I really want to thank you for that. It’s clear how passionate you are about libraries, and I really appreciate that. It’s very refreshing and nice to hear all the presenters speak with so much passion. Thank you for that.
Before we get to questions from members, one thing I’ve noticed in my constituency is the number of people during the pandemic who haven’t been able to access Internet services because the libraries are closed. That’s a pretty big deal for people who…. You know, with so many applications for any kinds of services on line now, a lot of people are having a hard time accessing things that they would normally do. We can really see, on the ground, how important libraries are. I’ve really noticed that.
One of the things that happened with the pandemic is that you see…. A flashlight gets put on some of the things that we might not have even thought about before but really stand out now. So thank you so much for that.
Let’s start with Ronna-Rae.
R. Leonard: Thank you, everyone, for your presentations. I was one of those trustees — chair of Vancouver Island regional library board in the last two years that I was on the board, legally. Eight years in total. I remember my first conference and being blown away by the activism that was magnified by thousands between the trustees and the librarians. It was one of those joint efforts.
The question that I have is around this new virtual world that we are in, recognizing what the Chair said about the gap that just became a big chasm when libraries closed. The ability for people to access Internet services…. As a trustee, I remember that some trustees were less embracing of the digital world.
I’m just curious about how you, in your various sectors, see that shift in the future, given this virtual reality that we’re living in and where that’s going to take us over time.
E. Tracy: May I take this?
B. D’Eith (Chair): Yes, go ahead, Elizabeth.
E. Tracy: I think that recent circumstances with the pandemic really helped us to realize how quickly libraries adapt in circumstances like this. Some of the things that happened right away…. While there are a lot of people who believe that libraries closed their doors, while the facilities were closed, libraries quickly mobilized to increase the level of digital services that they had to offer.
This included things like boosting the Wi-Fi access so that people…. We have stories from across the province of people actually sitting in their cars and using the Wi-Fi outside of libraries. In some cases, gathering outside of libraries, which created problems, so we had to re-adapt and change that in order to make sure that we weren’t encouraging gathering.
One of the things that we were able to do very quickly was to change to that virtual platform. However, one of the challenges of that virtual platform and supporting collections that are really strong is the fact that oftentimes those resources cost three to four times more than a hard-copy material. So that in itself…. For us to create collections that we can really say we’re extremely proud of is a little bit more difficult in the virtual realm.
In terms of statistics and use, I just saw some work by the B.C. Libraries Co-op the other day that maybe you could speak to, Kevin, with the uptake of OverDrive. Substantial percentage increases in use during this period of time.
So we realize that people are able to adapt pretty quickly given the limitations that we’ve had most recently. But I think this portion of us is here to stay now — and grow.
B. D’Eith (Chair): Kevin, did you want to jump in on that?
K. Millsip: Just very quickly. You know, at the co-op, we have seen a significant increase in demand for all of the online services that we support libraries with. From NNELS, which is the National Network for Equitable Library Services that the province supports, we’ve seen demand anywhere from 100 to 160 percent over this period last year. OverDrive, as Elizabeth mentioned, is up considerably as well. So all across the board.
The only thing that I would add is that when we’re looking…. This does connect directly to the ask for next year. We know that in some communities, some libraries have horrible…. They just don’t have good Internet access, and we are developing work to try to get as many folks connected as we possibly can. We do need some more support to really, really push universal broadband access. But there are a few parts to this, even if the library has good Internet access.
I was talking with a couple of our members last week who said that in one of their communities, they estimate 30 percent of the people who want to use their services don’t have a device that’s going to actually allow them to navigate the Internet. She said a lot of those folks are kids. And I’m like: “Whoa. Okay. We’re telling you to please be on line to educate. Now you can access all of this cool stuff from your library, and you don’t actually have a proper device.”
The only reason that I’m mentioning that…. There are a number of pieces to this puzzle, and it’s going to take some thought and consideration and application of effort to really figure it out.
B. D’Eith (Chair): Thanks, Kevin.
Just before we move on, and we’ll get to Babs, one of the things that we have heard is that the need for connectivity is so important, especially in rural and remote British Columbia. We have heard that the last three weeks. But you’re right about devices, because we heard from educators, K to 12, that some families might have one computer, and if the school moves on line, the parent may not get to use it. So thanks for that.
Babs, please go ahead.
B. Kelly: Just very quickly, because I know our time is limited, I wanted to address the question that was lying under there about governance and trustees and embracing technology. I think in very recent years, we’ve had both a demographic shift in who it is who wants to volunteer on public library boards — because it is volunteering — so we’ve had a bit of a shift there, and we’ve had an absolute embracing of technology.
In the past two months, we’ve had an oversubscribing to our online workshops, online discussions. So, you know, in regards to governing these kinds of shifts in public libraries, we are looking at a level of governance that is reaching excellence, and we can confidently say that we are professionally governing public libraries across B.C.
B. D’Eith (Chair): Great.
Annette, did you want to jump in on that, or are you okay?
A. DeFaveri: All good. Thank you.
B. D’Eith (Chair): Okay.
Donna, please go ahead.
D. Barnett: Thank you for your presentations.
I live in rural British Columbia, where our libraries are basically something that is utilized hour after hour after hour for the government, for tax payments, for information. It’s go to the library; look at the website.
And 68 percent of our population in some of our small communities are seniors who don’t want anything to do with a computer — never will; never have. So without these libraries and the people that work in them, there would be more hardship on our seniors. It’s hard enough.
If this is going to continue on the way it has been for the last few years, everything computerized, for people who will never have one, never want to and have to go to these libraries, I totally support more funding into these rural libraries — we pay it on our local taxes — but by the people that create the use of these libraries. They should fund the services there. So I am in total support of more funding for these rural libraries.
B. D’Eith (Chair): Thanks, Donna. I’m not sure there was a question there, but I think it’s a good comment. I think we can all agree on the importance of libraries. In the past, we have seen with this committee that there has been support year after year for libraries.
I can’t speak for the committee, but I certainly know, knowing everyone individually, how people support them. We have seen more than ever how important these are for our communities, for those who are low income but also, as Donna mentioned, seniors as well.
All right, so I think…. Are there any more questions from members?
Ronna-Rae, please go ahead.
R. Leonard: My favourite topic. I’ll be very quick.
I’m also Parliamentary Secretary for Seniors, and I work on the safe seniors, strong communities working group. There’s work being taken to work with libraries to be able to match volunteers who can then pick up books for seniors and deliver them.
I’m wondering if you have a communication line to help facilitate getting volunteers to know that that is a possibility. People who love books might love delivering. Just thought I would put a plug in there and see where it goes.
B. D’Eith (Chair): Anyone want to jump in?
E. Tracy: I can speak a little bit to that. It is interesting.
I guess, in my address to you, I talk about how community partners can leverage their relationship with the library to increase their capacity and visibility. What I’ve noticed, being in the Sea to Sky region, is that those services that serve seniors have reached out to us to coordinate pickup of library materials and delivery, which really, for us, has solved a marvelous problem. But right away, as libraries have emerged with their curbside and takeout services, they’ve been partnering along with these organizations that help seniors in their communities to be able to get those materials into their hands, which is hugely important.
I know that a lot of the discussion around when the doors do open looks at how we best serve this vulnerable population and make it safe for them to come to the library, much like stores have done in their process of creating dedicated times for them to be able to browse materials and such.
B. D’Eith (Chair): Did anyone else want to comment on that? All right.
Any other questions from members at all?
Okay. Seeing none, I wanted to…. Thank you very much for all the work that you do in our community and the libraries. They’re so important to everyone in our communities.
Also, during the pandemic, we wanted to express our thanks for all of the work that you have done and are doing to service our communities. So thanks so much, everyone.
Okay, we’re going to go straight into our last two five-minute presentations. With these five-minute presentations, there are no questions. We’ll just do the five minutes, we’ll thank you very much, and then we’ll use your comments to deliberate.
First up we have Tracy Calogheros from the Exploration Place Museum and Science Centre.
Tracy, please go ahead.
Budget Consultation Presentations
EXPLORATION PLACE MUSEUM
AND SCIENCE CENTRE
T. Calogheros: Good morning, everyone. Thanks so much for allowing me to speak to you today.
It was great to see Mr. PG there, Ronna-Rae. Thank you so much for still having him.
I have two hats that I wear. I’m the CEO for the Exploration Place Museum and Science Centre in Prince George. I’m also presently the president of the Canadian Association of Science Centres. So I’ve been doing a lot of work around the science centres reopening right across the country and into the U.S. as well.
What I really wanted to be able to talk to you guys about today are the differences between our ability to reopen science centres and the museums and art galleries, which, of course, were already phased in to be able to open under the social distancing guidelines that the government has put out.
We’ve been closed since March 13 in Prince George. We were the first institution to close. In fact, science centres across the country were the first to close down, and we’re going to be amongst the last to reopen.
As you can see from the recommendations from the BCMA, high-touch, high-traffic exhibits are not to be reopened when the museums do actually reopen. Well, a science centre is all about hands-on science. So it makes it next to impossible to be able to open our facilities in a way that is safe as well as provide the kind of experience that we’re accustomed to providing to our visitors and that our visitors are accustomed to having.
While the federal assistance right now is really keeping all of us afloat, once we reopen, the general consensus is that we will begin to bleed money. If, in fact, we reopen with more of a museum style, where you’re looking at objects rather than interacting with them, the concern in the industry is, of course, that our science centres are going to fall by the wayside.
At this moment in time, it has never been more important for the general population to have a relationship with a science information provider that they trust. We’ve done the studies year after year, and science centres continue to be amongst the most trusted sources for scientific information, in particular, in the country. We actually nudged out universities and university professors, and sad to say, we’re way ahead of media and politicians and industry. So we need to maintain these organizations in a way that’s going to be helpful.
When I’m looking at most of what’s available to help these institutions, it’s coming out of the federal government or the B.C. Arts Council, which are looking at collecting institutions. Now, my organization happens to be a museum as well as a science centre, but most science centres, like Science World or the Okanagan Science Centre, do not have a collection. Nor do they have a relationship with Canadian Heritage or the with the B.C. Arts Council.
While the wage subsidies are helping now, once we reopen, there are no funds for us to do the necessary planning and interior renovations. In my own facility, I’ve just received an NDIT grant for $10,000 to hire a consultant to help me do the kind of interior planning I need to do, but the capital funds to do the million dollars’ worth of interior renovations don’t exist.
I would encourage you to think carefully about science centres as their own connection to the B.C. public as well as to the Canadian public. When we hear talk of reopening the tourism industry…. Of course, we always have played a part in that, but at this moment, neither Science World nor Exploration Place has any plans to open in the immediate near future. I’m working based on a September opening, but odds are really against us being able to open then unless I can somehow find funds in a real hurry and start renovations in the next couple of weeks, which is not too likely.
When you figure that between just Science World and Exploration Place, we cover the entire province and we’re seeing over a million British Columbians between the two facilities, I think that we are a significant player, not just in Vancouver and Prince George but far beyond that. We are offering the kind of venue to get that scientific information into the hands of our public, which then, of course, is also helping to encourage people to follow all of the scientific recommendations being made by Dr. Bonnie and others.
Really, my goal was to just get us onto your radar screen when you’re thinking about finance and programs and to recognize that science centres are key players. We don’t fall under the same sorts of guidelines that museums and art galleries do, and we’re going to need help if we’re going to continue to have world leadership in these two institutions and beyond. Thank you.
B. D’Eith (Chair): Great. Thank you very much, Tracy.
Next up we have Heidi Waechtler from the Association of Book Publishers of British Columbia.
Please go ahead, Heidi.
ASSOCIATION OF BOOK PUBLISHERS OF B.C.
H. Waechtler: Thank you, Mr. Chair, and thank you to the committee for this opportunity.
My name is Heidi Waechtler, and I’m the executive director of the Association of Book Publishers of B.C. It has been nice to hear the presentations from our partners this morning in the creative industries, arts and library sectors. Some of you may know us from B.C. Book Day at the Legislature, which we were very sorry to have to postpone this spring. We look forward to being back to celebrate books and reading in 2021.
One thing that we’ve seen in recent weeks is that people are turning to books both to escape and to understand how their actions can contribute to social change, in particular with the Black Lives Matter movement.
I’m based in Vancouver, on the traditional land of the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh Nations, but our 30 member companies operate across the province.
B.C. publishers include Theytus Books, North America’s oldest Indigenous publisher, operating on Syilx territory in Penticton; as well as Harbour Publishing, which was founded in 1974, with a focus on regional stories. They’re located in Madeira Park on the Sunshine Coast.
We also represent Orca Book Publishers, a children’s press based in Victoria that strives to ensure all young people see themselves reflected in their books.
There’s Arsenal Pulp Press, based in Vancouver, which specializes in work by LGBTQ writers and authors who are black, Indigenous and people of colour.
I mention these publishers to highlight some of the different communities that B.C. publishers serve both regionally and culturally and what is at stake as these institutions continue to weather the impacts of the COVID-19 crisis. B.C. publishers are small to medium enterprises employing more than 1,500 people directly and indirectly, and they contribute $76 million to the GDP.
We appreciate the province’s investment in our sector through the B.C. book publishing tax credit and support to the B.C. Arts Council and Creative B.C., all of which work together to ensure a healthy cultural and economic climate for publishing in the province. These are important infrastructural supports that are working well, and their continuance will help see B.C. publishers through the recovery period.
Publishers are experiencing the impacts of COVID-19 in many ways but, most critically, through disruptions to the supply chain. Most bookstores closed their stores to browsing during the pandemic. While sales shifted on line, the retail market is still down about 30 percent year over year. As stores slowly begin reopening, booksellers are reducing their orders and returning on-hand inventory to help mitigate their lost revenue.
Book publishing is somewhat unusual in that retailers can return unsold books for full credit, and publishers are seeing a much higher than usual rate of returns, which will continue through until the fall. The compounding effects of returns and the overall decline in book sales and delays in payments owed to the publishers by their distributors all contribute to a slowdown that will hinder a publisher’s ability to pay their staff, printers and authors for at least the next six months to a year. Our publishers project an average 50 percent decline in revenue this year.
They’ve demonstrated resilience in their response to the pandemic. They are coordinating author readings on line and providing educators with digital resources to support distance learning. Publishers have always embraced digital formats, and there has been a small uptick of about 9 percent in the sale of e-books and audiobooks as a result of the crisis.
Our publishers appreciate the province’s response to the arts and culture resilience supplement. There has also been good uptake of the universal business measures and emergency support through Canadian Heritage.However, there are still gaps and opportunities for the province to lend support through the recovery period.
We have four recommendations to the committee for Budget 2021.
(1) Our key ask is that the province renew the B.C. book publishing tax credit for five years. This credit is valued at $3 million annually and leverages federal support, which publishers receive through Canadian Heritage, that is directly linked to their sales of Canadian-authored books. Because the credit is administered by the CRA, it’s very efficiently managed. It was last renewed by the province in 2018 for three years, and it will expire on March 31, 2021.
I really want to thank this committee for noting in its report last year that the fluctuating renewal schedule of this credit, since it was established in 2003, has created some challenges for publishers in making longer-term business decisions. We are asking for a five-year renewal, which would provide greater stability.
(2) Increase investment to the B.C. Arts Council and Creative B.C. to allow these agencies to deliver enhanced support to book publishers through their respective programs.
(3) Incentivize the use of B.C.-published books in schools. One simple way to do this would be by reinstating the school library purchase program, which was funded by the B.C. government between the ’70s and ’90s. It gave public schools each a small budget to purchase B.C. books for their libraries. I think it was around $100 per school at the time. That’s not factoring in inflation, but that gives you a sense of the amount. Teacher-librarians tell us that this program really helped them maximize their budgets.
(4) Following up on something that the Alliance for Arts alluded to as well, we would ask that you consider creating a cultural tax benefit for British Columbians that would include the purchase of B.C.-published books among eligible expenses.
The B.C. publishing industry was born out of an urgent need to ensure our region’s stories were being told. Our work impacts authors, illustrators, booksellers, librarians, educators and readers, making the ongoing support of the province critical. Thank you for considering our recommendations.
B. D’Eith (Chair): Thank you very much, Heidi. I appreciate both of your presentations.
Tracy, before you go, are you planning to put in a written submission at all?
T. Calogheros: I certainly can. I hadn’t at this point, but if a written submission would be of use, I’d be pleased to do that.
B. D’Eith (Chair): The only reason I think that is that at the end, when you were talking about your ask, it was a little bit more of a general ask to take into account science centres and whatnot. But it would be helpful, I think, to the committee to have a more specific ask or maybe something that was a specific recommendation that we could look at. It just makes it much harder for us to be able to come up with something to help your organizations and what you’re doing if we don’t have a specific ask.
T. Calogheros: That’s fair.
B. D’Eith (Chair): I can’t promise anything, but it would be very helpful, I think, just to have something a little bit more concrete.
Heidi, thank you very much. I was saying to your compatriots in the creative industries that it’s nice seeing a whole new group presenting to the Finance Committee now. I used to present. I used to be in your shoes, so I appreciate that. I appreciate everyone stepping up and taking the torch, so to speak. We really appreciate everything that both of the presenters right now are doing in their communities and also during the pandemic — all the extra work and creativity and resilience that you’re showing. Thank you so much for that.
With that, if I could have a motion to adjourn.
The committee adjourned at 11:52 a.m.