A number of media outlets are reporting today about protests that took place regarding recent cutbacks to arts funding by the BC government. On Tuesday, Vancouver Council debated an "emergency" motion brought forward by COPE councillor Ellen Woodsworth on the topic of cuts to arts budgets.
In order to allow artists a chance to speak to the motion, NPA Councillor Suzanne Anton used a normal procedure and "called notice" on the motion. Calling notice normally would have resulted in the motion being tabled today (Thursday) in order to provide the public with a chance to speak to it. However, there are no more "normal" rules governing Vancouver’s City Hall debates any longer. Those long-standing rules have been systematically thrown out the window over the last nine months.
As a result, Vision by-passed "normal" procedure and wouldn’t allow even a single minute of public input on the arts cuts motion and decided to ram it through instead. It’s hard not to believe that by banning speakers to the motion, Vision had an ulterior motive. By allowing speakers, they would have opened themselves up to the possibility that artists would have come to council and denounced their 9% cutback made to the arts in last April’s budget.
As part of Tuesday’s arts budget debate, Anton moved an amendment to COPE’s motion asking that her council colleagues reconsider their decision to cut the 2009 arts budget by 9%. Unfortunately, rather than debating Anton’s motion and voting on it, Gregor Robertson simply ruled that Anton’s motion was "not germaine" to the topic at hand.
The ruling by the chair of the council meeting was absolutely unsupportable. The motion on the floor was a discussion on cuts to arts funding. The amendment Anton proposed was about cuts to arts funding. Why on Earth would this have been considered "out of order?" That is, unless you don’t want to have a debate on civic cutbacks to the arts when you are trying to make political hay out of provincial cutbacks.
The Vancouver Sun ran a story in their paper about the arts cut motion debate, but reporter Doug Ward obviously missed part of the discussion. What else could explain why there was no mention of Anton’s amendment to restore civic funding, nor any mention that the normal procedures were circumvented for this debate? In fact, the only mention that Ward makes in his piece is that Anton voted against the final motion asking the BC government to restore funding to the arts.
Once again, the events that transpired surrounding this "debate" helps to re-inforce why the Mayor’s commitment to an open government is simply another broken campaign promise.
The fact remains that the Vision majority on council decided that they would cut the arts budget, while at the same time funding a series of other more "important" priorities like new police and community gardens. Why they’re afraid to discuss those budget decisions should be painfully obvious to the arts community they claim to support.