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B.C. arts groups get money – but no change in ban on live events

B.C. government announces $16 million in funding to help arts and culture groups, but Premier John Horgan says a ban on live events isn't going to change any time soon
Premier John Horgan March 24
B.C. Premier John Horgan speaks at a media briefing March 24. Horgan said arts groups won't be seeing a change to public health orders banning live events any time soon.

The provincial government has just announced $16 million in funding for B.C. arts and culture organizations – but those hoping for a chance to offer live performances again shouldn’t hold their breath.

The new provincial money, announced today (March 24), includes $14 million in one-time supplements to 588 arts and culture groups around the province, plus $2 million to help 47 organizations improve their existing spaces.

But Premier John Horgan, in a media briefing held after the announcement, made it clear that arts groups won’t be seeing changes to existing public health orders any time soon.

Theatres around the province have been unable to offer live performances since a sweeping ban on events issued by provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry in November 2020 – just as a handful of organizations were taking their first steps back into offering limited live performances in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“These are extraordinary times, everybody gets that,” said Horgan, under questioning from reporters.

“We will not see live concerts in the short term. We’re very hopeful that we can have limited-seating events as we get into the summer and the fall, but that’s my hopefulness, rather than any edict that’s coming from the health authorities or from public health.”

VACCINATION PROGRAM COMES FIRST

Horgan said B.C. needs to get its vaccination program completed and ensure that the rest of the world is “keeping pace” before it can afford to open its borders and offer the kind of “headlining attractions” that bring visitors to B.C.

Horgan noted Bob D’Eith, MLA from Maple Ridge-Mission, has been named as parliamentary secretary (for arts and film) to work with Tourism, Arts, Culture and Sport Minister Melanie Mark on the issue of live performance.

“To those people who are dependent on people in seats for live performances, I absolutely understand their challenges. I have many friends in the music industry that are struggling at the moment,” Horgan said.

“The health orders are there not to discourage creativity, not to discourage entrepreneurship. It’s there to protect people, and I think, again, most British Columbians understand that. We want to get out of this just as much as they do.”

Among the recipients of the new provincial arts supplement are several local organizations. New Westminster groups receiving money include the Arts Council of New Westminster, EVENT, Massey Theatre Society, New Westminster Museum and Archives, Patrick Street Productions Society, Savage Production Society and Theatre of Fire. From Burnaby, recipients include Burnaby Art Gallery, Burnaby Arts Council, OURO Collective (Christina Bucci), Judith Marcuse Projects, Moving Images Distribution, Nikkei National Museum, Open Air Orchestra Society and SFU Galleries.

Follow Julie MacLellan on Twitter @juliemaclellan.
Email Julie, jmaclellan@newwestrecord.ca.