Wednesday, September 30, 2009

39 and counting

And no, except in my sister’s case, that hasn’t got anything to do with a birthday.

That’s how many dollars I haven’t spent since I quit buying B.C. lottery tickets at the end of August.

I keep thinking about part of a letter to the editor which ran in The Vancouver Sun earlier this month (September 15th). Although attorney Phil Rankin was addressing the government’s failed promises regarding legal aid, he raised a valid parallel about the way our government has diverted lottery monies from cultural venues and charities -- the very places we were led to believe would be the beneficiaries of those funds. Rankin wrote:

Remember the seven-per-cent legal services tax, which was supposed to be spent on legal aid but was instead taken — by both the Liberals and the NDP — for general revenues? It’s very much like Social Development Minister Rich Coleman’s announcement that charities aren’t entitled to lottery revenue. What hypocrisy. First they take bingo nights away from churches and food banks, promising them lottery revenue; then they deny the charities lottery revenues after addicting the population to gambling to solve their revenue problems.

When even James Moore, the federal Minister of Heritage calls B.C.’s arts cuts “devastating”, you have to know that something is very rotten out here in the West.

Since my earlier posting, a friend and I have started a group on FaceBook – STOP buying BC Lottery Tickets. It's an open group, so you don't even need an invitation to join.

I understand that some artists are uncomfortable with the idea of speaking out against the gaming cuts (especially when they’re involved in groups who were lucky enough to be on the receiving end of those three-year grants the government decided they couldn’t back out of).

However, I can’t help but think we have social responsibilities. I look back to history, and specifically to events in the southern U.S. during the early ’60s.

It was a time when people who weren’t white were blocked from attending many public schools and universities, couldn’t drink out of the same drinking fountains as whites, had to ride in the back of the bus.

Still, many whites believed that such ill-treatment was wrong. Even though they themselves were allowed to attend school wherever they wished, could apply for any job they wanted, experienced no impediments to voting, etc., there were many courageous whites who travelled to the south and stood up to say that segregation laws were wrong. Some of them even died for their beliefs.

Just because we might not be the ones who are suffering (yet) doesn’t mean we shouldn’t take a stand on behalf of our colleagues whose funding has been cut.

So far, I’ve saved $39 – not enough to change the world, not enough to make a dint in anyone’s disappeared budget. Just ask folks at the Helen Pitt Gallery how much they've had cut from the operating budget of their 35-year-old art space.

But maybe if a bunch of us pooled what we save by not buying lottery tickets, we could assemble an amount that might make a difference.

I'm still trying to figure out ways to fight these dreadful cutbacks. As always, thoughtful comments/suggestions are appreciated.


Janet said...

Our common wealth are writers like you who have a conscience, and who can inspire others with their prose - however that doesn't put bread on the table.

Certainly we should stop buying lottery tickets if they are not supporting what they promised they would.

Thanks for your post on this.

hg said...

Thanks for your kind remarks.

I do wish we could come up with a united effort to save and then donate an amount that would be noticeable...