UCP freeze arts funding despite skyrocketing inflation

The UCP has completely wiped out all the gains the AFA saw under the NDP.

I was recently browsing through the UCP government’s current budget, which they released earlier this year. One thing that caught my eye was funding for the Alberta Foundation for the Arts.

In the budget, the government claimed that the Ministry of Culture is allocating $25.585 million in 2023–24 for “Assistance to the Alberta Foundation for the Arts”.

And that seems like a lot, especially given that three years ago they had allocated $24.247 million.

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But there are a few things you should know.

First of all, the $25.585 million they plan to spend this year is also how much they budgeted last year. In other words, they’ve frozen funding this year. Not only that, but it’s the same amount they allocated the previous year, too, which means two years of funding freezes.

That funding is used to help arts organizations keep their lights on and pay their workers. It’s also used to pay independent artists directly through grants and other funding streams.

But given that inflation rose by 9.3% between February 2021 and February 2023, this amounts to a 9.3% cut in funding. And that’s not even taking into account that Alberta’s population increased by 4.97% between the fourth quarter of 2020 and the fourth quarter of 2022.

In other words, the government expects the arts to use the same amount of money to pay for increased costs to deliver the same services to more people.

But it gets worse.

Take a look at AFA funding over the last 10 years.

BudgetChange% change
2021–2022 (estimate)$25.585$1.3385.52%
2022–2023 (forecast)$25.585$0.0000.00%
2023–2024 (estimate)$25.585$0.0000.00%
Dollar figures are in millions.

Here it is in graph form.

And a graph for the change in funding.

What we see in this table and these two graphs is that despite an increase in funding in 2021–2022, the AFA has seen a net loss in funding over the last 4 budget years.

In fact, at no point over their last 4 budgets, have the UCP allocated the same or more funding than the NDP provided in their last budget: $29.844 million.

The closest the UCP came to that was in their first budget, which they released in the autumn of 2019. It was still $1.603 million less than what was spent the year before, but at least it was above $28 million.

It’s never even been above $26 million since then.

If we add up all the losses and gains, we see that under the UCP, the AFA received a net loss of $4.259 million. That’s a net decrease of 13.99%.

Compare that to the NDP administration, during which the AFA saw a net gain of $1.794 million, or 8.03%.

In other words, the UCP has completely wiped out all the gains the AFA saw under the NDP.

And remember, that’s not even accounting for inflation or population growth.

The UCP expects the AFA to do the same amount of work for more people, with higher operating costs, but using 14% less funding.

Not only that, but the UCP’s original 2020–2021 budget for the AFA was $26.935 million, so they also fell short by that goal by $2.7 million.

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By Kim Siever

Kim Siever is an independent queer journalist based in Lethbridge, Alberta. He writes daily news articles, focusing on politics and labour.

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