Thursday, January 25, 2007

An hour with the Provincial Treasurer

Freshly back from the Treasury’s public consultations, I thought I’d reflect on the event for a while. The consultation was cordial and friendly, and far more engaged than perhaps I’d hoped for. Certainly, there are some bright minds at that table, and there was no need to elaborate or belabor a point once the point was made.

The sad fact remains that we are funded at a remarkably low level. To illustrate, using 2005/2006 figures, the investment in the Council from the Province is at $1.72 per capita. In sheer dollar amounts we would obviously fall to the bottom of the pack. But we needn't be there as well in a per capita comparison. There is one peer agency below us, ArtsNB at $1.52 per capita. Yet, as I pointed out, the economies of scale begin to play a role. Despite global administration costs at about 1/3 of their total allocations, ArtsNB still has about $750,000.00 of their $1.1 Million dollar budget to spread across the Province of New Brunswick. I don’t need to tell you, I’m sure, how the same economy of scale affects the PEICA but I will point out that our entire allocation is $238,000. You can do the math.

While keeping the language in terms and comparisons familiar to economists I think some good points were raised and taken – including this per capita problem. I did demonstrate the obvious impact that this has and discussed how, given the situation, we are providing a level of service and programs far, far, below our peer agencies.

My main goal was to illustrate how a rather modest additional investment could have a profound impact – again due to the economy of scale. With our current per capita investment of $1.72 we are at 0.38 of the national provincial average ($4.47 average per capita allocation among the provinces - don’t get me started on those three territories). My request was to bring the PEICA to 0.67 of that average, an even $3.00 per capita by 2010 (that's an increase of about $58,900.00 per year in each year). I also pointed out that at that time, given NLAC’s tripling of their allocations, we would, once again, likely be low on the list.

I should add that there was real interest around the table in looking at, and addressing, the demographic problems the Island is facing, both in the arts and generally, and I was glad to know that we weren’t starting from zero on that matter. In short, I think we were well understood, but I don’t know where we’ll rank at the end of the day and when Cabinet meets to discuss these and all the other matters raised.

So now, we’ve met with the Minister of Community and Cultural Affairs, we’ve presented to the Treasury Boards public consultations, and I’m sitting down with the Premier on Monday morning in his riding office. What’s left? Advocacy.

That's where you come in, so contact us.