Cameron Wigmore, Green Party Member

October 22, 2009

BC Liberals cut funding to arts - tell them it was a mistake

Please consider emailing a short letter to your MLA and the BC arts minister explaining why you support the arts and communicating that the BC Liberals will not receive your vote/support specifically because of their recent cuts. If you don't live in BC you can still speak up on behalf of the arts. Below are a few good statements about why the arts are important and worth supporting.


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BC Liberal Party
Telephone: 604-606-6000
Toll-free: 1-800-567-2257


Kamloops-South Thompson Office
Tel: (250) 314-6031 or Toll Free: 1-888-299-0805
Victoria Office
Tel: (250) 953-4246

Deputy Minister's Office
Telephone: 250 356-6981

The MLA in Nanaimo is Leonard Krog of the NDP:

Nanaimo North Cowichan (NDP)

Parksville-Qualicum is Ron Cantelon of the Liberals:

Phoning the constituency office and emailing MLAs sends a message. Attending forums during elections and asking questions that put pressure on them is a good way to make them understand that we won't roll over when they try to destroy our livelihood.

"...Even prior to these cuts, the BC arts and culture sector received almost the least arts funding of any Canadian province, a miniscule 1/20 of 1% of the provincial budget. That amount, while crucially important to the arts sector, is generally considered a negligible portion of the budget. The actual numbers? $47 million will be reduced to $3 million in two years. This is a 91% cut, compared to cuts in other sectors which range from 9%-29%. (For more specifics on how the cuts are being carried out - and it's complicated - see the "Why are the cuts so confusing?" section below.)

No other province has cut arts funding during this recession. Many provinces have actually increased funding, because it is proven that this is a form of stimulus that works for the whole economy, recession or not. Furthermore, the culture industry is a lucrative and growing industry, one that is quickly overtaking many failing traditional sectors. It needs seed investment; we cannot afford not to stimulate culture. Why in a recession are the BC Liberals saying they can't afford this negligibly small subsidy, when they are contradicted by all the available research, including their own?..."

"...Could it be that the government needs to aggressively target spending in one sector to show that it's tough, that it won't blink as it protects the humble taxpayer from the ravages of this terrible economic downturn (so terrible that even this all-knowing government didn't see it coming)? Could it be that Gordon Campbell's cabinet has decided that arts groups must take this fall for the greater good of its claimed reputation for prudent fiscal management?..."

One person's comments: "...People in BC still don't seem to get it, for the most part. Arts and Culture drive tourism. Without arts and culture (and boy, do we need to grow this sector, since it's one of the only healthy ones we have) the vacation planning conversation goes something like this: "Oh,Vancouver... you mean that place with the nice mountains - and oh, yes, really big social problems - way out there at the edge of the known world? No, not really. They have nothing going on of interest..."

The arts and culture sector is worth 5 BILLION (yes, that's right) to this province's economy each year. People seem to have this idea that arts spending isn't an investment. Well wake up, it is - from the most bare bones economics to the incalculable value of living in a civilized society and educating our children beyond being video-game playing boors. Economically, spending on arts and culture generates a return - A RETURN - of $1.38 for each dollar spent. Artists are not looking for handouts. They are some of the hardest working and most underpaid workers we have. They give far more to communities than many of the things that people like to think deserve support. The auto-workers, corporations and now the forestry sector, all think a hand-out from the government - OUR money - is a good thing ... Why not invest in a sector that still works, even in a bloody recession, one that gives a return? The arts aren't a luxury - they are a necessity, as any short survey of civilizations and even tribal communities will reveal. WAKE UP people!..."

Tell the politicians that they will never get our support because of their actions.

Cameron Wigmore
Nanaimo, BC
(Green Party candidate, '06 federal election, Crowfoot riding, AB)


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Cameron Wigmore
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The saddest thing I ever did see,
was a woodpecker peckin' at a plastic tree.
He looks at me, and "Friend," says he,
"Things ain't as sweet as they used to be."
- Shel Silverstein
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August 19, 2009

ID scanning at bars banned but bars continue to violate privacy

Here's an article I submitted to the Nav.

Imagine living in a country where private corporations forced citizens to allow the scanning of their ID as a condition for entry into their businesses. Grocery stores, malls, concerts and festivals might be the sort of places where this ID scanning would occur, and the data collected could be stored by the company for a year or more. It would be simple - and in the company's best interests - to get the ID information they collect synchronized with our medical records, allowing them to prevent anyone with serious health problems from gaining entry. For liability reasons, those businesses could then refuse services to any individuals they wished, based on the criteria they decide, with information gained from our government issued IDs and maybe even medical records.

Now imagine a private company starting along this road of ID scanning, even though the provincial government's privacy commissioner has ordered it to stop. This is happening right now in B.C. at some of our local bars, and this subject is larger than just security at bars.

On July 21st '09 the Information and Privacy Commissioner David Loukidelis released Order P09-01, in response to a complaint about the scanning of a bar customer’s driver’s license. The complained was made under B.C.’s Personal Information Protection Act (“PIPA”), which regulates the collection, use and disclosure of personal information by businesses.

Here is an excerpt of the press release (see link below) that accompanied this decision.

Section 7(2) says a business “must not, as a condition of supplying a product or service, require an individual to consent to the collection, use or disclosure of personal information beyond what is necessary to provide the product or service.” The Commissioner accepted that it is “necessary” to collect personal information of certain customers for the purpose of operating a nightlife establishment, but not “to develop and maintain a personal profile containing the personal information of all customers in order to effectively track the few who may be removed from, and subsequently barred from re-entering, an establishment. Certainly, the full scope of information which is collected by Wild Coyote and the length for which it is retained is not necessary to achieve that purpose” (para. 98). The Commissioner therefore found that “a requirement for consent to the collection of personal information through the TreoScope system is a requirement for consent to the collection and use of information ‘beyond what is necessary’ for providing the service of operating a nightlife establishment in the terms I have described” (para. 98).

It seems clear from the excerpt above that storing a person's ID for extended periods of time is not allowed; that doing so is beyond what could be considered reasonable. Still, after this decision was made, the local bars with this data collection system did continue to scan and store ID information. More from the press release:

Section 11 of PIPA says a business “may collect personal information only for purposes that a reasonable person would consider appropriate in the circumstances”. The Commissioner found that, under s. 11 of PIPA, the collection of personal information was not appropriate in the particular circumstances, including given the nature and amount of personal information being collected. He found that “it is reasonable... for it to be able, in order to preserve a safe environment for customers, to identify those individuals who have been determined to be violent, or otherwise undesirable for re-entry from a safety perspective, and thus improve customer safety” (para. 127). He went on to say, however, that “much of the information collected by the TreoScope system”, including driver’s license numbers, “does not further this safety purpose”, adding, “Moreover, I have not been provided with any reason related to improved customer safety for an establishment’s retention of any information at all relating to customers who are not involved in violent incidents” (para. 127).

What this means is that it's not necessary for a company to collect and store personal information of patrons who are not violent. While the businesses obviously need to keep violent people out, it should be able to do so without having to collect and store the personal information of other patrons.

You might ask, "what about our personal safety? Isn't this a good thing?" The commissioner addresses this stating that "I am well aware of, indeed share, public concern about gang violence and public safety in British Columbia... I have decided that it is reasonable for Wild Coyote to be able, in order to preserve a safe environment for customers, to identify those individuals who have been determined to be violent or otherwise undesirable for re-entry from a safety perspective, and thus improve customer safety. For the reasons given above, however, the collection of personal information as a whole does not comply with PIPA. In this light, and in view of the reasons given above, I invite –– indeed, strongly encourage––those involved to seek the views of this Office if they wish to find a solution for collecting personal information of a nature, and in a manner, that complies with PIPA."

Loukidelis's decision to ban scanning of ID at bars upholds Section 8 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. To hold a prospective patron's personal information as a condition of entry into a bar is an unreasonable invasion of a person's privacy.

Our local bars were told that their efforts were too heavy handed, but they continued to scan IDs, collect personal information and store it for up to a year. Isn't it odd that the bars seemed to think they could avoid B.C.s privacy laws in an effort to curb lawlessness?

The company that gathers our personal information had been collecting more than necessary, and storing it for up to a year. The public, government and media took notice. Recognizing that this data collection system could be shut down, Owen Cameron, the owner of Vancouver-based TreoScope Technologies which created the software used to collect information, contacted the B.C. Privacy Commissioner. A compromise was met. The drivers license numbers of patrons will no longer be collected, and the data that is collected will be stored for no longer than 24 hours. This is similar to recent events in Alberta. It has been one year since Alberta's privacy commissioner ruled scanning licenses is a privacy violation and that decision was upheld by a provincial court in March.

Every society must decide what rights each individual will have, and what power or control the government or corporations may have over the citizens. Here in Canada we tend to value our personal freedoms very highly, while also appreciating the services and protection provided by our government.

recent media coverage:

A previous version of this was published in papers and can be read online here and here.

For more information:
press release (pdf link)

Order (large PDF link)

additional press release

August 16, 2008

Is Canadian Culture Important? Harper Says NO

Apparently our PM Stephen Harper, who likely enjoys paint by numbers and took lessons as a child to learn how to play the radio, doesn't recognize the economic and other benefits of investing in the arts.

I'll tell you what's wrong with cutting funding for Arts and Culture.

According to a 2001-02 Statistics Canada report, with an investment of $6.8 billion from three levels of government, the arts and culture sector directly employed 740,000 people and generated $26 billion for the economy.

The arts and culture sector employs as many people as the combined sectors of agriculture, forestry, fishing, mining, oil, gas and utilities.

Green Party: Harper's disrespectful attitude towards cultural expression will damage Canada's reputation

"Slashing funds for cultural activities, both domestic and abroad, is damaging to the fabric of our country and further jeopardizes Canada's international reputation," said Ms. May. "This move appears to be more about extending the government's long tentacles of control into the area of cultural expression, but this move will backfire on Canada. Mr. Harper is slashing the arts in cynical attempt to win votes from a base he mis-reads. Most Canadians want to support a vibrant arts community."

CBC: Cultural groups blast additional federal arts cuts

After mostly silence (save for brief statements from department spokesmen) this week, Heritage Minister Josée Verner defended the Trade Routes and PromArt decisions in an interview with the French arm of Canadian Press on Thursday.

"What's being considered … is to examine how we can create a new program or new avenues that will be more efficient and with a stronger impact for our culture abroad," Verner said.

This quote above is interesting. The Cons Heritage Minister says they are seeking better efficiency, but dismantling a working program to possible recreate it at some point in the future seems fairly inefficient to me. Tories cut five more arts programs

"The opposition seems to be accusing us of having an agenda to see that the arts is funded to a lesser extent on an ideological basis, and I can say that's not the case (because) we are spending more on the arts than the Liberal government," said Kory Teneycke, Prime Minister Stephen Harper's director of communications.

The above quote is typical of the Harper Tories. Defend their actions by saying the Liberals are worse. This redirect won't work this time, because cutting tens of millions of dollars in funding can't be defended by implying that Liberals might cut even more. They aren't the ones in power cutting funding. The Harper Tories are, and no amount of blame-shifting or weak excuses will change this.

National Post: Frustration builds over federal cultural cuts

"These cuts are shocking and short-sighted, and they certainly aren't business friendly," wrote Waddell in a statement. "Support for arts and culture are among the most efficient investments a government can make. "

Investing in the arts stimulates the economy. Let's say an artist receives a grant to tour. They then need to rent vehicles, buy plane tickets, pay for meals eat at restaurants, stay at hotels and so on. Their shows are at venues which employ people. The public gets dressed up, maybe in nice new clothes, and drive their vehicle (or even better use public transit ;) and pay for parking to go out for dinner and a show to see the artist. I could go, and I know I'm missing some steps, but I think you probably get the picture. Ottawa to axe five more arts and culture programs

Canadian Heritage Minister Josée Verner defended the cuts saying the government only wanted to help arts and culture organizations in a more efficient manner and those being axed failed to demonstrate that they were providing sufficient returns for the dollars invested.

"Culture is an essential element of the identity of a nation and in that sense, will always have its unfailing support," she said.

So it's like that. "I'm hurting you because I love you." If this is what the Harper Tories call "unfailing support", I'd hate to see what they call closed-minded, ideologically based pigheadedness.

Defending these actions on the basis that a program "failed to demonstrate that they were providing sufficient returns for the dollars invested" is ludicrous. The government has done no studies to confirm that there were insufficient returns on dollars invested. Due to the supposed failure to demonstrate, the Tories think they then have a right to act without investigating or checking if their assumptions are correct. Shouldn't this action be based on something more substantial? If they actually proved that there were insufficient returns on dollars invested that would mean something, but there's no proof of that. Instead they say there was a failure by the programs to prove their worth. Shouldn't the government have to prove the inefficiency of a program before they axe it? This is sort of a "it's your fault for not proving your worth to us" kind of an angle.

Tories decimating culture funding

Asked to explain the cuts, the Prime Minister's spokesperson, Kory Teneycke, suggested some of the funding choices made by the programs were inappropriate, and said money was going to fringe art groups that in many cases would be at best, unrepresentative, and at worst, offensive.

The government is cutting cultural programs to please its ideological base. The Conservatives still don't understand that in a free and democratic country, artists should be able to create without fear and what they deserve is help from our leaders, not threats.

During the Conservative tenure, arts and culture has seen its importance diminish and be marginalized by cuts or ideological attacks over and over. Funding for cultural infrastructure, like community museums and cultural promotion has suffered, but freedom of creation has also been under attack, as seen with the debate on bill C-10 and censorship.

We are witnessing true Conservative ideology at work here. They are cancelling, one by one, programs that don't fit their mindset and culture is taking the biggest hit. Worst, hundreds of artists, creators and organization are left in the dark as to which programs will be cancelled next.

July 8, 2008

Letter - Living Room plans worry south end residents

The following is a letter I've written to the local papers about VIHAs plan to couple transitional housing with a failed addictions program. I have some experience working in this area.

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VIHA's Living Room attempts appear disorganized and remind some south end residents of a salesperson trying to remarket the same old failed product. Unfortunately, we are the ones who have been paying for VIHA’s learning curve.

The past incarnations of the Living Room, as hard as they were to manage, were in commercial areas. Now they want to put it in the middle of a residential neighborhood, adjacent to transition housing for those trying to get away from the street. Is there some study showing this might actually work, or was this decision simply motivated by dollars and cents?

At the south end community meeting, a VIHA spokesperson said, “we see it as a good thing to have the Living Room coupled with the residence.” No study was offered to back that up. Does the VIHA operate on gut feeling and intuition alone? I thought these services were supposed to be spread throughout the city. In fact there are studies showing that over concentration of these services can have a negative effect.

Because we’re not getting any answers about how our safety will be ensured or protected, I’m uneasy about this planned project. The list of rules we were given by VIHA were both naive and directly solely to the inside of the building.

If I were asked to place money on this venture as a positive thing for our community and those on the street, I think I’d keep my wallet in my pocket. On the other hand, if I was asked to invest in this as a real estate venture, this might be profitable. Maybe that’s where VIHA's heart is at.

Cameron Wigmore
Nanaimo, BC

July 7, 2008

Stop Cable Bay boundary extension before Aug 5th

I recently phoned city hall about this controversial development and “negative option” approval process being used to bypass voter involvement. To be clear, the actual development isn’t what’s being voted on; the expansion of the city boundary to include this resort and golf course is the subject. It’s the developer who wants the city boundary expanded and our council has basically made sure that the developer will get their way. This is a big deal because it allows further sprawling of the city, and shows that Nanaimo isn’t serious about sustainable development and urban renewal through increasing population density.

It will take a decade to get proper transit service (as the RDN suggests) if the city doesn’t invest in building up the residential, commercial and industrial areas that already exist WITHIN the city limits. By expanding city limits and allowing developments to GROW our city, they prevent our central Nanaimo population from being concentrated enough to support ½ hr bus wait times instead of the current hour long wait between most busses.

If you wish to get more information you can call Bruce Anderson, Manager of Community Planning at 755-4483. Contact your city council to let them know what you think of this:

Click on the link below to get the elector response form that you can print and submit, or phone city hall at 250-755-4405 to have them mail it to you.

In the news:
City Deserves Better Effort

Residents hope to stop project