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April 10, 2010

Build a Better BC

Build a Better BCWell known and much loved actor and blues guitarist, Jim Byrnes, was the master of ceremonies at the "Build a Better BC" rally on the front lawn of the Vancouver Art Gallery at noon on Saturday, April 10th. About two thousand people crowded the lawn to hear speakers denounce the Campbell government for cuts to the arts, education, and social services.

There were anti-HST signs in the crowd, but that campaign-lie was hardly mentioned as speakers focused on cuts to arts, education and social services, occurring at the same time that the Campbell government is spending $600 million on a retractable roof for BC Place, apparently "necessary" so as to satisfy the developers of a mega-casino in downtown Vancouver. What kind of government does that at the same time it reduces dental programs for children on welfare, funding for arts and sports, and forces boards to close schools and lay off teachers?

I've seen many performances in the past year where prominent representatives of the arts community have addressed audiences on their concerns about the Campbell government's cuts. I was delighted to see an artist as prominent as Jim Byrnes step-up and speak-out by leading a demonstration, not only against those cuts, but calling for building a better BC. When normally nonpartisan, but high profile, personalities start speaking out against the priorities of the government, the government needs to pay attention.

The same day as the rally, Vancouver Sun columnist Vaughn Palmer wrote about Solicitor General Kash Heed's resignation and concluded: "Controversies come and go. But at the end of the day, it is the swelling chorus of laughter that does you in." Palmer's correct, but it is also true that a government is done in when those who have been inactive are motivated to do it in. The Campbell government has motivated people who never thought about being politically active, in order to prevent a fourth term of a government that has its priorities very wrong.