Question Period: NB Arts Board – February 9, 2015

The following is the preliminary Hansard transcript of the Question Period on February 9, 2016 recorded in the language it was originally spoken.

M. Coon : La semaine dernière, les gens de partout dans la province ont été surpris quand ils ont appris que le gouvernement allait transférer l’administration, la gestion et la direction du Conseil des arts du Nouveau-Brunswick au ministère du Tourisme, du Patrimoine et de la Culture. Le Conseil des arts du Nouveau-Brunswick est un organisme indépendant du gouvernement ; il a le statut d’organisme de bienfaisance, donc il peut recueillir des fonds et des dons du secteur privé. Le ministre compte-t-il augmenter la somme des subventions accordées aux artistes du Nouveau- Brunswick pour compenser la perte des fonds privés qui leur étaient destinés?

L’hon. M. Fraser : Je remercie le député d’en face pour sa question. I am pleased to answer the respectful question from the member opposite. Certainly, as I have said, we want to continue to uphold the principles. The board will continue to be at arm’s length from government. It will be completely independent of government, with no political interference.


Hon. Mr. Fraser: I am not sure what the joke is, but this is a very serious topic. I want to make sure that the artists in our province and the arts community in our province are very clear on this. We are doing this for them, to ensure that the maximum amount of money is distributed to them—to the artists and arts organizations in the province. That is where the money belongs. We are going to continue to work with our partners at the Arts Board. As I said previously, we have a meeting coming up on Thursday evening in Saint John to work on the transition and on how we can work together collaboratively and not in silos so that we can work together to ensure better services and better programming for the artists.

Mr. Speaker: Time, minister.

Mr. Coon: The minister did not actually answer the question about whether or not he is going to make up for the loss of money that results from private donations to the Arts Board. Let me try this. A major role of the executive director of artsnb, who is going to be lost, is to serve as an advocate and champion for New Brunswick artists and New Brunswick arts. In eliminating the leadership and advocacy function of the Arts Board by removing the executive director position, this government will dismantle the capacity of artsnb to fulfill this role. Can the minister tell me and this House who will champion New Brunswick arts and artists under this new model?

Hon. Mr. Fraser: It will be the board of directors. The independent board of directors that
works at arm’s length from government will champion it. It is the same people who champion it today. It is nothing different. I will pose a question to the members opposite. Some $400 000 in efficiencies were identified. Would the members opposite rather see that $400 000 come from the grants that go to the artists and arts organizations?


Mr. Speaker: Order.

Hon. Mr. Fraser: Would they rather see government and other organizations in the province working together collaboratively and not in silos so that we are working for the best interests of the artists to ensure the money goes where it belongs, which is in the pockets of the artists and the arts organizations in our province? I would like the member opposite to answer that question.

Mr. Speaker: This is the final question.

Mr. Coon: I would like to see artsnb kept whole. As part of the department’s internal program review, the Arts Board commissioned a third-party assessment of the funding model the province has been using, identifying strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities. The study, completed by Dr. Monica Gattinger of the University of Ottawa, a leading expert on public arts funding delivery models, was introduced at a press conference at the artsnb office this morning. Why did the minister not wait for the results of this report before making a unilateral decision that will be detrimental to the arts in New Brunswick?

Hon. Mr. Fraser: I want to reiterate that the board of directors of artsnb will continue to be operated at arm’s length. Let’s get that straight. It will be at arm’s length, with no political interference whatsoever, which is the same as it is now. It will continue to administer the money that taxpayers provide to the artists and arts organizations through a peer jury system, which is the same as is done now. We are looking at administrative efficiencies and a new administrative model. We are going to work on it with the board of directors and with our other partners. There are other partners that work with the arts community in New Brunswick, such as AAAPNB and ArtsLink NB. We are going to work with all three groups collectively—they represent all organizations within the province—to provide the best model for the artists and the arts organizations in the province. It will maximize the amount of money that goes to those people who are out there creating the art and doing the work in our province for our cultural community. Thank you.

Mr. Speaker: The time for question period has expired.