Social Studies - UCP Budget Cuts to the Arts
Written by: Sam Hughes
As would be published in the April 2020 issue of Lazy Faire Magazine.
The budget released by the United Conservatives Party of Alberta, the current provincial government, has been maligned greatly by the more liberal-minded members of society. Chief among the complaints is the revelation of cuts to the arts and education, among cuts to other aspects of public spending. With funding to be reduced in education, and general public services reducing opportunities for individuals who pursue the arts, it is clear that the UCP has its eye on what it believes to be the greatest source of inefficiency in the budget.
This concern is not without merit. Given the fact that education is already very heavily subsidised at the post-secondary level, and that universities have a reputation for having a bloated administrative body, it is not surprising to see them targeted in such a manner. The university has no other option than to either pass the cost of their administrative structure on to their students, which they intend to do with tuition increases, or to cut their spending in areas that are not justifiable. The Faculty of Arts is the most obvious target for administrators. There are considerably fewer alumni donations coming in from graduates from Arts compared to Engineering or Business. There is also a significant surplus of high-quality arts instructors available on the market, which means that faculty members are much less expensive to employ compared to their compatriots in business or engineering. The higher supply means it’s easier to convince faculty members to accept a lower salary compared to other faculties. There is the additional issue of poor employment prospects for Arts alumni, which makes them easy targets for a government focussed so heavily on jobs creation and economic development.
All of this is true, and as such, it would not be unreasonable to state that the Faculty of Arts should receive even less funding from a purely financial standpoint, under the current administration. However, it is important to understand that the role of arts in our world goes beyond just their monetary value.
From the machine-like evaluative perceptions of most conservatives, there is no rhyme nor reason to supply the arts with any funding whatsoever. However, there is a deeper issue here. That is, we can’t relax by watching money come in. We relax by watching television and films, by playing games and reading books. There is a huge amount that the arts offer to our society that is not measured in dollar signs. We need to teach Shakespeare and Smith. We need to understand why the Soviet Union collapsed. We need students to understand how to portray film and photography in the most effective light. Arts are required for developing and expressing new ideas, many of which can be converted into useful technological and economic advancements. As a result, although the UCP budget attempts to correct many of the wrongs committed by the NDP government, there should still be room for funding the Arts. After all, we still need someone to design our money.