Bob D’Eith, MLA for Maple Ridge–Mission, speaks about the importance of the arts and entertainment industry and helping artists during the pandemic. (Special to Black Press Media)

LETTER: Support for music and arts industry critical during COVID, says MLA

A Maple Ridge-Mission politician talks about the current state of the entertainment world

Dear Editor,

In times of uncertainty, distress, or tragedy, people have always turned to the arts.

Whether it’s a comforting classic movie, a favourite album, a live show, or a new series to binge-watch, the arts remind us that we are not alone, that other people understand what we’re going through, and that there is a light at the other end.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, this has become even more apparent.

As we all stay home and do our part to flatten the curve, most of us have been consuming even more content than usual to stay entertained, educated, and connected.

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It’s easy to forget that behind every piece of entertainment, there are many people who have worked hard to bring it to you. From actors, directors and musicians to writers, editors, producers, cinematographers, sound engineers, designers, and many more important roles, people are what make the arts possible.

Here in B.C., our creative industries support more than 100,000 jobs and contribute an estimated $6.22 billion to the provincial economy.

But COVID-19 has had a serious impact on the creative sector.

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The need for social distancing and other measures to protect people has resulted in film sets shutting down and concerts, festivals and other live events being cancelled.

Many of the people who make a living and support their families through the arts and creative industries have felt this impact acutely.

With my background in the creative industries as a musician, music consultant, and entertainment lawyer, Premier [John] Horgan asked me to work with [Pitt Meadows-Maple Ridge MLA] Lisa Beare, Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture to reach out to people in the music industry to inform our recovery plans.

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We talked to a great number of people who are grappling with the impacts of the pandemic on their work and lives.

We heard about venues that are struggling to cover rent and overhead costs without ticket or bar sales, and about the heartbreaking decisions to cancel festivals, which are economic drivers for many communities.

Without performance fees, or day jobs in the hospitality industry, many artists are struggling to pay their rent and support their families.

Throughout the sector there is a great deal of stress and anxiety, and many are wondering whether there will even be an industry to return to when the pandemic is over.

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To support the people and organizations in this sector, our government has developed a $3-million arts and culture resilience supplement, for existing BC Arts Council recipients.

RELATED: Province announces $3M in funding for arts groups hit by COVID-19 crisis

To support the music industry, we’ve partnered with Creative BC to launch Showcase BC, which will provide micro-grants to artists to support livestreaming, songwriting, and professional development. The Showcase BC site will also act as a hub for B.C. musicians to promote their livestream performances, so fans of live music can tune into their favourite local musicians or discover new ones.

People in the arts, who have lost income during the pandemic, can also apply for the B.C. Emergency Benefit for Workers, a one-time payment of $1,000, as well as the Temporary Rental Supplement for up to $500 per month towards rent. These are in addition to the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) and other supports offered by the federal government.

Of course, these are only first steps, and there is much more to do.

During the last few months I have been incredibly impressed by the resilience and creativity shown by the people of B.C., especially those in the arts and creative industries.

While dealing with financial uncertainty, they have put their talents and time into lifting our spirits through online streaming concerts, pop-up murals of our health hero Dr. Bonnie Henry, and even virtual gallery tours to bring visual art into our homes.

We are truly fortunate to live in a province with such a richly talented artistic community.

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They have always given their best to us, and it is only right that we are there for them throughout this challenging time.

We know it is going to be some time before we get to enjoy live music, festivals, and theatre in our communities once again.

As we plan B.C.’s economic recovery from COVID-19, people in the arts and creative industries will not be left behind by our provincial government. We’re working to make sure that they will have industries and careers to return to when it is safe again.

– Bob D’Eith is the MLA for Maple Ridge – Mission, but given his background in the music and entertainment industry and role as a member of the legislative assembly, he felt he was really well-positioned to talk about the current state of the industry.

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• If there is more to this issue, please let us know about it. Email us at editor@mapleridgenews.com. We look forward to hearing from you. In the meantime, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter.

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