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Simons on arts

MLA balances leadership bid with constituency work

There is overwhelming evidence to support stable, long-term funding for the arts, both for economic reasons and to promote community health, according to MLA Nicholas Simons.

“The arts are not a luxury or a frill,” said Simons, in the second of a series of policy announcements he is making during his campaign to become leader of the provincial New Democratic Party (NDP). “[Arts] enrich our communities, promote social well-being and strengthen our economies.”

The BC Arts Council should be independent of government, Simons said, and receive stable funding. Per capita arts funding should be raised to, at minimum, the national Canadian average. BC has the lowest per capita funding for the arts in Canada.

Access to community gaming grants should be expanded and allow multi-year funding to charities and non-profits, Simons also said, in accordance with the commitment government made when it expanded gambling. As well, the government should promote maximum access to, and participation in, the arts, he said.

Simons, who is on the campaign trail, knows he’s in for an even tougher battle now that several high-profile candidates have entered the race. MLA for Powell River-Sunshine Coast, Simons announced his intention to seek the NDP leadership on January 5. Since then, Fraser-Nicola MLA Harry Lali, Juan de Fuca MLA John Horgan, Port Coquitlam MLA Mike Farnworth and Vancouver-Kingsway MLA Adrian Dix have joined the race. Rounding out the leadership hopefuls is marijuana activist and one-time federal NDP candidate for this area, Dana Larsen.

“All the horses are in the starting gate now and I recognize that there are people who are considered front runners because of their profile, but I’m hoping that this becomes a leadership race that is rich with ideas and speaks to the issues that people want to hear in terms of making our democratic system work better, making sure we don’t implement policies that hurt the public,” Simons said. “In some ways I’m considered a dark horse, but at least I’m on the track.”

Simons said his first few weeks of the campaign have been spent working on putting policy into place that he plans to unveil throughout the three-month campaign. His first policy announcement called for an increase to the minimum wage.

He said it has, at times, been challenging managing his leadership bid with his regular constituency business, but it’s a challenge he is embracing.

“It’s been a higher workload, but I tend to work a lot, so balancing the campaign and the constituency work has not been a problem,” he said. “And in some ways, there is a lot of overlap, because I’m talking about policy and issues that are important to the constituency.”

The leadership election will take place on April 17, using a one-member, one-vote election system that will take place online and by telephone. Detailed voting rules will be developed in the coming weeks.

-with files from Ian Jacques, Coast Reporter