Thursday, November 3, 2011

The Royal Alberta Museum...we hope

After a weekend of finger-pointing and back-and-forthing and many members of the public and the press voicing their strong support for moving ahead with a badly-needed new building Royal Alberta Museum in Edmonton, there may be hope. Indications late this afternoon are that conversations are at least happening between the Province of Alberta and the Federal Government. The latest news (as of 6:30 pm Mountain Time, on November 2), from the Edmonton Journal, can be found here.

Although nothing is of course final yet, and funding still hangs in the balance as I write this, at least the finger-pointing seems - for the moment - to have stopped and politicians are trying to solve the problem.

In the meantime, several people have spoken up about this issue. Here are a few examples:

Edmonton Journal columnist Paula Simons, has been writing and blogging almost constantly on the subject. Some of this writing can be found here. Some of the latest work of her colleagues - with files from Ms. Simons, can also be found here and here.

...and former Mayor of Strathcona County Cathy Oleson, whose incredibly well-written Letter to the Editor was published in November 2's Edmonton Journal.

...and also Alice Major, Edmonton's former Poet Laureate, wrote an equally thoughtful and thought-provoking Letter to the Editor, also published in the November 2 Edmonton Journal.

...and let's not forget PACE, the Professional Arts Coalition of Edmonton, who sent letters to several top government officials at the federal and provincial levels, encouraging people to please just sit down and work it out so that this very valuable project could move forward. Check out their work on their facebook page.

As we all agree, the RAM's new building is long overdue. Fingers crossed that it will finally move forward.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

On Accountability...again...

Last week's Globe and Mail article on potential changes to the way the federal government deals with charities was quite disturbing. It appears that the federal government and in particular Minister of Human Resources Diane Finley does not feel that charities are accountable enough for the public monies they receive and that they cannot show adequate results or outcomes achieved through the use of this money.

As we all know, nothing is further from the truth, and this is certainly the case in the Arts. However, instead of me reiterating others' comments, I will simply point the way to responses to the article via the Globe's Letters to the Editor (and also the Letters here), as well as Imagine Canada's considered and thoughtful response. The only things I will add are that, at least for the Arts (and I'm sure other sectors of the charitable world), the accountability is already there, the reporting is thorough, and any new measures of accountability should be carefully considered before they are implemented. It's important for government and others to remember that, although most of us in the Arts and in the charitable sector have absolutely no problem being accountable for the money we receive from the public via government and donations, the time we spend doing this leaves us less time to focus on the missions this money supports.

I suggest that Minister Finley, her staff, and any other member of government and others who wish to know more about how accountable charities are should take some time and speak to their favourite Arts organization or other non-profit about how much time is spent on accountability. It is only through active, thoughtful communication and education that we can all really know and understand each other's worlds.