Al Siebring

Name

Al Siebring

Jurisdiction

North Cowichan

Running for

Mayor

Party or Slate (if applicable)

N/A

Funding

Do you know how much your local government invests in the arts? Would you commit to advocating for an increase in that cultural investment for arts, culture, and heritage in your community, within the capacity of your elected body?

Yes, we give grants-in-aid to various arts and cultural groups.
Whether or not I will "advocate" for increases in those grants will depend on other budget factors. The key is "capacity". We are already facing some substantial budget pressures for essential capital items, including up to $40-million dollars for a new police station, and the question will become how much more upward pressure our taxpayers can withstand.

Advocacy

If elected, will you take an active role on behalf of your local government in championing the growth of arts, culture and heritage in your community? Why?

Your question assumes a "yes" answer. Honestly, is this kind of phrasing of questions that makes candidates hesitant to even answer surveys such as this.

Education

Students with an education rich in the arts have better grade point averages and are three times more likely to get a degree. Will you commit to making the arts a critical component of every child’s education? If so, how?

As a municipal politician, that's simply not my role. Asking me to do that would be akin to asking a school trustee to tell me how to run the municipality.

Cultural Growth

How will your local government maintain or grow its investment in cultural programs in your community?

See my answer above re Funding.

Cultural Spaces

Will you work to ensure access to affordable, sustainable cultural spaces for artists and arts organizations? If so, how?

Yes, and this can be done without direct government "investment". We need to get creative on this issue by, for example, adding - where appropriate - a requirement for "public art" space and other cultural amenities to the approval of major development projects, be they malls, senior's homes, or other community gathering places. This doesn't always have to be done with tax dollars.

Cultural Tourism

How do you propose to improve cultural tourism in your community?

The Cowichan Valley is a hub for many cultural and arts activities, including First Nations art and many performing arts endeavours. These things are featured, (and should be even more prominently featured,) in tourism marketing materials we generate for the region.

How do you propose to attract or retain artists and cultural workers in your community?

Honestly, I don't believe this is a huge issue. The reality is that artists and cultural workers will live where they're going to live - it's up to us to make the community generally as attractive a place as possible with affordable housing, a reasonable property tax regime, and the provision of infrastructure and recreational opportunities that encourage everyone (including this demographic subset) to live here.

Key Issues

What do you feel is the single most important issue relating to arts, culture, and heritage in your community, and what action will you take to address it?

One of the challenges in the Cowichan Valley is affordable performance space. We have a policy that our regionally-owned theatre provides performance space to local non-profit groups at a discount as compared to touring professional groups. While this is a good start, the challenge remains, even with those discounts. It's much, much less expensive to rent a large church hall or a "Community Hall" than it is to get into a government-run facility... even with the "discount". And of course the balance there is... "how much of a subsidy should taxpayers provide for the provision of that space?"

This issue needs to be addressed on a case-by-case basis, and on the merits of the particular event we're talking about. For example, we have hundreds of youth taking part in the week-long Cowichan Music Festival every spring. An enterprise such as that would appear to be more deserving (and more supported by taxpayers generally), than a one-off performance by a local spoken-word artist seeking to rent a government-run facility where the audience for that performance might number just a few dozen. It's complicated.

Participation

How do you personally engage in the cultural life of the community? (e.g. involvement on committees, attending arts and culture events, etc.)

I've been actively involved in a number of choirs in the area for the past 20 years, sometimes singing in more than one group simultaneously. I was also President of the Duncan Choral Society for about 6 years. I might add that for each of these choirs, the marketing/ticket sales for their concerts are generally done by members, friends, and volunteers. None of these organizations ever go cap-in-hand to "government" for help, and still, the performances routinely draw audiences in the hundreds.

All of which to say that arts and culture can (and do) thrive in the Cowichan Valley irrespective of government aid.

The bottom line is that there's only so much government can do in this area; the best paradigm in which arts and culture thrive is one where the arts community is enthusiastic, connected, engaged, and active in the broader life of the community. People don't go to see a choir concert because of government subsidies. They go because their co-worker, (or their uncle, aunt, parent, or child) are singing in it.