Arts featured Healthcare

Delaying a new Art Gallery building in Halifax doesn’t make cents

Art Gallery of Nova Scotia

KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – I love art just as much as anybody, but…

That’s how people have been framing their opposition to the provincial and federal governments’ plan to build a new provincial art gallery in Halifax.

That $70 to $80 million provincial share of the costs would be better spent on healthcare, the argument goes. Maybe we can build a new art gallery later, when the healthcare crisis is resolved, but not now.

There is even a petition.

The thing is, $80 million sounds like a lot of money, but in a provincial budget of $11 billion and change really it isn’t.

In the coming fiscal year the Department of Health anticipates spending $4,638,526,000. That’s $4.6 billion in case all those zeros throw you off.

Adding that $80 million set aside for the Art Gallery would increase that budget by a measly 1.7%, for that one year only.

I am not an expert, but it’s a safe bet that moving that art gallery money around isn’t going to solve our healthcare crisis. It’s not even going to have much of an impact.

If you really want to start a meaningful petition, how about asking the Federal government to reinstate health funding to levels prior to the 2016 bilateral funding deal between the federal and provincial liberals. Economists calculate that deal will cost Nova Scotia something like $1 billion in healthcare dollars over the next ten years.

Or better yet, start a petition demanding that rich Nova Scotians pay their fair share in taxes, so that we can get away from looking at all government spending as a trade off somehow. Oh, and make access to the Art Gallery free every day, rather than one night a week..

Meanwhile, there is a valid case for a new art gallery.

The current building is old, and wasn’t designed to be a gallery. For example, ceilings are too low. It is also way too small to house traveling exhibits and showcase its current holdings. It’s expensive to operate.   

Much like the new public library on Spring Garden Road, with its theatre and meeting rooms, plans include more than just exhibition space. Large public areas will be included, and although NSCAD is out of the picture, co-location with other organizations is still a possibility.

A lot of people who oppose the new gallery are genuinely thrown for a loop by dollar figures with that many zeroes.

But when I look at my Twitter stream I see politicos who clearly know better, and all they are doing is fanning the anti-gallery flames for political gains.

These folks love art as much as anybody, except they hate a thriving local commons even more.

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  1. I support the arts and the new gallery. And I love the idea of more free access. Cultivation of the arts will broaden our appreciation of the arts among the public. I just returned from Holland where the arts are widely supported and appreciated and artists can earn a good income. Art appreciation goes hand-in-hand with good health.

  2. It’s not a matter of being against the arts, that’s not the issue for me.

    It’s the choice of location that bothers me. Essentially, you would have one building with great water views that would be taking away said views from dozens of other buildings in the downtown. Having visited many of the great waterfront cities in North America/Europe that just isn’t done because it doesn’t make sense.

    Also, I consider the parking lot next to Bishop’s as the heart of the waterfront, if you take that away if will ruin it. That location being next to the harbour, overlooking the downtown, makes it a world class site for concerts/festivals/gatherings. You take that away and it really affects very negatively the waterfront. A horrible idea.

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