Presentation to Standing Committee on Finances and Government Services

Thank you Mr. Chairman and committee members for this opportunity to speak before you today.

Heritage BC is the only not-for-profit organization supporting the province’s heritage sector through training and skills development, capacity building in heritage planning, and funding through the Heritage Legacy Fund.

As an organization of provincial scope, we recognize our members and much of our heritage occupy the lands and territories of the province’s indigenous peoples.

Now in its 36th year, Heritage BC continues to evolve, transforming our role with communities and our relationship with the province to ensure the relevancy of our organization and the vitality of the heritage sector.

A cornerstone of our work is the administration of the Heritage Legacy Fund, which was established in 2005 by the then government with the purpose to offer financial support for the conservation of heritage throughout the province. Nearly $2 million dollars in funding has been directed to museums, heritage societies, local governments and First Nations.

Conservation may be a standard way of describing the maintenance and preservation of heritage, but it does not readily convey the impactful benefits of managing our heritage.

The North Pacific Cannery National Historic Site, a legacy of BC’s fisheries identity, has been rejuvenated through extensive, ongoing conservation. Today, this site is a key part of Port Edwards’ local cultural landscape and an economic driver for the area. Another direct result of this conservation work has been the creation of jobs in a remote, Northern community and the development a workforce with specialized, transferrable skills.

The rehabilitation of Rocheleau Cottage, in the historic Francophone community of Maillardville, today retains its heritage value, another unique feature of BC’s identity, through a conservation project that also added much-needed family housing and densification in an urban setting

In Dunster, southeast of Prince George with a population of 660, a train station has been brought back to life by tradespeople and volunteers to provide a local hub of commerce and community.

These are three examples that highlight some of the benefits of heritage conservation. Conservation goes beyond the rehabilitation of old buildings, to the regeneration of legacies and the revitalization of communities. Heritage conservation means jobs and economy, skills and training, and identity and community.

Recognizing these benefits, we can say heritage not only looks backward, but through investments to conserve, it also leads us forward to consider new ways to develop and engage vital communities.

These values are core to our work at Heritage BC.

Another cornerstone of our work is the partnership with the Heritage Branch of the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development. For the Branch, Heritage BC undertakes several initiatives each year that support the sector and help the province in achieving the goals of its heritage policy.

An example is the Capacity and Economic Surveys. The result of this annual work, the Heritage Conservation in BC Factsheet, supports the government in monitoring activities in communities, measuring the vitality of the heritage sector, and assessing its own strategic initiatives.

We can estimate heritage-related tourism brings into the province nearly $32 million dollars.

This, in turn, generates nearly $57 million dollars in further spending and contributions, including $27 million dollars to BC’s GDP.

A further $5.5 million dollars is transferred to municipal, provincial and federal governments as taxes.

Again, heritage is more than the past. It is woven into the socio-economic fabric of our communities.

Heritage BC applauds the current government’s commitment to increased funding for the arts. Today, we are here to ask the government to broaden that crucial mandate to include our province’s heritage, helping Heritage BC and communities to protect and conserve our province’s historic and cultural legacies, and to foster the well-known benefits.

And there is evidence of the real need for this support.

The Heritage Legacy Fund receives funding requests 4 times more than the available funds.

The funding program British Columbia | Canada 150, which supports the museum and heritage sectors and which we help to administer, distributed $7.4 million dollars. This has been an extraordinary boost to every region of the province, including 35 First Nations communities and related projects.

However, the requests for support from this one-time program totaled $23 million dollars, three times the available funds.

These programs expose the extraordinary need for support, still unmet, that is found in every BC region. The hard truth is: only a fraction of the communities receives support for their infrastructure programs.

We are asking the provincial government to expand its funding mandate and to be a visible, active contributor to our heritage sector… to help British Columbians rehabilitate old buildings while strengthening the social, economic, and cultural fabric of our communities.

I thank you for your time and consideration, and for this opportunity to make this presentation.

Paul Gravett
Executive Director
Heritage BC

September 25, 2017