Bob D’Eith is doing what he knows best in a bid to win the New Democratic Party’s nomination for Maple Ridge-Mission.
As executive director of Music B.C., he brought the Junos to Vancouver in 2009 and helped create the PEAK Performance Project, a million-dollar program that helps up-and-coming musicians.
“You have to play on your strengths,” D’Eith says as he prepares to host a concert at the ACT in Maple Ridge on June 12.
“I am a big part of the arts and culture community. What made me get interested in politics in the first place was just seeing the decimation that’s been happening over the last 10 years and seeing the impact it’s had on the community and the organizations we work with.”
To showcase an industry that pumps $4 billion into B.C.’s economy annually, D’Eith will host NDP MLA Spencer Chandra Herbert and some of B.C.’s best emerging songwriters and performers.
“We have the lowest funding for arts per capita in Canada,” says D’Eith.
“The impression is – arts are a luxury – but it’s an important part of the economy and an important part of our lives.”
The Alliance for Arts and Culture put B.C.’s per capita arts spending last, at $6.54, against a national average of $26.
“I see a lot of drawn and tired faces because everyone is working for nothing and trying to keep their festivals alive and their theatres open,” says D’Eith, adding that the results of funding cuts over the past decade are only starting to surface now.
“People have finally eaten through their contingencies and their war chest funds. I think we’ll see way more organizations like the Playhouse go under in the next few years.”
A lawyer with 20 years experience, D’Eith has spent most of his career straddled between the non-profit and small business communities.
He has been at the helm of the provincial music industry association for the past decade.
I could only fight from the outside and bang on the glass for so long, says D’Eith, explaining why he’s decided to seek the B.C. NDP nomination.
“The arts is just one issue and soon as I started getting involved I realized it’s the same with the teachers and so many sectors of the economy.”
D’Eith challenger for the NDP nomination in Maple Ridge-Mission is Mike Bocking, a journalist and president of Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union Local 2000.
By mixing music with politics, D’Eith hopes to entice a few more people to join the NDP.
“It’s one thing getting people to vote and it’s another thing getting people to join a party and get more involved.
That’s what I’m hoping to motivate people to do because if you want change, you can’t wait around.”
Herbert, the MLA for Vancouver West End and the NDP’s critic for Tourism, Culture, and the Arts, will be join by musicians Ryan Guldemond (Mother Mother), Kevin Gau (The Left), Stef Lang and Maple Ridge singer-songwriter Hilary Grist.
Grist got to know D’Eith last year through the Peak Performance Project (she placed fourth) and has no misgivings about playing a gig with a political bent.
“It’s important for everyone to get politically involved. We’re living in a democratic society and we need to know what’s going on in our communities and who is in the position of power. Voter apathy is one of the main reasons our political system is so polarized,” says Grist.
Grist, known for her creativity and a do-it-yourself attitude, has seen government funding dwindle in the past decade.
“When I receive a grant, it doesn’t stay in my pocket, it spreads out over the entire arts community and has a ripple effect benefiting everyone from other musicians and producers, to recording studios and film industry,” says Grist.
“Even web industry, marketing and publicity benefit. It’s way more far-reaching than many people realize.”
The arts and culture industry is an easy target in an unstable economic times so Grist reminds taxpayers and politicians that creativity and expression are important outlets for all of us.
“Arts and culture are the back bone of a healthy, connected and innovative society. The arts remind us that there is magic in our lives,” she says.
• Bob D’Eith hosts Spencer Chandra Herbert, Ryan Guldemond, Kevin Gau, Stef Lang and Hilary Grist at the ACT in Maple Ridge June 12. Entry by donation. Suggested ticket donations: adults $15 -$25; seniors $10 - $15 and students up to $5. No person will be turned away from the event due to lack of financial means.