Monday, March 28, 2011

Election 2011: The emerging cultural policy platforms

It’s early days yet in the federal 2011 Election campaign, but already there are signals as to how the cultural policy platforms are shaping up for the three main national parties.

Conservative Party

In the weeks leading to the election, Canadian Heritage Minister James Moore and his colleagues were on whirlwind tour across the country making funding announcements to arts and cultural organizations. Much of this funding was from the suite of departmental programs renewed and modernized by Minister Moore, including the Canada Cultural Investment Fund, the Canada Arts Training Fund and so on.

Going forward, expect the Conservative Party to focus on their cultural spending record and their budget promises, including the plan to create a new Children’s Artistic Activity Tax Credit, an earlier promise of their 2008 cultural platform.
The key elements of the 2011 Budget for culture are:
* Children’s Arts Tax Credit, an initiative expected to cost the federal government $100 million in its first full year of operation;
* Ongoing funding of $100 million per year for the Canada Media Fund;
* Stabilized funding for the Canada Periodical Fund, which means adding $15 million to its ongoing base.

The Conservative’s are apt to remind people that these things will not come to be unless they are re-elected.

Liberal Party

The Liberals state that ‘for the Conservatives, cultural programs are either superfluous expenses or vehicles for them to advance their right-wing agenda.’

The promise to
* Double funding to the Canada Council for the Arts;
* Restore and increase funding to the Trade Routes and PromArt programs;
* Guarantee stable funding to the CBC.

For details go here


To date, the NDP have not released any platform specifics. If 2008 is any indication, expect them to also focus on increased funding to the Canada Council, the Canada Media Fund and support to ‘home-grown film and television production.’

C-32: The Copyright amendments

C-32, the proposed Copyright amendments can be expected to feature in the party platforms, though it is not there yet. Look to the Conservatives to pledge to stop the ‘iPod Tax’, while the Liberals, Bloc and NDP will be speaking to creating a balance between the creator and consumer.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Canada’s cultural sector responds to Budget 2011

The response of Canada’s cultural sector to yesterday’s federal Budget 2011 is mixed. There is elation on the part of some national associations like the Canadian Media Production Association and Magazines Canada; on the other hand, the Canadian Arts Coalition and La Fédération culturelle canadienne-française are disappointed. Some are in the middle, while other organizations chose not to weigh in.

Below is a snapshot of various public responses, presented in no other order than the alphabet!

Canadian Arts Coalition

…the Canadian Arts Coalition (CAC) expressed disappointment with the content of yesterday’s federal budget.

“Budget 2011 was clearly focused on strengthening the economy and re-building Canada’s international presence,” noted CAC spokesperson Shannon Litzenberger.  “Given these priorities, we believe that the Government of Canada missed the opportunity to build on the strengths of the arts sector to boost job creation, the vitality of communities across the country, and Canada’s international reputation through strategic arts investment.

Canadian Conference of the Arts

The budget is peppered with a series of tax credits for a number of Canadians, and there is one that concerns the arts. This is possibly the only new item for the arts in this 2011 budget, and is in fact the reintroduction of a promise made during the 2008 election. … The CCA originally asked for this tax credit in April 2006 and welcomes it as a recognition by the government that arts training is just as important as physical training for Canadian children.

Canadian Media Production Association

The Canadian Media Production Association (CMPA) applauds the Government of Canada and the Minister of Canadian Heritage, the Honourable James Moore, for committing an ongoing $100 million per year to the Canada Media Fund (CMF) in support of the creation of high-quality Canadian content across multiple platforms. The CMPA is also pleased the Government has announced a one-time $60 million in funding to CBC/Radio-Canada to be used in the production of Canadian programming.

“This brings much-needed stability to the financing of Canadian television and interactive content,” says Norm Bolen, the Association’s President and CEO.   “It removes uncertainty for independent producers and broadcasters and allows them to plan their activities with the knowledge that the CMF will be there to partner with them for years to come.”

Canadian Museum Association

“We are pleased that these (museum) programs were fully maintained at a time when fighting the deficit is the priority, and some programs have suffered real cuts,” observed John McAvity, CMA Executive Director. “This was not going to be a budget with significant new spending.”
“Still,” McAvity continued, “the CMA is disappointed that the government did not move on our recommendations to develop a matching donations program to encourage increased private sector investment in Canadian museums, and a much-needed increase to the Young Canada Works program, which provides valuable career-building opportunities for Canada’s youth.”

La Fédération culturelle canadienne-française (FCCF)

« Avec l’annonce des crédits d’impôt pour les cours d’arts, c’est un budget qui facilite timidement l’accès aux arts, mais qui ne reconnaît pas l’importance et la valeur des investissements dans les secteurs des arts et de la culture en ce qui a trait à la création d’emplois et la relance économique » déclare la présidente de la FCCF, Mme Boulay LeBlanc.

Magazines Canada

The Canadian magazine industry is delighted with the Federal budget commitment to the Canada Periodical Fund. This commitment confirms that $15 million annually is being added to the Canada Periodical Fund budget. The budget papers say the investment will be "$15 million in ongoing funding to the program to continue to support the distribution of publications to Canadians, while providing long-term stable program funding."

"This means that the CPF will remain strong and intact," said Mark Jamison, CEO of Magazines Canada.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Federal budget watch 2011

The Ottawa ‘circus’, as many media pundits are calling it will soon be underway, with Tuesday’s federal budget being the main act. This is what The Arts Advocate Report will be watching for from the perspective of the arts and cultural sector:

The details of a new tax credit for children’s artistic activity, a measure announced last week, by Prime Minister Stephen Harper. This initiative will fulfill a promise initially made in the Conservative Party’s 2008 campaign platform.

Whether or not the government responds to any of the pre-budget requests put forward by cultural organizations in the fall. Some of the needs advanced include:

* Extension of the $50 million/year Marquee Tourism Events Program, the marketing assistance program for the country’s largest festivals and events

* Maintenance of the Canada Periodical Fund at a level of $75 million (as contrasted to what the federal government indicates is the base level of about $60 million in the latest federal expenditure estimates)

* New investments in international cultural diplomacy and the Canada Council for the Arts, as requested by the Canadian Arts Coalition

* Continued public support for Canadian content creation, as made possible through programs like the Canada Media Fund, a priority for organizations like ACTRA

* A new initiative for museums, called the Canadians Supporting Their Museums Fund, as put forward at a level of $25 million a year by the Canadian Museum Association

Expectations that any of these funding investments will be addressed are relatively low among those in the cultural sector. The PM and Finance Minister have made it extremely clear that the Economic Action Plan, as announced two years ago, is over and that fiscal restraint will be the order of the day. That said, if the government is looking to curry the favour of artists and cultural enthusiasts in a potential election this spring, the budget may include a few goodies.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Changing the dial on the arts contribution

Last week, TVO’s The Agenda with Steve Paikin asked the question ‘Who needs the arts? And “who should carry the can?”

The National Ballet School’s Jeff Melanson, Stratford Shakespeare Festival Antoni Cimolino, Toronto Arts Council’s Claire Hopkinson, Ryerson University’s Gerd Hauck and Artist Pandora Topp made a clear and compelling case for investing in Toronto and Ontario’s cultural sector. If you missed the show, it’s available as a podcast on iTunes – it’s worth watching.

Although a fan of Steve Paikin, it was disheartening to hear him allege that ‘the only argument I’ve ever heard from the arts is that they need the government to give them more money.” It reinforced the need for everyone in the cultural sector to change the channel on how Ontarian’s and Canadian’s perceive the arts in our country. I’ve been at one to many dinner parties where I hear friends argue that the arts need to be more ‘business-like’. Rather than being at the soul of our country, the sector is seen as continually looking for hand-outs, without entrepreneurial know-how or acumen.

Cold comfort though it is, the arts aren’t alone in battling this perception. Ontario’s Partnership Project led by Citizenship and Immigration Minister Eric Hoskins and Ontario Trillium Foundation Chair Helen Burstyn heard this from across Ontario’s 46,000 not-for-profit organizations. Their report states “there is a general perception among many that they are perceived as supplicant, coming to government only for the purpose of funding.”

So the question is, how do we change the channel on the broader public perception of the arts? A question many ponder these days.

Enhanced public engagement in the arts is a great start – gobbledeegook to many, this means encouraging friends and neighbours to get out and experience arts activity, be it amateur or professional, local or international. Chances are, most friends and neighbours are already engaged in a myriad of arts activity – they just don’t connect it to ‘the arts sector.’

Culture Days is making great strides in engaging even more Canadians. While the word is out, there is still a long way to go though.

Governments, too, are assisting: Ontario announced a tax credit to encourage children’s artistic activity last fall. Today (17 March), the federal government also announced that details of a similar credit will be contained in the 22 March budget.

… all steps in the right direction.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Budget watch: Ontario libraries look to make up ground on provincial funding

Budget season is upon us, with most of the attention focused on Finance Minister Jim Flaherty’s budget and the speculation of whether it will trigger an election or not. The cultural sector has a wish-list for Ottawa, though expectations are low that any of it will be addressed on 22 March.

The Ontario budget, anticipated around the same time as the federal one, has had decidedly less attention from the cultural sector. In the two weeks of pre-budget hearings held across the Province, arts, heritage and cultural organizations were decidedly absent.

The single and noteworthy exception to this is the library sector. Several libraries appeared before the Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs, rallying behind the Federation of Ontario Public Libraries. According to its spokesperson, Jim Bennett, provincial library funding was cut in 1996-97 by 40% and has remained at that level, of $18.7 M since that time. It is the lowest provincial per capita funding in the country. This, they say leads to an overreliance on municipal support for libraries.

To fix the problem, libraries across Ontario want the province’s contribution to grow to $43.9, an increase of over $25 M, over two years. This is to bring provincial library funding back to the equivalent of where it stood in 1995, and respond only to CPI and population growth.

The Federation of Ontario Public Libraries says that Culture Minister Michael Chan has acknowledged the need to fix library funding. Time will tell whether 2011 is the year where it will happen.