Monday, January 14, 2013

Canadians support the arts. Now let's ask how best to do this!

The public opinion research on attitudes towards arts and heritage released by the federal government last week reaffirms Canadians’ longstanding belief that culture is important to us:

  • 57% of Canadians say they were involved in at least one artistic activity in the last 12 months
  • 66% of Canadians feel that arts and culture are important to their quality of life, and that of their families.

It follows that most Canadians believe in strong government support for arts and culture.  Nine in ten of us feel that government should support the arts.  95% of Canadians agree that governments in Canada should help protect and preserve the country’s heritage.

Other similar reports, such as the Ontario Arts Council research commissioned from Environics on The Arts and Quality of Life, found similar trends.

With such strong support for the cultural sector, the conversation now needs to shift from ‘whether or not to support’ to ‘how best to support’ the sector.

The dialogue has started at the Canada Council for the Arts and other agencies.  Going forward, let’s hope that we all contribute to it in meaningful ways.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Looking forward: Stories to watch in cultural policy in 2013

A new year brings the opportunity to take the long view and see what’s ahead over the coming twelve months.  These are some the issues and developments The Arts Advocate will be watching:


The EU free trade negotiations and their implications for cultural industries and commerce:  If a trade deal is finally inked, it could set the tone for Canada’s negotiations in the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade talks also underway.  Thoughts are that the TPP could be much tougher, as the US is not seen as likely to warm to any cultural exemptions.

Canadian Heritage Minister James Moore’s cross-country consultation on Canada’s 150th anniversary celebrations, if this goes according to a plan laid out in a recent story in the Ottawa Citizen.

Developments in the Canadian publishing:  The industry was dealt some tough blows in 2012 with the downgrade of McClelland and Stewart to an imprint in January and then Douglas & McIntyre’s decision to file for bankruptcy protection in the fall.  We’ll be looking to see what the status of Canadian Heritage’s consultation into a revised foreign investment policy for publishing is.

The results of the Canada Council for the Art’s ‘change agenda’ and the potential it holds for a fundamental long-term rethinking of the programs and approach at the Council.

The 2013 budget, where we will be looking to see if the feds respond to the request for a stretch tax credit charitable donations, a long advocated measure that will help arts organizations with charitable status.


The political volatility in Ontario holds the potential for significant change, even upheaval:

-  Ontario will see a new cabinet following the Ontario Liberal Leadership this month.  That could mean a new Minister of Culture.  Minister Michael Chan has been in the post since 2010.

-  The prospect of a provincial election is all but certain.  With all three parties viable contenders, according to polls, we could be looking at an entirely different government within a few months.  Neither the NDP or the PCs have said much about their cultural policies, but we do know that work is underway on them.

The Ontario budget will essentially be a campaign platform.  We’ll be looking to see where culture fits in it.

So, all in all, it looks like there will be an interesting and full year ahead.

All the best for 2013.

Top cultural policy headlines from 2012

Here is The Arts Advocate’s list for the top cultural policy stories and trends of 2012:

-  Passage of a revised Copyright Act, without a doubt one of the most significant results of the year.

-  Sustained public funding to key cultural agencies, like national museums, the Canada Council for the Arts, the Ontario Arts Council, the Ontario Media Development Corporation and others, the result of effective advocacy throughout the cultural sector.

(We acknowledge that there were funding cuts to others, like the CBC, Telefilm, National Library and Ontario’s cultural attraction agencies.  In the scheme of things, the overall view is that the cultural sector weathered relatively well in 2012, though there remains well-grounded fear for the future.)

-  The establishment of the Canadian Museum of History.

-  The demise of the Canadian Conference of the Arts, Canada’s longest-standing arts advocacy organization.

-  The drive to make fundamental changes to the way cultural agencies support their clients.  At its AGM, Telefilm Canada announced that it had completed a complete redesign of its entire range programs.  The Canada Council for the Arts has made it clear that fundamental change to its programs is on the way, with a shift in focus from ‘supply’ to ‘demand’.

-  The EU free trade agreement, something that has flown under the radar screen for the most part.  In November, Canadian Heritage James Moore told a parliamentary committee that the deal would “genuinely protect our cultural communities and their needs.”

-  An unstated but creeping sense that arm’s-length agencies are feeling the arm becoming shorter and shorter, something being talked about at the water cooler in all jurisdictions.

No doubt there are headlines we’ve missed.  We look forward to your comments on what’s not here.

Onwards to 2013.