Monday, October 28, 2013

The federal Throne Speech received muted support from cultural sector

For policy watchers, the Speech from the Throne normally provides substance on which to link their priorities and issues.  As the cultural sector has become more sophisticated over the past decade, national organizations have looked to it to provide the platform for connecting to the government’s agenda.

Perhaps uncharacteristically, the response of Canada’s cultural sector to this month’s “consumer-friendly” Throne Speech has been quiet, almost to the point of being non-existent.  The Arts Advocate surveyed news releases and statements of Canada’s leading national cultural organizations and found little.

What we did find though spoke of a sector looking to work with the federal government:

ACTRA is reaching out to the Canadian Government, calling on it to work closely with the creative sector in their consultation and implementation of plans to unbundle television channels.  Their news release stated,  “While we were disappointed to not hear a clear commitment to support the Canadian cultural industry, an important sector and job-creator, we were pleased to see that the government took this opportunity to specifically state they will protect Canadian jobs while implementing their plans for unbundling,” said Stephen Waddell, ACTRA’s National Executive Director. “We look forward to hearing more details of the Government’s plans to protect Canadians from unreasonable fees and we will be reaching out to offer advice and assistance on behalf of the creative community of performers in Canada.”

(On Friday, Canadian Heritage Minister Shelly Glover announced the launch of a CRTC dialogue, Let’s Talk TV: A Conversation with Canadians, to discuss the future of television.  In her words, it responds to Canadians’ desire for “choice and flexibility” in television services and directly flows from commitments announced in the Throne Speech.)

The Canadian Museums Association (CMA), published backgrounder stated:  “An encouraging statement in the speech is the government’s commitment to continue working with industry partners to promote Canada as a top tourism destination.  Given that a large number of tourists visit cultural and heritage sites during their stay, this should directly benefit our sector.”

The CMA also said that it will be monitoring the proposed legislation creating a criminal offence prohibiting the non-consensual distribution of ‘intimate images’, noting that in the past such legislation has put serious and legitimate artists at risk of violating the law, even if posing no realistic threat of harm to individuals.

Not least, the Canadian Museums Association expressed concerns that not-for-profit and cultural organizations may be excluded from measures to support youth employment.

The Arts Advocate continually monitors the cultural public policy landscape.  We will keep you posted.

Monday, October 21, 2013

What is the Children's Arts Tax Credit worth to Canadians?

Last week’s Throne Speech was virtually silent on the arts, save a brief mention of the Children’s Arts Tax Credit.  In the Speech, Governor General David Johnston cited the importance of the tax credit in helping Canadian families lower their tax burden.  

This piqued our interest in learning more about the importance of this tax credit to Canadians.

The Children’s Arts Tax Credit, a budget measure introduced in 2011, is estimated to be a tax expenditure of $35 million a year.  It allows parents to claim a 15% non-refundable tax credit, based on an amount of up to $500 in eligible expenses for children’s artistic activities, like music lessons. 

Put another way, the children’s arts tax credit provides a cumulative tax savings of $35 million for all Canadians.  It’s not clear how many Canadians claim the credit. 

What is particularly interesting is that the federal Department of Finance states that the uptake on the Children’s Arts Tax Credit is less than projected.  In the 2011 federal Budget, it was estimated the credit would cost the government up to $100 million, significantly more than the current projection of $35 million.

By contrast, the Children’s Fitness Tax Credit is currently projected to be worth $120 million.

This begs the question, why aren’t more Canadian kids engaged in arts activities?  And what does it mean for Canada’s arts and cultural sector?