Monday, December 1, 2008

A New Coalition Government: What would it mean for Canada's arts sector?

Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper made many enemies (or sharpened same) in the national arts community when cut funding this summer and insinuated all arts as equivalent to elitist galas in the fall.

So there's more than a few artists, curators, actors, filmmakers and writers out there smiling with the news that the Liberal, NDP and Bloc Quebecois parties are binding together to form a coalition that could defeat Harper's government as early as next Monday.

What might a coalition mean for Canada's arts community? It's hard to tell, especially with the economic downturn placing the focus squarely on job creation and market stimulation. Still, it might be helpful to review some of the promises the Liberals, NDP and Bloc made on the arts during the election campaign earlier this fall.

  • Increasing the film or video production tax credit to 30%
  • Doubling the budget for the Canada Council for the arts to $360 million annually
  • $25 million to create new jobs in digital media
  • Adding $26 million in international arts promotion 
  • Adding $16 to the Museums Assistance Program
  • Reversing Conservative government cuts totalling $44 million
  • Instituting income averaging for artists' tax returns
  • Providing long-term funding to the Canadian Television Fund
  • Introduce income-averaging for artists, modeled directly on long-standing practice in the province of Quebec
  • Provide an annual federal tax exemption of $20,000 for income earned from copyright and residuals income.
  • Reform the CRTC to ensure that prime time television in French and in English is written, directed, stars, and is about Canada and Canadians
  • Provide Radio-Canada and CBC with stable, secure and adequate funding.
  • Protect and properly fund Telefilm and the Canadian Television Fund.
  • Protect and properly fund the Canada Council.
  • Reverse Mr. Harper’s $45 million cutback to culture.
Though I couldn't find any bullet-point promises on the Bloc site, there were some great quotes from leader Gilles Duceppe that follow the tradition of cultural support for which Quebec governments are known:

« Stephen Harper understands nothing of the Quebecois reality. Culture in Quebec is 314 000 jobs... There are tens of thousands of middle class Quebec families who live from culture, with the average revenue of culture jobs in Quebec at $32 125."

« In Montreal, just in 2005, culture generated 1.4 million dollars and grew at 4.7% per year. The Conservative cuts hurt the Montreal Symphony Orchestra, which must find other sources of funding for its international tours. Yet those tours are worth millions of dollars of publicity for Montreal Quebec, and Canada. And the government decides to cut it?"

" Stephen Harper repeats above all that the culture budget has increased. That's false, because the budget of Heritage Canada increasing does not mean culture funding is increasing. The reality is that the conservatives act populism poorly when they attack artists, art, and culture. Stephen Harper will burn his fingers, because culture, in addition to being the soul of the Quebec nation, is also the economy and in that, all of Quebec profits." [All translations my own.]

Of course, as mentioned previously, all this is up in the air given the economic crisis. Still, should the coalition pass, it would likely generate a government that is more sensitive to the needs of the arts community than Harper's... even if they don't always bring the cash to follow through.

Image of NDP leader Jack Layton, Liberal leader Stephane Dion, and Gilles Duceppe from

No comments: