by Jini Stolk
I’ve seen a lot of budgets over the years, but I’ve never seen one as positive for the arts as was recently unveiled in Ottawa. Simon Brault’s moving response on behalf of the Canada Council talked, with passion but not exaggeration, about a new chapter having been opened in the artistic and cultural history of this country.
But first things first: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Minister of Finance Bill Morneau, and Minister of Canadian Heritage Melanie Joly deserve an outpouring of heartfelt thanks, and I do hope you all – every one of you – lets them know how much their belief in the importance of the arts is appreciated. If you’re thanking them by twitter, use hashtags #TOArtsThanks; #TOArts; and @melaniejoly, @bill_morneau, and @JustinTrudeau; if by email, [email protected], [email protected]; and [email protected]. Actual letters are perhaps nicest of all, especially if they come from both your Chair and CEO; addresses are here).
The government’s intention to “strengthen our cultural and creative industries” was clear from Minister Joly’s mandate letter, whose goals were realized only a few months later in the budget:
- increasing funding for CBC/Radio-Canada ($675 million in new funding over the next five years) and, equally importantly, reviewing the process of appointing members to the Board of Directors (CBC has a hard road ahead in overcoming years of losses of staff, technical resources, and even the sale of their 70,000 piece costume collection )
- doubling investment in the Canada Council for the Arts (a $180 million increase over five years)
- increasing funding for Telefilm Canada ($22 million more over five years) and the National Film Board ($13.5 million over five years)
- restoring the Promart and Trade Routes International cultural promotion programs, making it possible for our artists to tour internationally and advance Canada’s reputation and values around the world ($35 million over two years, and hopefully beyond); this funding will also free up support from other governments that’s been unavailable because of lack of reciprocity
- making significant new investments in cultural infrastructure ($168.2 million over two years to the Canada Cultural Spaces Fund) for the renovation and construction of arts and heritage facilities; also $4 million over two years for the costs of construction and renovation to improve accessibility for people with disabilities in Canadian communities
- increasing funding for the Young Canada Works program to help prepare the next generation of Canadians working in the heritage sector
And those are just the highlights.
Not to be greedy, but these few more things would make me completely happy:
- funds for greening theatres and arts spaces, and maintaining heritage buildings housing cultural organizations
- reviving the National Portrait Gallery to showcase the thousands of works previously collected for this important national project, abruptly cancelled by the previous government. I’ve been delighted to see that I’m not the only one who kept that dream alive over the years; the CBC, Toronto Star, Ottawa Citizen, Globe and Mail and more have called in recent weeks for the Portrait Gallery to be reinstated, and I gather there’s renewed optimism at Library and Archives Canada (where the collection is now held.) Just imagine: a flourishing contemporary cultural scene and a place that provides an inspirational spotlight on our history through portraits of the artists, scientists, political, government, military and community leaders who helped make Canada great
- I will also put in a word of support for one of Canada’s ambassadorial buildings abroad, inexplicably scheduled for “de-accessioning” several years ago. The Villa Grandi in Rome was given to Canada by the Italian government at the end of the Second World War. It has served as the Canadian Ambassador’s residence and is a prominent monument to the pivotal role of Canadian soldiers fighting in Italy. It should of course be maintained.
From Growing the Middle Class, Federal Budget 2016