Artists and arts workers from coast to coast to coast gathered in Ottawa on Tuesday October 25th to discuss the key role arts investment plays in the economic and social health of Canada. With one hundred participants and 120 scheduled meetings, it was the best attended Arts Day yet.
Recognizing the Government’s goal to reduce Canada’s deficit by 2014, members of the Canadian Arts Coalition presented a more modest set of priorities than in previous years. Parliamentarians were asked to maintain investment in the Canada Council for the Arts, integrate arts and culture in the government’s foreign policy initiatives, and to maintain funding levels to key arts, culture and heritage programs delivered by the Department of Canadian Heritage.
Members of Parliament across all parties signaled their support. Steering Committee members who met with Heritage Minister, James Moore reported a very positive dialogue, Moore assured the Coalition that the Government intends to find savings with minimal impacts to artists or the stability of the arts ecology, though the potential effects of future spending reductions remains an ongoing concern for the arts community. Moore addressed participants at the closing reception saying he was so pleased with the positive tone of the day and stressed that government and the arts sector must continue working together to find solutions to the challenges ahead. “Supporting culture isn’t a left wing issue or a right wing issue, it’s the right thing to do,” said Minister Moore.
Canadian actress, Cynthia Dale, also addressed participants. “We are an arts nation who create, perform and bring Canada to the world,” she said. The reception, hosted by Deputy Speaker Denise Savoie, was well attended with appearances by Parliamentary Secretary for Heritage, Paul Calandra; Minister of National Revenue, Gail Shea; NDP Heritage Critic, Tyrone Benskin; Liberal Heritage Critic, Scott Simms and other art supporting MPs such as Charlie Angus and Justin Trudeau. The meetings reflected a balance of members of Parliament from all parties with 40% of meetings with Conservative members.
“The MPs we met with understood the contribution the arts make to the life, vibrancy and economy of their communities and recognized the need to protect the most vulnerable elements of the sector’s ecology,” said Coalition spokesperson Shannon Litzenberger. “We hope to build on this success to create ongoing positive communication with MPs in all ridings and keenly await the results of the deficit reduction action plan.”
At the same time, the potential effects of future funding reductions remain an ongoing concern for the arts sector. The Coalition will continue to be watchful of forthcoming government decisions, and work with MP’s across all parties in support of increased investment in arts and culture over the long term.