Ah, winter! For many Canadians, the season would surely be synonymous with hibernation were it not for the exceptional contribution of the arts – and of culture in general – during the cold season. With only a few days to go before the opening of numerous events throughout Canada, including Igloofest in Montreal, PuSh in Vancouver and Contact ontarois, to name just a few, and while indoors (all warm and cosy!), all sorts of shows are unfolding at a rate of 3,500 per week, signatory associations wish to stress the importance of performing arts presenters and to reiterate the urgency of providing them with greater support.
Whether multidisciplinary or specialized, whether in the form of a festival or an indoor show, performance presenters are key players in the cultural ecosystem. They are the ones who, in cooperation with creators and producers, implement attractive programs. In fact, in recognition of their essential role, about 600 presenters are supported by the Canadian government, mainly through the Canada Arts Presentation Fund (CAPF), a vital tool without which many of them could not survive.
Despite the fact that they are often fragile or in precarious financial position, presenters remain great creators of wealth, generating revenues at the box-office and in a multitude of other sectors. All around them, in hundreds of communities across Canada, restaurants and hotels, for instance, benefit from spending by local visitors as well as by international tourists who spend “new” money here, as has been proven time and again.
As its term in office draws to a close, the government of Canada has clearly understood the importance of the arts and culture by doubling the budget of the Canada Council for the Arts. It also steadfastly worked to increase of its international reach, implementing Canada’s Creative Export Strategy. The entire cultural community is grateful to the government for that. That being said, in the performance chain – which includes creation, production and domestic presentation – the last link has been forgotten and remains to date, unfortunately, the weakest.
It is estimated that CAPF, with an annual fund of about $30 million, shows a decrease of more than 13 per cent compared with its original level in 2003-04. Oddly, there has been no increase – or even indexing – for more than 10 years to this budgetary envelope even as the number of presenters has increased significantly.
In anticipation of the next federal budget, the signatory associations have made many representations, notably to Pablo Rodriguez, Minister of Canadian Heritage and Multiculturalism, and Bill Morneau, Minister of Finance. In their respective campaigns, the associations advanced their own requests, but also presented a common front on one request: They believe it is now time to double the budget of CAPF, as was done with the Canada Council for the Arts.
Beyond their memberships, signatory associations have received sizeable support, starting with that of the Standing Committee on Finance of the House of Commons which, in its pre-budget consultations, called on the government to increase its funding for CAPF “in order to foster a strong domestic market that will serve as a launch pad for Canadian performing arts productions on international markets.” Another group joined in, consisting of more than a dozen MPs who individually supported the request, as well as mayors and various partner associations. Together, we invite the government of Canada to take advantage of the opportunity that the next budget presents to recognize the importance of performing arts presenters and to provide them with adequate support so that, through them, the public may continue to meet with creators and ensure the vitality of the cultural sector throughout the country.
This letter is signed by a collective:
Frédéric Julien and Kate Cornell, Co-Chairs, Canadian Arts Coalition
Martin Roy, Executive Director, Festivals and Major Events Canada (FAME) and Regroupement des événements majeurs internationaux (RÉMI)
Marie-Christine Morin, Executive Director, Fédération culturelle canadienne-française
Sue Urquhart, Executive Director, Canadian Arts Presenting Association (CAPACOA)
Julie-Anne Richard, Executive Director, Association professionnelle des diffuseurs de spectacles (RIDEAU)
The letter was published in La Presse Plus, on January 17, 2019.
The Minister of Canadian Heritage, the Honourable Pablo Rodriguez, published an open reply on January 21, 2019.