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Comparisons of Arts Funding in Selected Countries: Preliminary Findings

March 29, 200629 March 2006

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This report examines government funding for the arts in a number of countries, particularly at the federal level. The report cautions that “direct comparisons between countries should not be made only on a simple basis such as comparing per capita arts funding figures”. In addition, the report highlights other problems with international comparisons: varying definitions of the arts; varying inclusion of direct and indirect funding sources; and the fact that exchange rates may not reflect real differences in the cost of living.

The report has attempted to overcome these problems, largely by focusing on per capita arts funding in nine countries with relatively similar arts funding bodies – namely, an arms-length national funding body that provides grants in a range of artforms. Canada ranks eighth among these nine countries. In 2003/04, the Canada Council’s total budget was $4.73 per capita, a figure that was larger than only the U.S. National Endowment for the Arts ($0.51 per capita). The countries closest to Canada are Australia ($6.91 per capita) and New Zealand ($7.01 per capita). The countries at the top of the list are England ($24.36 per capita) and Scotland ($22.37 per capita). In both of the latter cases, lottery funding is included in the figures. However, direct government support (not lottery-based) is still much higher than Canadian levels.

Although not noted in the report, if federal support for the Canada Council were to double (which was promised by the previous federal government), Canada would still rank sixth out of the nine countries.

The report also provides a brief comparison of government funding for the performing arts in four countries. This analysis, which includes federal, provincial/state and municipal funding expressed in Canadian dollars, shows that public expenditures on the performing arts are much higher in the three other countries than in Canada. Austria and the Netherlands have much higher performing arts spending than Canada, despite having populations that are much smaller than the Canadian population. German performing arts spending is ten times the Canadian level for a population that is roughly two-and-a-half times the Canadian population.

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