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Public Cultural Investments under Canada’s 40th Parliament

CCA Bulletin 17/11

July 25, 201125 July 2011

Government spending on culture

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This examination of federal cultural spending between 2008/09 and 2010/11, provided as a Bulletin from the Canadian Conference of the Arts (a national forum for Canada’s arts and cultural community), is based on “funding figures from the Department of Canadian Heritage, its agencies and programs”. The key theme of the CCA Bulletin is the relative stability of “overall funding to key grants and contribution programs at the Department of Canadian Heritage”.

There have been some important one-time spending initiatives. The Bulletin observes that “the most substantial one-time investment in cultural activities came through the Department of Industry in the form of the Marquee Tourism Events Program, which gave $100 million over two years to local festivals. This program ended along with Canada’s Economic Action Plan.”

The report states that, “if we include all one-time funding initiatives, it would be legitimate for the government to claim that in nominal dollars at least, these budgets represent the most ever for funding arts, culture and heritage.” However, the Bulletin speculates that “the government will have to cut deeply across programs to help balance the budget” through the current Strategic and Operating Review, which focuses on “improving the efficiency and effectiveness of government operations and programs to ensure value for taxpayer money”.

The Bulletin indicates that there were decreases in the Department of Canadian Heritage’s cultural budgets between 2009/10 and 2010/11 with the end of specific project funding, including spending related to the Economic Action Plan and the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Games. The report points out that, before the Games, some funding was shifted internally from arts, culture and heritage programs to the Games but was not returned to the original programs at the conclusion of the Olympics.

The report cites the Canada Periodical Fund (CPF) as an example of how some cultural organizations might have been “affected by changes in eligibility criteria and by the shifting of funds from one program to another”. Under the new CPF program (a merger of the former Canadian Magazine Fund and Publications Assistance Program), “publications whose circulation levels fall under 5,000 are no longer eligible”. Many literary and literary and arts-related publications fall under this threshold and are now eligible only for the Business Innovation component of the new fund.

The Bulletin also highlights changes to social benefits, investments in audiovisual production, CBC funding, spending on national museums, and the Canada Prizes for the Arts. The report provides detailed tables of funding levels for grants and contribution programs, the Department of Canadian Heritage itself, and various agencies and Crown corporations. Of note, funding for the Canada Council for the Arts has remained relatively stable at about $182 million in every year since 2007/08.

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