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Municipal Cultural Investment in Five Large Canadian Cities

A study prepared for the City of Vancouver, the City of Calgary, the City of Toronto, the City of Ottawa and the Ville de Montréal

June 11, 201211 June 2012

Government spending on culture

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This report compares the cultural investment in five of Canada’s largest cities: Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, Ottawa and Montréal. Cultural staff members in each city were instrumental in the process, both in working toward a common definition of culture and in capturing local data (which were reviewed and vetted by Hill Strategies). Per capita measurement of municipal cultural investments was thought to be a practical benchmarking tool that would allow staff to:

  • Quantify each city’s current level of investment.
  • Track whether cultural investment is increasing or decreasing.
  • Compare municipal cultural investment with peer cities.
  • Set targets of municipal cultural investment based on Council directives, culture plans or cultural resource development initiatives.

A further consideration was that, in the future, the municipal cultural investments (or “inputs”) could be compared to outputs, outcomes, and impacts in the cities.

The municipal cultural investments included in the study are operating, grant and capital expenditures related to the performing arts, visual and media arts, crafts, design, museums, heritage, special events, multidisciplinary activities, creative and cultural industries, city-owned cultural facilities, cultural districts, public art, and other art purchases. No other dataset currently covers this territory, as Statistics Canada’s Government Expenditures on Culture data provide estimates of cultural spending by all Canadian municipalities, with no breakdowns by municipality and only limited breakdowns by type of spending.

The report focuses largely on “net” investment figures, excluding funds transferred from other levels of government as well as other sources of revenue for civic theatres and other municipal facilities that charge admission. The net investment figures provide estimates of what was spent from the municipal tax base.

The net cultural investment in the five cities was $35 in 2009. The levels in each city (along with per capita equivalents, using 2006 census data) were:

  • $47.5 million in Toronto ($19 per local resident).
  • $22.4 million in Ottawa ($28 per capita).
  • $41.9 million in Calgary ($42 per resident).
  • $27.4 million in Vancouver ($47 per capita).
  • $89.0 million in Montréal (or $55 per resident).

In the five cities combined, the average net cultural investment of $35 per resident in 2009 represented an increase from the levels in prior years ($24 in 2006 and 2007, and $29 in 2008). Net cultural investment increased in all five cities between 2006 and 2009. Calgary’s growth in net cultural investment (175%) was much larger than any other city. Ottawa’s growth (90%) was also well above the five-city average (48%). The growth rates in Vancouver (44%) and Montréal (34%) fell somewhat below the five-city average. The growth in net cultural investment in Toronto (14%) was much lower than in the other cities. (These figures were not adjusted for inflation or population growth.)

The report also includes brief information about library operating support. In 2009, the net investment in libraries was $53 per capita. The levels of library operating support varied between the five cities:

  • $35.6 million in Calgary ($36 per local resident).
  • $33.4 million in Ottawa ($41 per capita).
  • $69.8 million in Montréal ($43 per resident).
  • $35.1 million in Vancouver ($61 per capita).
  • $172.5 million in Toronto ($69 per resident).

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