Sustaining a dynamic and vibrant cultural industry

The arts and culture sector is vital to our collective identity. Not only does it allow us to enrich the lives of individuals and communities, but it also lets us creatively illustrate our place in the world and express who we are.

The cultural industry is also an important vector for job creation and economic growth. It is estimated that the economic spinoffs of the cultural industry totalled more than $53.4 billion in 2010, or approximately 3.4% of gross domestic product (GDP). More than 700,000 jobs across the country, representing 4% of the labour force, are tied to this industry. Therefore, it is vital that the federal government invest in the development and promotion of culture, on both the regional and international stage.

Why culture and austerity don’t mix

For the past ten years, the federal record on culture has been absolutelydisastrous. Stephen Harper’s Conservative government, which never hid its hostility towards the arts and culture sector, cut the budgets of major federal organizations operating in this sector. In the 2012-13 budget, funding for the NFB, Telefilm Canada, and the Library and Archives Canada was cut by 10%.

That same year, the CBC, a crown corporation providing a public service essential for the advancement of Canadian culture, experienced budget cuts of more than $115 million and was forced to lay off 1,600 employees. Then there was Destination Canada, the federal tourism marketing agency, whose budget was cut by $24 million by the Conservatives.

This ineffective and arbitrary austerity was very detrimental to our cultural industry. The objective of the $461 million in budget cuts, which represented a mere 0.6% of the government’s expenses that could be cut, was not to generate “savings”, but to force these already underfunded organizations to significantly reduce their staff and their means of action. This unjustified and partisan ideology was to the detriment of the main consumers of cultural goods—the citizens.

During the 2015 election campaign, Justin Trudeau’s Liberals promised to reverse this negative course by increasing funding for culture and restoring the CBC’s funding. In the 2016-17 budget, the new government announced investments of $1.8 billion over five years for the cultural sector, including the NFB, the Canada Council for the Arts, and Telefilm Canada. Although these measures break with the Conservatives’ devastating policies, they are not enough to adequately protect and advance our cultural industry.

The NDP believes that it is vital to provide more support for creativity in Canada. Our artists must have better opportunities to promote their work both in Canada and abroad, and must have more solid support from the federal government. It is also important to provide stable, long-term funding for federal cultural organizations and museums (small and large), which play a central role in providing direct access to cultural and heritage assets.

With regard to communications, we believe that community broadcasters and alternative media outlets should have more support. It is also vital that we ensure that the news media accept the social responsibility inherent in their work and that consumer rights be better protected with respect to these enterprises. It is vital that we strengthen the independence of the CBC by increasing its public funding and also by giving the ombudsman greater autonomy.

Culture in Hochelaga

In our riding, cultural offerings are not distributed equally among the sectors. Although cultural infrastructure is an important part of neighbourhood life in Hochelaga-Maisonneuve, it is significantly less developed in the Rosemont East sector, which, for instance, does not have a municipal library or cultural centre.

This shortcoming was pointed out in 2012 at the Rosemont social forum, in which we actively participated. At the end of this forum, the participants chose to make culture a priority by promoting cultural life close to the people and rooted in the community. This choice reflects the will of residents and community organizations in the area to place more importance on culture in Rosemont East.

We believe that it is important to focus on the accessibility of culture throughout the riding so that every citizen can access cultural resources close to where they live and thus enjoy a dynamic and vibrant community. It is for this reason that we support local groups working in the arts and culture sector. Every year, the Canada Summer Jobs program makes it possible to provide significant resources to sustain culture in the riding.