Business for the Arts calls on the Federal Government to reinvest the $60 million recently cut from arts and culture into the cultural sector, as a recognized driver of our creative economy



    TORONTO, Sept. 11 /CNW/ - Jim Fleck, Chairman, Business for the Arts
responded to recent government cuts to the arts and culture sector at press
conference held this morning by the Toronto Arts Council.
    There is a tremendous amount of concern in the arts community with the
recent news of more than $60 million cut in Federal funding for the arts.
Business for the Arts understands the need for a periodic review of programs
to ensure efficient spending of tax dollars, however we are discouraged by the
way the cuts were announced, as we were given little notice or explanation
about the cuts, and still no word on whether or not the $60 million will be
reinvested in the cultural sector. The arts community is understandably upset.
Business for the Arts feels these cuts, announced as they were, with very
little explanation or warning, sends the wrong message to the arts community,
the business community and to all of our citizens that Canada doesn't value or
appreciate the social and economic benefits our artists bring to our country.
Any business in Canada would agree that the more attractive our cities become
through diverse arts and cultural activities, the easier it becomes to attract
international talent to their firms. Countless studies show that Canada
requires a healthy cultural community in order to attract and retain talent in
this increasingly global economy.
    Canadian Heritage recently collaborated on a report entitled Valuing
Culture: Measuring and Understanding Canada's Creative Economy, released by
the Conference Board of Canada, which echoes these precise sentiments, which
is why we are the more perplexed at their recent wave of announcements. The
report states in the foreword that: Clearly, a growing, dynamic culture sector
is central to Canada's success as a creative, knowledge-based economy. The
culture sector also serves as a magnet for skilled and creative people, as
Canada becomes increasingly dependent on international migration to sustain
the size of its national labour force.
    Canada is competing on the world stage and needs to invest in creating a
healthy and exciting cultural community. As Richard Florida notes: Employment
is not the central driving force for location decisions; rather, creative
people choose to live in places that are centres of creativity and diversity.
People are not just choosing jobs, they are choosing places to live, work and
play where other creative thinkers collect, and share ideas across sectors.
Great ideas are sparked through collaboration with other creative thinkers,
and these thinkers cluster in these creative centres.
    The Work Foundation published a report entitled Staying Ahead which sites
one of the drivers of the new economy as being a new collaborative and
creative mode of working in the knowledge-based industries today: Employees
are no longer called upon merely to apply information in a mechanical
sequence, but are also invited to participate, experiment and offer
suggestions about how to improve the production process, and management is
expected to build feedback back into that - a powerful driver of learning by
doing and incremental innovation. Studies show that exposure to arts and
culture helps improve communication capabilities and think creatively.
Thinking in the creative workforce has shifted from linear to diagonal
thinking, and soft skills are just as important as raw technical ability. As
the Conference Board of Canada report suggests: Creative firms distinguish
themselves from their competitors by their employees' expert capacity to solve
problems and communicate complex ideas.
    If one doubts the public appetite for the arts, one need only consider
the hard economic numbers: Hill Strategies reports that Canadian consumers
spent $25.1 billion on culture goods and services in 2005, more than consumer
spending on household furniture, appliances and tools ($24 billion) and, Hill
Strategies notes, over three times larger than the $7.7 billion spent on
culture in Canada by all levels of government in 2003/04. The output by the
culture sector totalled: $46 billion in 2007, which was 3.8% of Canada's real
GDP. If we were to include the induced and indirect impact, the value-add
climbs to $84.6 billion. For comparison, the value-added of Canada's retail
industry was just under 6 per cent in 2007. The Conference Board estimates
that 1,000,000 jobs are created by the cultural sector, representing
7.1 per cent of Canada's total employment in 2007.

    The above arguments have been published with the support of twelve
external reviewers from the Department of Canadian Heritage, Government of
Canada. It is simply astonishing that with this recent collaborative effort in
support of the arts, the government has cut funding to the arts by $60 million
and in such a quick and quiet manner. It leaves the cultural community, and
all of us wondering, why the government has not absorbed the wisdom of its
latest report and collaborated more with the creative drivers of our economy.
Some of the program cuts may indeed make sense in terms of efficiencies, and
Canadians will understand the reasoning behind some of them. We believe
Canadians would like to know how that $60 million taken out of the arts will
be reinvested in the cultural community. Business for the Arts is requesting
that the Federal government issue a statement on how they plan to reinvest
that $60 million. We understand the need to reallocate funds to programs that
have more of an impact, but we are not in favour of taking funds out of
culture entirely. It is our hope that the government realizes the positive
impact of investing in the arts and thereby reassure the business community
who rely on creative talent to remain competitive in this knowledge-based
economy.





For further information:

For further information: Kaija Corlazzoli, Membership and Communications
Manager, Business for the Arts, (416) 869-3016 x223,
k_corlazzoli@businessforthearts.org, www.businessforthearts.org

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