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Detailed Analysis of the 2012 Federal Budget: The Aftershocks Are More Severe Than the Earthquake

CCA Bulletin 15/12


September 18, 2012


The Canadian Conference of the Arts (CCA) releases its detailed analysis of the Federal Budget from the perspective of culture and heritage today.

The 2012-2013 federal budget is the first real budget from the conservative majority government. Readers may recall that last year, to highlight the consistency of its approach, the government reintroduced its electoral budget. Whereas in our analysis of that budget, we wondered where the axe would fall, this year we can detect certain lines of positioning. However, the lack of transparency in the communication of measures taken by the government and the multiplicity of decision-centres involved made this year’s analysis more difficult. And as the cuts are spread over three years, it is still unclear how institutions will implement them.

In general, the cultural sector as a whole fared a lot better than many feared, although some areas have been seriously hit. According to the expense plan, the level of funding from the Department of Canadian Heritage and its agencies declined by nearly $200 million (6.1%). All organizations experienced a decrease in their funding with the exception of the Canadian Museum of Nature. The Canada Council for the Arts took a hit of only 0.1%, but remember, that these agencies, like the Department, must absorb the cost of inflation on goods and services and on salaries.


What are the positions arising from the budget?


The government has yet to present a clear or complete vision of its cultural policy. However, a general position emerges from choices made over the past few years:

  1. An accent on private public partnerships;
  2. Financial support is not an entitlement. Several organizations have learned that this year, including the CCA;
  3. The government is concentrating its efforts on what it considers to be the “fundamental roles” of the federal government;
  4. The government appears to consider culture as purely a domestic affair and is lessening its support of international cultural activities; and,
  5. The government imparts a more military and political angle than a cultural one to the notion of heritage (e.g., War of 1812, Royal Jubilee, Franklin Expedition).


Who Loses Out?


Our analysis confirms a fact which rapidly appeared obvious: the audiovisual sector suffered the most from the budget cuts, followed by the heritage sector, despite the protections granted to the national museums.

In the audiovisual sector, we were well prepared for the cuts to the CBC, so the only surprise is the collateral damage produced. The cuts of $115 million dollars are not trivial. To that, we must add the CRTC’s elimination of the Local Programming Improvement Fund (LPIF), used by 20 English and French television stations in the CBC-Radio-Canada networks to produce regional programs. This amounts to a $40 million loss that particularly hurts francophone communities who had benefited from a greater number of regional newscasts. The NFB and Telefilm Canada also had to endure 10% cuts in their budgets.

With respect to heritage, the government spared the national museums and increased the indemnification limit in the Canada Travelling Exhibitions Indemnification Program. Nonetheless, Minister Flaherty’s budget was quite harsh for the heritage sector.

The impact of the cuts made by the Department of Canadian Heritage at the Library and Archives Canada will be disastrous: the cancellation of the National Archival Development Program (NADP) affects numerous provincial archive councils and will lead to the closure of several archive centers. To the severe cuts at Heritage, we must add the just as stringent cuts imposed on Parks Canada. We will recall that, some years ago, Parks Canada was transferred to Environment Canada and seems to suffer from its estrangement with Canadian Heritage.

Severe cuts at Statistics Canada have led to the demise of the last remnants of a once vibrant Culture Statistics Division and the budget also drove the final nail into the coffin of cultural diplomacy. Cultural attachés, international academic relations and Canadian studies abroad all fell under the axe.


Tell me more


Close to 25 pages of analysis and tables are available in our analysis of the federal budget. This year, the budgetary analysis is free to members. Non-members may obtain the analysis for a cost of $250. The detailed text may be ordered on our website.