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Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage – Main Estimates 2012-13 Study – Hon. James Moore

Hon. James Moore’s Comments on the 2012-13 Official Estimates for the Department of Canadian Heritage

May 29th, 2012

Hon. James Moore (Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages):

Thank you, colleagues. I appreciate the invitation. I’m always glad to come here and discuss the budget or whatever issues are on the minds of members of this committee. I appreciate this committee’s work on a number of files. I know over the past few months I and my office have been obviously watching closely what you have all been discussing, and some of the recommendations and thoughts that have come from this committee have been indeed very helpful.

With me today are Daniel Jean, the deputy minister of Canadian Heritage, and René Bouchard, who is the executive director of the Portfolio Affairs Secretariat.

First, I would like to reiterate a principle of our government. Our government understands and believes in the importance of the arts, culture, and heritage sectors and their contribution to Canadian society, not just in terms of their social benefits to the country, but indeed for their economic benefits. Our government is proud to be investing more in arts and more in culture than any government before in Canadian history.

While governments in other countries have made decisions to heavily cut and in some cases eliminate entirely their support for culture, our government has chosen a different path. Our two-year economic action plan to invest in the Canadian economy during the worst parts of the global recession didn’t cut, didn’t maintain, but rather increased our funding for culture. The next phase of our economic action plan, budget 2012, maintains our support for culture.

Our recent budget maintained funding for the Canada Council for the Arts, which currently receives the largest amount of funding in its history. Our recent budget maintained funding for all of Canada’s national museums. Why did we do these things? Well, we did it because we believe supporting arts and culture is absolutely essential to our economy and to keeping it on track.

Contrast this with the decisions of other governments around the world.

In the United States, the National Endowment for the Arts runs on less money now than it did 20 years ago. Arts Council England has seen its funding cut by 30%, and its operating costs cut in half. Italy has cut its culture budget by over $1 billion since the recession began. In the United States, local government support for the arts is down by over 10%.In the State of Michigan they’ve taken measures to cut funding for the arts by up to 80%.

In Australia the budget allocated for the Australia Council for the Arts is $163 million.

The budget for the Canada Council for the Arts is more than $181 million for this year, and we’ve protected that going forward. In Canada we decided to permanently increase funding for the Canada Council for the Arts by 20%, the largest funding increase for the Canada Council in decades. We kept it at that level this year, protecting the Canada Council’s funding, because we understand what it does for our cultural communities—providing direct support for theatre, for dance, for publishing, music, and the performing arts. During the recession we have increased support for local theatres and arts festivals across the country.

Again, in comparison, in the U.K., for example, grants to museums have been cut by 15%. Meanwhile, here in Canada we created two new national museums: the Canadian Museum of Immigration, at Pier 21 in Halifax; and the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, in Winnipeg.

As I just mentioned, our budget has maintained funding for our national museums because we know the importance of the role they play in the cultural life of Canadians and in preserving and sharing our national history.

We also announced in Budget 2012 that we will increase support to museums and galleries in Canada through the Travelling Exhibitions Indemnification Program. The indemnification limit will be increased from $1.5 billion to $3 billion. That is a very positive development for our museums and galleries.

Our budget has been widely praised, I think, and certainly well regarded by Canada’s cultural communities. Simon Brault, who is the president of Culture Montréal, said, “This budget is a clear signal of support for the arts.” Eric Dubeau, who is the co-president of the Canadian Arts Coalition, said, “We feel the government has heard us regarding the importance of arts and culture for the economy and the creation of jobs.”

Joseph Rotman, Chair of the Canada Council for the Arts said that this government clearly appreciates the positive contribution the arts have to the economy and the identity of this country. Ensuring a strong economy is our government’s top priority, and we understand that investing in arts and culture is a sound decision that contributes to our objective.

As Canadians, we have so much to be proud of. Christopher Plummer won an Academy Award this year. The movie Monsieur Lazhar was nominated and has received critical acclaim around the world.

In December, four of the five top-selling Billboard artists in the United States were Canadian artists.

The Royal Winnipeg Ballet is the oldest and most successful ballet company in North America, indeed in all the Americas.

The Toronto International Film Festival is the largest public film festival in the world. The Festival de Jazz de Montréal is the largest, most successful jazz festival in the world. The festival Juste pour rire is the largest, most successful comedy festival in the world. We have some of the best museums and galleries in the world here in Canada.

Keep in mind that Canada, while we are the second-largest country in the world in size, is the 36th-largest in population. So culturally we have a tremendous amount to be proud of because of what our cultural communities have been able to achieve. We’ve achieved these things together, in partnership—the federal government, provincial governments, municipalities, NGOs, and arts organizations. Most importantly, leading all this are the brilliant men and women and creators in our cultural industries who lead the way in doing what they do so well, which is being creative and shining not only on the Canadian stage, but indeed on the world stage.

I will gladly take any questions you may have with regard to the budget, our government’s priorities, or where things are.

I think when one considers the decisions other governments in the world have made, even what other provincial governments have made, and you juxtapose that with the priorities of our government and the successes we’ve had in our country, culturally, from coast to coast, I think we have a great deal to be proud of.

Thank you.