For a while now we’ve been advocating that our Government ought to do exactly what Canada has done in boosting the role of arts and culture in the national agenda. There the Government is making good on the election pledge by incoming PM Justin Trudeau to double its arts budget. The increase, to be phased in, will be achieved by 2021.
So what are they doing?
In an open letter to the arts community, reported recently in The Globe and Mail, Canada Council head Simon Brault has outlined the agency’s new priorities. These include a substantial increase in its commitment to diversity, including Indigenous engagement. In announcing the Council’s new Strategic Plan Brault commits to “a culture of participation, inclusion and diversity”. New applicants will also be prioritised to address the criticism, shared also here, that arts funding is an insider’s club.
Like the Australia Council here, much of Canada’s arts funding is locked up in long term commitments, in their case nearly two thirds. Interestingly, here it was 75% in 2015-16. The new Canadian funding will see that ratio drop to 50 percent which will be invested in new priorities. Half of this will be offered through an open competitive project grants process. Funding for this category will more than double, with a quarter of the funds reserved for first time applicants.
Funding for Indigenous arts will triple to $18 million by 2021 and there’s a boost for international activity, set to double to $20 million per annum. There is also a solid commitment to their digital agenda, with $88.5 million committed over five years. This will underwrite the Council’s commitment “to stimulate digital innovation in order to improve access to artworks and intensify the participation of Canadians in all forms of culture” Brault told a recent UNESCO gathering.
A sizeable chunk of funds are reserved for projects linked to Canada’s 150th anniversary celebrations, with $40 million reserved for this purpose in the current parliamentary allocation.
There is also a plan to improve administrative efficiency, increasing the amount that goes to artists and their organisations from 83 to 88 percent by 2021.