Government investment in the arts generates far more money to Canada than it costs
According to Statistics Canada, the arts and culture sector directly employed 600,000 people in the last survey and generated $40 billion for the Canadian economy – a return on investment of more than 500% on government spending. Approximately 25% returns as tax revenue—more than the initial investment.
The arts and culture sector employs as many people as the COMBINED sectors of agriculture, forestry, fishing, mining, oil, gas and utilities. Yet levels of public money, industrial incentives and support, and tax breaks are disproportionately low.
Arts and culture broaden our vision and bring us together
Years ago, as a young mother, I read Salman Rushdie’s nonfictional work “The Jaguar Smile” about his impressions of Nicaragua. He described a land where everyone was an artist. While few people made their living from art alone, virtually no one was not a respected musician or singer or sculptor or poet, etc. The integration of artists into other areas of work informed and enriched their work as artists, and the near-universal involvement of the population in the art world resulted in greater appreciation of art in all its forms. It’s a world that’s very different from Canada where some people are artists, many of whom can’t make a living from their art despite their focus, and others are passive and often reluctant recipients of the arts. Many Canadians not directly involved in the arts have little sense of appreciation or connectedness to the art around them and some can be downright angry at the government funding for the arts which they find irrelevant and extravagant. I found the Nicaraguan model more appealing in terms of social cohesion and public good. And clearly it didn’t require massive government arts funding.
More recently, while going door to door to talk to people in the riding, I met a teacher at an art school and mentioned this to him – how I would like to get beyond just doling out money for arts programs and try to integrate art into daily life. He agreed – he pointed out that his school has gone beyond the teaching of art specialties as a separate focus in addition to a full academic curriculum. Instead, they have adopted a model of “learning through the arts”, where all education is infused with art, which aids in understanding and appreciation. He pointed out that a side benefit of an arts-focused curriculum is that an artistic outlet decreases problems among youth. Violent incidents are unknown in his school.
Arts do even more for us. They inform us, they broaden our understanding of the world, they give us access to the different cultures in the Canadian multicultural mosaic, and in doing so help all Canadians to better understand each other. People who participate in the arts are more satisfied and better informed.
Ironically, I suspect the biggest thing we can do to promote art appreciation and participation is simply to ensure people have more time. When given the opportunity, we seek beauty and personal expression without needing to be cajoled or enticed or even encouraged to do so.
The Green Party of Canada promotes more leisure time as a policy objective, calling for a shorter work week and a Guaranteed Annual Income for all. The guaranteed income would also enable artists to enjoy some income security while developing their skills and portfolios, or help them through years of lean income.
The Green Party is very supportive of arts in general, recognizing that government investment in the arts has tremendous economic payoffs. We call for increased funding of all Arts and Culture organizations – including The Canada Council for the Arts, Telefilm Canada, orchestras, theatres and publishers. The CBC would receive stable base funding under a Green government. A Green government would also force the CRTC to increase bandwidth for smaller and independent stations, and enact legislation enforcing 20% Canadian content.
Finally, the Green Party of Canada would prioritize artistic freedom – enacting protection for artistic and intellectual freedom, removing any provisions for political censorship and restoring arms-length relationships from governments in the governance bodies of cultural institutions under federal jurisdiction.
You can read the Green Party’s full platform on Arts and Culture here.