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Cast a Vote for the Arts in June’s Provincial Election

by Patti Broughton and Katie Wilde

Over the last couple of weeks, an intrepid group of volunteers from Guelph’s arts community have been talking about the value of the arts with local candidates for provincial election. Concluding today with Green Party candidate (and provincial leader) Mike Schreiner, the volunteers have met with Agnieska Mlynarz (NDP), Ray Ferraro (PC), and Sly Castaldi (Liberal). The guiding document for the meetings, which were also an opportunity to chat with candidates about their and their party’s views on the arts, was Ontarians for the Arts’ discussion paper Connections and Resilience Through the Arts.

Ontarians for the Arts is a non-partisan movement that promotes the benefits of the arts in every community across the province. Its steering committee has recruited and trained volunteers across the province to meet with local candidates to encourage dialogue around it discussion paper and Call to Action. Local volunteers have also shared information with candidates about what the arts mean to their communities.

The discussion paper themes focus on investment in the arts, arts development and education. They also emphasize Ontario’s place in the world, including cultural infrastructure and promoting Ontarians’ cultural exports abroad. The paper outlines how the arts benefit Ontarians through access and engagement, economic resilience, and other cultural benefits. The authors put forth 10 recommendations and a multi-faceted and detailed call to action, the condensed version of which appears below.


“CALL TO ACTION - ONTARIO ELECTION 2018 THROUGH BUDGET 2019

Among its priorities, Ontarians for the Arts requests that the duly elected Government of Ontario implement the following recommendations in short order, ideally by Budget 2019:

  • Create an infrastructure investment program that facilitates Ontarians’ access to arts and culture, and helps leverage federal investments, with a $30M annual base allocation for the next 10 years.
  • Follow through on the current increases planned for the Ontario Arts Council (OAC) to $80M base by 2020-21 and commit to increasing the OAC’s funding base to $160M by 2025-26 to ensure greater accessibility to the arts for Ontarians, while adapting to changing demographics.
  • Advocate with Federal counterparts to ensure that Ontario’s leadership role in Canada’s vibrant arts and culture scene is reflected in federal policy and funding decisions.\
  • Set achievement and development guidelines to ensure the arts education curriculum is prioritized and complements STEM (Science, Tech, Engineering and Math) goals. Our kids deserve STEAM!
  • Revitalize the Ontario Arts Foundation (OAF) by reintroducing a matching endowment incentives program with a $25M strategic investment.

The above ideas are informed by a robust arts policy discussion paper developed to encourage dialogue on a range of relevant issues with various stakeholders in the arts and culture sector, including everyday Ontarians and politicians of every stripe. We encourage you to review the full document, entitled Connections and Resilience through the Arts, which puts forth a variety of positions for consideration through 2021-22 and beyond. These proposals include ways to encourage the development of our cultural life, which also happens to be an important part of our province’s social & economic well-being. It is our wish to unleash the potential of the arts and cultural sector to benefit all Ontarians.”

Although the PC party does not mention arts and culture in its platform, the NDP, Green, and Liberal parties, and their local candidates, do include support for the arts.

Ontarians for the Arts has summarized each of the three main parties’ positions on arts and culture, based on their platforms. Their platform analysis, “Backgrounder: Party specific arts and culture positions” was published May 13, 2018. Green Party of Ontario priorities are summarized in the Ontario Nonprofit Network “Summary of Party Positions” and below.

Highlights and sources include:

The Green Party: Green Party of Ontario Policy Book, Platform
The Green Party’s priorities align with community-based art, renewing the culture strategy, and increasing support for the OAC, OCAF and OAF.

  • “Will prioritize community-based arts and culture programming with grants and support access to all Ontarians to participate in these activities.” (Green Party of Ontario Policy Book)
Supports
  •     the renewal of Ontario’s culture strategy every 5 years and
  • increased support for Ontario Arts Council, Ontario Cultural Attractions Fund and Ontario Arts Foundation (ONN Summary of Party Positions)
  • They also state that “…vacation entitlement will also support local tourism (eco-tourism), arts and culture industries, and open up summer employment opportunities for students and young people who currently suffer the highest levels of unemployment.” (Green Party of Ontario Policy Book)

The Liberals: Ontario Liberal Party Platform 2018, Budget
The Liberals provide a detailed plan for continued support of arts and culture industries, infrastructure, organizations, agencies, and individuals.
  • [Continued investments in arts and culture, including] music, libraries, museums, theatres and other cultural centres
  • enhance students’ access to arts education in dance, drama, music and the visual arts, including a $3 million investment to refurbish musical instruments
  • support live music, preserve our heritage and invest in our creative industries, including publishing, digital media and our thriving film and TV industry.
  • renewing downtown areas and helping people who want to establish community hubs.
Our plan is:
  • Investing an additional $50 million in the Ontario Arts Council, which provides grants to arts organizations throughout the province, bringing provincial funding to $80 million annually by 2020-21 and working to further enhance funding beyond that date
  • Investing up to $26 million in a Main Street Revitalization Initiative to help communities boost jobs and growth 
  • Promoting more engagement for seniors in the arts
  • Investing $28 million over three years to create a provincial Digital Public Library to enhance access to digital content across all communities
  • Increasing operating funding to public libraries by $51 million over three years
  • Supporting the development of community hubs by better utilizing provincially owned 39 properties, a new capital grant program and providing useful resources, such as an online portal to connect groups and provide facilitation and mediation support
  • Transforming Ontario Place into an all-season waterfront attraction, including a 20- acre green space to host open-air events in Toronto
  • Supporting Indigenous culture
  • Helping Toronto save key cultural and social purpose institutions, such as 401 Richmond, by creating a new property tax class to lower the cost of operating these properties

The Progressive Conservatives:
The PCs do not mention arts and culture in their platform. For hints on the party and leader’s position, see the Backgrounder Platform Analysis prepared by Ontarians for the Arts which sites several news articles from 2013/2014 and Patrick Brown’s People’s Guarantee.

The NDP: Platform, Vision Document
The New Democratic Party focuses on supporting media and cultural industries through (among other things), ‘fair and predictable’ funding formulas, tax credits, zoning opportunities, expanding the industry’s reach and job creation for First Nations.
  • work with the screen-based industry, responsible for tens of thousands of jobs and bringing in over one billion dollars to the province in 2015, to continue to grow and expand its geographic reach in the province.
  • ensure Ontario has industry-competitive tax credits for film and television production
  • work with municipalities to streamline zoning opportunities for innovative, state-of-the-art production spaces.
  • aim to expand the industry’s reach by working with the skilled trades, producers and talent to bring productions and create jobs in northern Ontario, with a focus on career skills development with First Nations.”
  • make sure the Ontario Council for the Arts and the Ontario Media Development Corporation have the resources needed to strengthen and grow our cultural sector.
  • apply fair and predictable funding formulas, done in consultation with the arts and culture sectors, while ensuring the viability of festivals and other events in large and small communities across Ontario.
  • expand protections under the Employment Standards Act, and address the gaps in benefits that affect many self-employed people in cultural industries.

The critical thing in this election is to get out and vote – and vote for the arts!

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