To help you make an informed decision in the June 2 provincial election, Guelph Arts Council  asked candidates from the four main parties to answer two questions about their position on the arts, by email. 

The Guelph candidates are Raechelle Devereaux, Liberal; Peter McSherry, PC; James Parr, New Democratic Party; Mike Schreiner, Green Party. The PC campaign did not reply to our emails. (We gave them two additional reminders and two deadline extensions.) Here are the unedited responses from the parties that responded. Answers were limited to 200 words.

GAC: What challenges do you see facing artists (of all disciplines) in Ontario right now?

Raechelle Devereaux, Liberal

For many people – myself included – as resilience becomes low, so too is our ability to create and thrive. The pandemic has been a challenging and isolating time for everyone – and I know that there are many community members in the arts community who have been unable to work or perform at the level they once did. Live music and theatre, our wonderful Studio Tours and Art on the Street, waking tours and Hillside Festival and so many other wonderful opportunities to connect arts and artists with our community have simply not been possible or safe under public health restrictions. 

James Parr, NDP

I think there are multiple challenges facing artists, but the biggest would probably bog down to affordability and lack of support from the government. I, like so many kids out there, was always encouraged to pursue a career in STEM because my parents wanted me to be able have a “stable” life and afford a house and a car, etc. It was only as an adult that I have started exploring my creative side. Now I paint and throw pottery, and I absolutely love it. We should have systems in place that allow for artists of all ages to thrive and pursue their passion.

Unfortunately, previous governments have not necessarily seen it that way. Ford cut $5 million in base funding from the Ontario Arts Council and suspended the agency’s Indigenous Culture Fund (a $2.25 million cut). His cuts to Education have meant fewer teachers and a negative impact to school music, theatre, and visual arts programs. Artists were also left out of COVID19 support programs. Beyond that I can also see how the ever-rising cost of living in this province slowly chipping away at the arts and culture industry.

Mike Schreiner, Green 

The arts and culture sector took a serious hit during Covid. Live shows and gallery openings canceled, fewer opportunities to make sales and festivals put on hold. The provincial government overlooked the unique needs of artists during the pandemic and unfortunately the arts and culture has long been underfunded. A slow return to public events, coupled with the rising costs of inflation, housing and a stagnated minimum wage, many artists in Ontario continue to feel unstable and unsupported in their careers. Artists should be able to work and create without sacrificing their ability to support themselves. This is especially true of Indigenous artists. Artists deserve to be recognized for the rich contributions they make to our society.

GAC: What would your party do to support artists and arts organizations in Guelph?

Raechelle Devereaux, Liberal

An Ontario Liberal government will restore funding, grants and donation matching for the arts, music and culture – fully implementing Ontario’s Culture Strategy. We’ll reintroduce the $5 million Indigenous Culture Fund that the Ford Conservatives scrapped in 2019. An Ontario Liberal government will keep filmed-in-Ontario productions strong with stable and competitive film and TV tax support – and we’ll reform the Ontario Arts Council and Ontario Trillium Foundation boards, appointing people with the skills and experience to uplift the arts and culture sector. 

We’ll also invest $50 million to build, purchase or refurbish performing arts studios, visual arts galleries and event spaces – being sure that this includes more spaces to feature work from Black, Indigenous and other artists of colour. Finally, we’ll help cities create municipal tourism strategies and make investments in Ontario’s cycling networks so that people can enjoy the incredible experiences available right here at home.

James Parr, NDP

I, along with the NDP, are committed to supporting artists and arts organizations. We have a multi-faceted approach to support artists:

  • We will create a provincial arts strategy that centres artists and supports arts, culture, and heritage community-based institutions. 
  • We are also committed to increasing funding to the Ontario Arts Council and restore the Indigenous Culture Fund.
  • The NDP also wants to increase festival funding and work closely with performing artists and cultural workers to make sure the sector gets back on track. 
  • We will ensure that Ontario continues to succeed in the screen based industry by providing competitive tax credits.
  • We will simplify the Ontario Computer Animation and Special Effects tax credit. 
  • We will prioritize Ontario authors and publishers in school curricula to help promote local writers and support Ontario’s publishing industry

Beyond that, we are also committed to increasing affordability for everyone by tackling the housing crisis and rolling pharmacare, dental care and mental healthcare into OHIP.

Mike Schreiner, Green

Ontario Greens plan to support local arts and social enterprises, as part of our plans to build vibrant communities that work for all Ontarians. We would do so by:

  • Decreasing land taxes for buildings where there are below market rent opportunities for creative and social enterprises
  • Affirming the arms-length operations of the Ontario Arts Council and the Ontario Trillium Foundation. We would also increase investment in these organizations
  • Reinstating support for the Indigenous Culture Fund, to encourage artists of Indigenous backgrounds

These planned supports for artists would work in combination with government support programs, which would help end poverty and provide Ontarians with economic security and resilience. Our plans to support Ontarians include:

  • Phasing in a basic universal income, with the first step being to double ODSP and OW rates
  • Partnering with the federal government to implement pharmacare and universal dental care programs
  • Addressing inequalities in education, healthcare and housing to support racialized, LGBT, disabled and other marginalized demographics
  • Addressing the housing crisis by building more affordable housing, ending homelessness, protecting renters, and making homeownership more accessible

Implementing these changes would provide all Ontarians with adequate economic support, to ensure that they can pursue the arts without sacrificing economic stability.

For information on how to vote on or before June 2, visit Elections Ontario.

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