CIRPA Response to Federal Budget Cuts to Cultural Programs

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CIRPA Response to Federal Budget Cuts to Cultural Programs

TORONTO, ON (August 9, 2008) On Friday, August 8th, the Federal government announced cuts to two significant programs that support cultural exports: the ProMart (Arts Promotion) program administered by DFAIT and the Trade Routes Program run by the Department of Canadian Heritage. Both of these programs supported Canadian musicians and music export companies and organizations.

For the Canadian music industry particularly, these cuts cannot come at a worse time. Canadian music companies are facing substantial losses of revenue due to unpaid and unauthorized downloading of their products. Since 1999, income from the sale of recorded music has been halved. Canadian illegal downloading leads the world. As a result, Canadian musicians are leaving the business, and their incomes are at, on average, poverty levels, according to a recent study by Dr. Douglas Hyatt of the Rotman School of Business at the University of Toronto. The cultural investments made by multiple levels of government and the private sector in our business are at serious risk.

More and more, Canadian musicians and music companies are depending on export revenues through sales and live performances to survive. Direct access to foreign markets is critical to stimulate new sales outside of Canada. Last year, the Canadian Independent Record Production Association successfully lead 21 companies to Japan on a single trip that resulted in 1.4 million dollars in export business immediately for Canadian firms. This is money that will be reinvested in developing new young talent in Canada. We need to make more of these ventures abroad, into new markets like China, South Asia and India. Funding for that trip was provided by two levels of government, and logistical support provided by the Canadian Embassy.

Overall, the Conference Board estimates that the cultural sector is valued at over $4 billion annually. Much of the revenue from our cultural production comes from offshore sales. This trend will continue as Canadian firms venture further into the global marketplace. Clearly, as the manufacturing sector declines, the cultural industries represent a good investment for the future and deserve public support – as much as any other industry.

Given this, some might say that the Federal Government’s cutting funds that assist our companies in accessing foreign markets is nothing more than a cynical political move designed to appease their core supporters on the eve of what may be an election. And the “pre-announcement” talking points apparently leaked to and published by the National Post on Friday, August 8th were insulting at best, and at worst, slandered some very accomplished Canadians. Of course, we still don’t know who the authors are. The morally censorious remarks directed at Canadian bands are inappropriate and offensive to those who believe that government should never use public funds to censor the arts. And in response to the National Post Editorial on Saturday, we should add that Mr. Alexander Mair’s trip to Helsinki was at the invitation of the Embassy in Finland and the cost was only partially funded by the Government, the remainder was at his own expense.

What is equally problematic here is that the recipients of these grants, be they Inuit carvers or Toronto rockers are being demonized for applying to, and receiving support, from a program developed, sanctioned and administered by the Government of Canada. There was nothing underhanded or surreptitious in this. If the program was ill-conceived or poorly run, why not say so? Obviously it is easier to ridicule the recipients, rather than discuss the real issues.

Finally, the Government of Canada recently introduced new legislation to amend the copyright act to give our cultural industries the tools necessary to meet the challenge of an increasingly globalized cultural economy. A few weeks later, they cut the very programs that abet access to these same markets. In this case, politics trumps policy.

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