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Cultural Industries Call for Dialogue

August 22, 2008

St-Albert, 22 August 2008

Following the termination of the PromArt program by the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, the termination of the Trade Routes program by the Department of Canadian Heritage as well as announced cuts to various other programs benefiting the Arts Industry, the Private Sector Co-Chair of the Cultural Trade Advisory Team, Menno Plukker, has issued this statement.

“Since 2000 the private sector of the Canadian Cultural Industries have been engaged in a dialogue with the government through the Cultural Trade Advisory Team (CTAT), formerly known as Trade Team Canada – Cultural Goods and Services (TTC-CGS), and originally as the Cultural Trade Advisory Board. This dialogue has allowed Cultural Industries to advise the Department of Canadian Heritage and other funding bodies on how to increase Canada’s cultural trade.

Together, the Chairs of the working groups for each sector of the Cultural Industries, express dismay and disbelief that the Canadian government has decided to terminate the PromArt and Trade Routes contribution programs as of March 31, 2009. This unilateral decision clearly contradicts the government’s stated desire that the public and private sectors should work together in order to make more efficient use of the limited resources available to the Cultural Industries, given that no consultation took place prior to the cuts.

Throughout the history of Canada, the government has worked as an investment partner to practically every Canadian industrial sector, from agriculture to aerospace, with the understanding that that investment protects jobs and encourages growth by exporting Canadian goods and services around the world. The economic importance of Canada’s cultural industries makes them worthy of this kind of economic partnership.

According to a study by Statistics Canada released in 2007, the Canadian Arts and Cultural Sector contributed $43.2 billion to the Canadian economy, represented 4% of the national employment and accounted for 3.8% of the Gross Domestic Product (statistics for the year 2003). In 2005 (according to the same study) exports of Cultural Goods amounted to $2.37 billion and Cultural Services to $2.90 billion. These numbers have grown over the last few years, in part because of the continued investment by the Canadian government in Cultural Industries through funding programs such as PromArt and the Trade Routes contribution program. Through these funding programs, small investments have offered substantial returns of increased revenue from export activity. Increased trade revenue in turn makes cultural industries less dependent on Canadian government subsidies. In short, investment in culture is a good business decision for the government. With the help of these programmes to open the necessary doors, Canadian artists are critically acclaimed and commercially successful around the world. Furthermore, they demonstrate the variety and diversity of Canadian culture to our trading partners, fostering greater understanding.

The few examples of some of the grant recipients that have been mentioned in the media do not alone demonstrate the enormous scope of the cultural activity which benefits from programs such as Trade Routes and PromArt – in the Performing Arts, Crafts, Design, Film and Television, New Media, Publishing, Sound Recording and Visual Arts.

In the sector of the Performing Arts, beneficiaries of the programs in question have been major orchestras, ballet companies and some of the most renowned and prestigious artists in the field of theatre and dance. Export support programs have enabled Canadian book publishers to achieve an average annual growth rate of 15% for their total export sales since 1993. Over the history of the trade programme at the Western Canadian Music Awards, 29 Canadian artists have been signed to foreign labels, 45 artists have been booked to tour internationally, 40 have been booked to showcase internationally, 344 have been booked for international festivals, and 34 have had their music licensed in foreign territories. The list of successful investments is too long to itemise here in full. Without investment by the government in cultural trade, our ability to expand markets abroad and increase audiences and buyers will be severely compromised.

Our confidence in our working relationship with the Canadian government is shaken. However, we are prepared to enter into a new conversation with the government in order to ensure that our priorities and needs are known, and to find solutions to counter this ill-considered development.

We look forward to a renewed dialogue with the Government of Canada, via the Department of Canadian Heritage and the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade. ”

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