Friday, June 9, 2023

Voting for the Arts- Getting the Conversation Started

Countdown- The 2019 federal election is less than seventy days away.

Let that sink in. In seventy days, there could be new leadership of Canada. And the government that is elected will play a critical role in the leadership of arts and culture in this country. 

Arts frequently take a backseat in elections; rarely is it a hot-button topic that candidates are well-informed about, and it often doesn’t receive the same type of attention or exposure that other major federal portfolios might. This doesn’t make it any less important- particularly if you’re an artist. While initial thoughts may be about how the arts enrich the world around us, their value is more than intrinsic to the greater population- arts and culture have broad impacts on the Canadian economy, society, education, health and well-being. In fact, recent statistics suggest that culture’s direct impact on Canada’s economy is ten times larger than that of sports and forestry. Over the next seventy days, we’ll be providing information on how artists and the greater community can play a role in electing arts-friendly members of parliament.

Earlier this year, the Canadian Arts Coalition introduced their Federal Election Platform for 2019– a list of goals that they hope (on behalf of artists and arts organizations across the country) will be implemented by the party that comes to power.

Individual voters can help ensure that the arts and culture remain at the top of mind for political parties by asking questions and having meaningful discussions whenever you interact with a candidate. When candidates and canvassers are campaigning for votes and know that the arts is a priority in their riding, they are more likely to take it back to their party for action. In an election, every vote matters- so make yours count for the arts.

Here are some ideas to get the conversation started:

What is the last arts event you attended?
Does the candidate actually attend local arts events and have knowledge of the local community? If not, are there activities that they are hoping to attend?

What is your vision for arts and culture in our riding?
Does the candidate recognize the important role that federal investments and infrastructure (like the Canada Summer Jobs program, Canada Music Fund, Canada Cultural Spaces Fund, etc.) can make in keeping arts and culture accessible and vibrant in Hamilton?

What is your party’s platform to sustain artistic and cultural contributions to Hamilton and Canada?
How familiar is the candidate with their party’s platform for arts and culture? Do they recognize it as a key topic for constituents?

What is your party’s stance on maintaining the Canada Council for the Arts funding base through 2024-2025?
This is a bit of a leading question. The Canada Council for the Arts currently has a funding base of $362 million; in order to continue to support arts and culture, this needs to be maintained at a minimum, or ideally, increased.

How will your party ensure that Canadian artists and arts organizations are showcased on an international stage?
In addition to the Canada Council for the Arts, the Department of Canadian Heritage supports a number of specialized programs specifically for this purposes (including Creative Export Canada). However, a number of programs also assist in developing high-level and export-quality work. Is the candidate aware of the infrastructure that exists and the need to support and expand it?

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