#ArtsVote 2015 

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The cultural sector in Canada — performance arts, visual arts, music, museums, historical monuments and more — generated $25 billion in taxes for all levels of government in 2007 off government subsidies of just $7.9 billion in the same year.

The Gross Domestic Product generated by culture in 2010 was $48 billion, with 650,000 culture-related jobs. Canada's army of volunteers in arts works 97 million volunteer hours a year.

That's a lot of money and voters.

By comparison, according to Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers and quoted in Alberta Oil magazine in 2014, the oil and gas industry offered "tens of thousands of jobs and currently generates about $18 billion annually in royalties, taxes and other payments to Canadian governments."

Arts and culture hasn't exactly been a hot-button issue in the long federal election campaign — let's change that before Oct. 19.

The Canadian Arts Coalition (CAC) has created #ArtsVote, designed to highlight on social media all party positions on the arts during the campaign. The CAC is also active on Twitter (@ArtsCoalitionCa), Facebook, and has created an election toolkit — at www.canadianartscoalition.com — that includes information on debates, party platforms, statistics (like those above), and contacts.

I asked John Weston, incumbent MP for West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast-Sea to Sky Country, about current Conservative policies.

He cited Stephen Harper's performances with his band Herringbone and Laureen Harper's position as honourary gala chair of the National Arts Centre as examples of their interest in the arts.

As for Weston's own involvement, he cited the many expenditures the government and added: "I have had more of a front rowseat since last year, when I joined the House of Commons Heritage Committee."

I asked all candidates two questions:

• What does it say about the arts in your party's platform?

• How do you see the MP's role in West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast-Sea to Sky in terms of the arts in Whistler, specifically?

John Weston, Conservatives

Weston said the party was "committed to supporting an environment where Canadians continue to enjoy access to a great diversity of Canadian arts and culture."

Beginning in 2015–16, he added, the CPC Economic Action Plan proposes to provide ongoingfunding of $105 million per year in support of core arts programs. This includes funding of: $25 million for the Canada Council for the Arts, $30.1 million for the Canada Cultural Investment Fund, and $30 million for the Canada Cultural Spaces Fund. 

Weston also cited creating the MP Book Award, an essay contest for elementary school students across the riding; working with the Whistler Film Festival "to promote their international ambitions;" and having brought the heritage minister to the resort.

Pamela Goldsmith-Jones, Liberals

Said Goldsmith-Jones: "(Liberal leader) Justin Trudeau did say to me at one point that we needed a national arts strategy." 

The Liberals would return $170 million worth of cuts to the CBC and provide stable funding in the future. Goldsmith-Jones began working with arts and culture leaders from West Vancouver to Whistler over a decade ago to bring together the arts at the municipal level, and to be mutually supportive of local and regional efforts. 

She adds that the cultural Olympiad is just one example of success, harnessing the 2010 Winter Olympics and solidifying the role that the arts plays in subsequent Olympic Games.

As for Whistler, Goldsmith-Jones stated: "the federal government should be proud to support the vision of Michael Audain." 

Larry Koopman, NDP

Said Koopman: "The Arts and Culture sector is still feeling the effects of Stephen Harper's 2012 budget, which slashed funding to the CBC, the Heritage Department, Telefilm and the National Film Board." He says an NDP government would cancel the $115 million cuts to the CBC, guarantee stable, multi-year financing for the CBC and Radio Canada, and ensure non-partisan appointments to arts and heritage boards.

Koopman said he once earned a living as a professional drummer, and this makes him "uniquely prepared to understand the needs and concerns of performing artists... throughout this riding." He cites party leader Thomas Mulcair's pledge of $30 million to promote Canadian tourism to the U.S.

Ken Melamed, Green Party

Melamed supplied the Green Party platform link (at www.greenparty.ca, page 22). He said the party would restore cuts and increase funding to $285 million in year one and $315 million thereafter, increasing funding to all of Canada's arts and culture organizations, including the Canada Council for the Arts and Telefilm Canada.

The Greens would also prevent political interference of Canadian media, and defend the freedom and integrity of the Internet.

As MP, his role would include meeting with local groups such as the Whistler Arts Council, municipal officials, Tourism Whistler, and local media to seek input on federal policies that will further the development of this sector.


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