Monday, October 29, 2007

Arts and the Election - Saskatchewan Party

SAA interviewed the NDP, Liberal and Saskatchewan parties about their plans for the arts sector if elected. Following is the interview with the Saskatchewan Party.

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June Draude, Saskatchewan Party
Current Candidate Kelvington-Wadena Constituency
Previously was the Saskatchewan Party Critic for Culture, Youth and Recreation

As interviewed by Steven Ross Smith, for the Saskatchewan Arts Alliance
October 25, 2007

SAA: What is your party’s sense of the value contributed to life in Saskatchewan by our artists and arts organizations?

June Draude: It’s hard to put a value on it because it is invaluable. We all realize that our artists and arts organizations enrich our life. It strengthens our province. I believe that the people in this province are not just about working and earning money but are also about the quality of life that we have in our province and we rely on the arts and culture to provide us with that, if we are not involved in it ourselves, and we enjoy the talents of the artists.

SAA: Does your party have a policy, a vision for the sustainability of arts in Saskatchewan, today, and in the future? If so, please summarize that vision.

June Draude: The Saskatchewan Party's vision for the province is growing the province in every area. We don’t believe you can put any one department in a solo position and say it doesn’t affect something else. As the population of Saskatchewan increases, the need and the desire for arts will increase and we will have more opportunities in the province and the province will be better off because of that.

The arts industry in Saskatchewan should not just survive but should thrive. And I believe that as we increase our revenues in the province there will be more money for individual artists – to buy their works, or to see them appear. And the money that will be needed for arts organizations to actually help market them will be available and will be enhanced as the province itself grows.

SAA: Does that vision include a plan or model to support artists and arts organizations through public funding for the arts in Saskatchewan? If so, please summarize that vision.

June Draude: The model that’s being used at this time seems to be working to some extent. We’re not going to be averse to looking at changing the model, but we wouldn’t do it without the cooperation and different ideas given by arts organizations. We never want to throw the baby out with the bathwater, but at the same time I think we should be thinking outside the box when we’re looking at opportunities for artists. The Saskatchewan Party government would be open to any suggestions for improvement and anything that would enhance the life of artists and arts organizations. We do believe that this is necessary to ensure that people want to be in our province.

SAA: What immediate initiatives is your party proposing, if you’re elected, to ensure and improve the circumstances of the artists and arts organizations in Saskatchewan?

June Draude: The first one is one that we announced in the platform and that was supporting cultural and recreations activities. There will be $150 per year per child for a Saskatchewan families benefit for children age six to fourteen, which will allow hopefully more parents to allow their children to become involved in music and arts. I know that the artists will see that indirectly if not directly. We’re looking immediately at some of the discussions we had in the Status of the Artist Legislation such as retaining ownership of intellectual property and having written contracts. Those we’d like to deal with immediately.

SAA: Many arts organizations are struggling to do more, to meet their visions and mandates, with dollars that have not kept pace with rising costs and inflation. These organizations depend on the work of artists. Individual artist’s income has been determined by various studies to be, on average, approximately $15000 per year. This amount is below the poverty line. What are your party’s ideas for bettering the socio-economic circumstances particularly for individual artists and thereby for Saskatchewan organizations?

June Draude: We learned through the committee that had witnesses from many arts that there are really dire circumstances that many artists live in and this is unacceptable to anyone from our province – people living below the poverty level that have a lot of education and spend a lot of time in their area of interest. But as I mentioned earlier, we don’t see it as a stand-alone issue – it is something that as the province grows there will be more income available for individuals. They will have the right, the option to spend it on luxury items, or items that really interest them and by that I mean buying paintings, going to theatre, going to symphonies, going to bands, giving people a chance to go out to see and use the talents of our artists.

At this time this is something that we will be working on with individual artists and arts organizations to talk about what they can see as improvements, but right now there is nothing definite. We just know, and we believe that as this economy picks up and the people see us running and governing our province on a different model that we will have more people come into the province and that will benefit everyone.

SAA: You’re aware that the Status of the Artists legislation was held up in the last session of the government. Does your party support this legislation, and will your party endeavour to introduce and pass it when the legislature resumes?

June Draude: First of all, I was on the committee, and I don’t believe it was actually held up. In fact, it went through the actual committee quite quickly when the minister finally brought it though as a bill. For sixteen years the NDP had the opportunity to deal with artist legislation and it could have done it at any time. They preferred even last fall to bring it in as a bill – a draft bill – that would have witnesses. At that time, they knew it could not be passed without it being a priority item, which they did not do. So when they finally introduced the bill less than two weeks before the legislature ended, we didn’t have the opportunity to get to interested parties. That’s what opposition does, is bring a bill to everybody that’s affected by the bill. It was only in the last couple of days that we had people say to us – “I don’t really know what that means; how will that affect me?” And by people, I mean mostly the businesses, the people that would be hiring or would be affected by the work of artists. So the only thing that I could commit to at this time is the parts of the commitments that we made to witnesses, the things that were agreed on, and I believe that the present government has failed on when they haven’t allowed artists to keep their own intellectual property; they haven’t made it mandatory to have written contracts with artists. These would be looked at immediately. Anything further than that would be a discussion between interested parties and we would hope to come to some kind of consensus.

SAA: Does your party support allowing professional artists access to economic and social programs, benefits and rights: for example workers compensation, collective bargaining, training, pension and social assistance benefits?

June Draude: Artists many times fall under two categories. They are employees and they are employers. And as such, they have available to them some of these – some training, some of the rights that employers would have and that employees would have. In this field we’re breaking new ground when we come to talk about seeing artists as a sort of a separate group where they can be in both categories – of employees and employers – I can’t say right now that we would be able to have a specific program that we could put them on or under, but we do know that working with them – it was an honour to be on the committee to better understand a lot more about some of the issues that they’ve been dealing with – we would like to talk to them to see what they would be suggesting, but it has to be something that makes sense in the big picture for the whole province.

SAA: How can the artists and arts organizations work cooperatively with your party’s representatives to achieve dialogue and positive outcomes for the arts community in Saskatchewan?

June Draude: That would definitely be our goal, to have a positive outcome for individual artists and the arts community as a whole. I believe that the professionalism that we witnessed coming forward by people who came to the committee, the respectful way they discussed the issues with us – and I’m hoping that they saw us as being respectful in the way that we listened to them and were interested in the issues. That is the foundation for going forward and how we will make the changes that will be necessary to ensure that there is a better lifestyle and life period for artists and the art community. Talk, open negotiation and communication are essential to building this relationship. I believe that everybody will benefit under Saskatchewan Party government, including the artists and the art community.