Thursday, March 22, 2007

Provincial Budget, A Missed Opportunity?

News Release, March 22, 2007

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Today’s budget was a missed opportunity for government to address the needs of the arts sector. While unabashedly pointing to the vitality of the arts community as an attraction to bring people home, Government failed to invest the funds needed to address the long-term pressures faced by the sector, let alone to capitalize on the opportunities the arts present in helping to develop a creative and vibrant society.

"Government keeps expecting more of the arts community, yet fails to provide the funding necessary to address even its basic needs. Our estimation is that the Saskatchewan Arts Board needs an additional $3 million base funding to maintain the status quo and address a few new pressures (see footnote)," says President Skip Kutz. Noting Government’s priority to make 2007 a year of celebration of the arts and music, Kutz says, "I am all in favour of celebrating our arts but what we need now are long-term investments and policies for the whole culture sector. It is time for government to pony up and put in place the resources needed to make sure the arts have a viable future in our province. Special event funding is not a long-term strategy to supporting the arts sector. The arts are much more than a party."

Initiatives this year such as the Recording Industry Review and promises to support implementation of recommendations of the Minister’s Advisory Committee on Status of the Artist were seen as positive signs that Government’s commitment to the arts sector was sincere. There has been some progress. Yet with the Saskatchewan Arts Board facing increasing costs and an increased mandate, its allocation is far short of what is needed. As well, the Cultural Industries Development Council is still suffering from cuts to its funding that occurred in 2004, and Saskatchewan Heritage Foundation funding is so limited it is losing ground in its efforts to save our heritage.

"Today’s budget is disappointing news", says Kutz. "Particularly while the province is enjoying a time of prosperity. Our only hope is that there will be further funding announcements made before the spring session ends."

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1. Saskatchewan ranks 7th in the provinces for per capita funding of the arts. An additional $3.8 million would be required to bring Saskatchewan to the national average. (Provincial Government spending on the Arts and Culture. Hill Strategies Research, May 19, 2006.)