Thursday, December 9, 2004

Re: Minister's Advisory Committee for Status of the Artist (MACSA) Final Report

SAA letter to Hon. Joan Beatty responding to Government's Response to the MACSA Final Report (October 2003)

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December 9, 2004

Hon. Joan Beatty
Minister of Culture, Youth and Recreation
Room 345
Legislative Building
Regina, SK S4S 0B3

Dear Ms. Beatty:

Re: Minister’s Advisory Committee on Status of the Artist (MACSA) Final Report, November 20th 2004

Saskatchewan Arts Alliance (SAA) would like to thank you and your Department for the work undertaken on Status of the Artist issues and for the release of the MACSA Final Report. SAA welcomes all efforts taken to move status issues forward to achieve equity for Saskatchewan artists.

While welcoming the Final Report and Government’s response, SAA would like to take this opportunity to comment on elements of the Report’s recommendations. Therefore we offer the following comments, observations and requests concerning MACSA’s Recommendations.

SAA wholeheartedly supports the Report’s recommendations concerning taxation reforms (Recommendations #5, 6,17). While we understand other Government Departments have concerns related to these measures we urge you to continue to press for government action. The tax exemptions proposed would be a direct relief to artists and provide a leading example to other provinces. Quebec already provides such exemptions that have proven of great benefit to artists. Income averaging (#17) has long been on the cultural agenda. Adding Saskatchewan’s voice to advocacy of this reform at the federal table can serve to advance the issue.

We support the recommendations on policy concerning procurement (#13), Arts Board funding (#16) and respecting Aboriginal artists protocols. On the issue of procurement, while agreeing fully with the recommendation, one that has a long history of support, we suggest that further issues need examination in the area of procurement policy as it affects artists engaged by government and agencies. SAA would like to explore this issue further with you.

In the area of education proposals, SAA agrees internal government education is critically needed and reiterates its proposal to you (Feb. 9, 2004) for a joint project with CYR for development of a handbook addressed to the government, crowns and publicly funded bodies. This project should have high priority and will assist to enforce the intent of the Status of the Artist Act.

Regarding Recommendation # 11, SAA is interested in exploring this recommendation further with CYR.

In the area of pensions and benefits clearly more work has to be done. SAA would certainly cooperate with the Department of Labour and OHS in development of resource material and discussion but we hope that the advisory committee envisaged by the 1993 Status Report could be placed back on our mutual agenda.

We agree with the Committee that traditional training should be added to the definition of professional artist. Further that it would be appropriate, as SAA urged in 2002, that the legislation include definition of “professional artist”. Discussion might be needed with the arts community to ensure understanding and agreement with the whole definition.

Regarding collective rights and income support, SAA agrees that Government has to do more work on this issue. There is no substantive reason to deny artists collective rights, that is, adding collective bargaining recognition and supports to the Status Act, and guiding application of those rights through the Saskatchewan Labour Relations Board. This is the logical and least expensive process available. Further legislation should address issues of critical importance in this area, that is sector bargaining and measures to provide legal recognition for national artists’ agreements. As you are aware, federal unions and agencies are of the opinion that mandatory collective bargaining is crucial for artists to gain fair and equitable treatment. SAA is fully prepared to cooperate and participate in reexamination of collective rights issues with the Department, indeed we regard it as essential.

SAA agrees with the concept proposed of establishing dialogue with Crown Corporations on “principles of engagement” (#12). This was clearly contemplated by the Status Act. Fair treatment and fair payment is the heart of status issues, clearly positive and immediate advantages for artists should emerge. However our view is that MACSA in itself, as a non-representational committee, does not have the authority to negotiate such terms with Crowns. SAA would like to discuss the practicalities and processes of implementing the core concept of this proposal.

Regarding Recommendations #8 and 9, while SAA cooperated with the Department in discussing the appointment of MACSA, at the time we expressed concern over the issues of representativeness, transparency and open processes. There are many outstanding issues to be examined. The formation of a permanent advisory committee on Status is a wise proposal now, as it was in 2001 when the SAA again raised the issue following the lead of the previous Minister’s Committee. The SAA would like to discuss these concerns prior to reappointment of the Committee. Further SAA wishes to discuss any contemplated amendments to the Status Act at the earliest opportunity.

We wish to assure you of SAA support and cooperation in furthering advancement of Status of the Artist and all that it entails. A long-term strategic approach to development of status of artist programs, policies, legislation and action is needed and therefore SAA requests a meeting with you in the near future. As you will see from this letter there are a number of issues we would like to raise with you.

We look forward to development of an open dialogue with you and your department on status issues and prospects. We believe that Canadian Conference of the Art’s 2004 conference in Regina has put status of the artist firmly back on the National agenda, for which you deserve some credit.

Sincerely,
Skip Kutz, President

cc: Angie Gélinas, Deputy Minister

A copy of the MACSA Final Report can be found at Minister's Advisory Committee on Status of the Artist Final Report

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