Dance Ontario Request to Minister Eleanor McMahon for Increased OAC Funding

Feb. 16, 2017

Dear Minister McMahon,

Dance Ontario Association is contacting you at this time to draw your attention to the alarming outcomes emerging within the not for profit arts sector as a result of decreased funding from Ontario Arts Council to the individuals and institutions that create and disseminate dance in this province. Increased investment in the Ontario Arts Council is urgently needed in order for this major economic driver to begin to address losses to the sector through inflationary pressures and to begin to meet demands due to population growth.

Dance Ontario represents over 750 dance artists and organizations in this province.  Across the board cuts of five percent from operating or project grants such as those experienced last year may sound easy to absorb within an organization’s annual budget, but this often means loss of one contract staff position or one event or project in any given year. The trickledown effect more than triples that impact, translating into less jobs, less income for small businesses that support them and less revenues for the organizations through reduced activities. Increases in property taxes and escalating hydro rates quickly translate into deficits. Closures of regional organizations like the London Symphony Orchestra and Opera Hamilton have had a considerable impact on the quality of life within their local communities.

Lack of adequate investment in the Ontario Arts Council is already having a negative effect on jobs and communities across Ontario and must be addressed promptly.

Dance Ontario is strongly encouraging you to build on the strength of Ontario's arts sector by increasing investment in the arts through the Ministry of Tourism, Culture & Sport and key agencies such as the Ontario Arts Council whose last budget increase was in 2009.
 This would be achieved by:

  1. Immediately substantially increasing the Ontario Arts Council’s budget allocation. It should be noted that 60 percent of all applications to OAC are denied. Significant changes at the federal funding levels should serve as a benchmark for a province responsible for 45 per cent of the total GDP of Canada’s arts, culture and heritage sector and provides almost 302,000 jobs.
  2. Re-instating $25 million to the Ontario Trillium Foundation and ensuring that capital grants fund specialized equipment purchases as well as construction to maximize the ability of Ontario arts organizations to leverage federal funds through Cultural Spaces Canada.
  3. Over the long-term, the development of a Reclaimed Assets Program as suggested by the Ontario Non Profit Network (ONN) in a previous budget submission in which intangible, unclaimed properties such as insurance policies, returned stocks and bonds, bank deposits, unpaid wages, and pension benefits would be earmarked and used for direct investment in organizations. Organizations such as the Ontario Arts Council and Ontario Trillium Foundation would are well-positioned to administer these additional funds for the benefit of the arts community.


The impact of arts and culture on the Ontario economy is significant as outlined by R. Michael Warren, Special to Postmedia Network, a former corporate director, Ontario Deputy Minister, TTC Chief General Manager and Canada Post CEO excerpted below:

“According to Statistics Canada, the estimated direct economic impact of Canada’s culture industries was $61.7 billion in 2014, or 3.3 per cent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP). To put this in perspective, the GDP contribution of culture industries is much larger than that of agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting combined ($29 billion). Culture industries contribute more to our economy than accommodation and food ($38 billion) or utilities ($43 billion). Sports fans will be surprised to hear the direct economic impact of culture is 10 times that of the sports sector ($6.1 billion).

More than 670,000 Canadians delivered cultural products and services in 2014 — more than three per cent of our workforce. That’s nearly five times the number employed in the auto sector. Their products included audio-visual media, written works, visual and applied arts, live performance, heritage and libraries.
Employment in this sector has grown faster than the overall labour force, increasing 50 per cent over the last 25 years.

The same report demonstrates the economic importance of arts and culture in Ontario. It shows the province is responsible for 45 per cent of the total GDP of Canada’s arts, culture and heritage sector and provides almost 302,000 jobs.

To appreciate the economic impact of culture, you need to drill down to the local level.
For example, the Tom Thomson Art Gallery in Owen Sound, plans to expand into a $10.5-million, 35,000-square-foot visual arts centre. The new “Tom” will serve as a cultural “living room” for the city, visitors from across the region, the country and beyond. Two different impact calculators were used to estimate the economic contribution of the new facility. They showed the expanded gallery will generate between $3.5 million and $8.5 million in annual economic benefits to the City and region. Its construction would bring one-time, direct and indirect benefits of $11 million to the community. This overall return on investment would excite any venture capital firm.

Culturally vibrant communities benefit in another critical way. A 2016 study for Business for the Arts found municipalities and businesses that make investments in arts and culture have more success attracting skilled workers…Nik Nanos, chairperson of Nanos Research, said, “When we listen to Ontarians that are part of the knowledge economy, their level of affinity to the arts and culture is exceptionally high.”
Nicole Anderson, the CEO of Business for the Arts, points out “… $50,000 to an arts and culture organization is going to go a lot further. It’s a drop in the bucket in the sports field.”

Many large companies direct some of their corporate philanthropy to supporting culture. But smaller firms and municipalities committed to growth and attracting people, are finding creative ways to use arts and culture as well.
The City of Owen Sound itself says thanks to hundreds of volunteers every year by inviting them and a guest to enjoy a local little theatre production. A former Culture Capital of Canada, the branding line of the city is “where you want to live”. It backs up this outreach approach with a thriving music, theatre and arts scene with several performance centres.

The bottom line?  Businesses that want to keep and attract top employees — and thank clients — should work with local arts and culture organizations. Municipalities that want to keep their young people and attract skilled workers need to support their cultural industries.

Culture is a key component in today’s business and municipal competitiveness.”

Ontario’s cultural sector is 4.1% of Ontario’s GDP, contributing to $27 billion per year to the Ontario economy. The foundation of this creative economy is the arts activity funded by the Ontario Arts Council.

Ontario has fallen behind in its support of the arts:
-At $4.29 per capita, OAC’s budget ranks the lowest among Canada’s six large provinces; only the Atlantic provinces are lower
-The budget at the OAC provincial counterpart in Quebec is $13.33 per capita
-The federal government has promised to double the Canada Council’s budget by 2021 to over $362 million; the Toronto Arts Council is targeting a doubling of its budget by 2025 to $40million

 With additional funds, the Ontario Arts Council could do more to support government priorities:
-creating jobs and skills for today’s creative economy
-making Ontario a more attractive place to live and in which to invest
-attracting more visitors from across Canada and abroad
-making Ontario artists and arts organizations better known on the world stage
-strengthening the Ontario brand
-improved quality of life for individuals and communities
-increased opportunities to engage children, youth, diverse and marginalized communities
-contribute to a wide range of economic, social, and cultural impacts.

We sincerely appreciate that the Government of Ontario recognizes and supports culture’s important place in the life of the province and its essential role in building a vibrant, rich and attractive place to live, work, grow and visit.  However, without increased investment in the Ontario Arts Council, the sector’s primary funder, this crucial first link in the creative process is being severely and irrevocably undermined.

Most sincerely

Rosslyn Jacob Edwards
Executive Director