P.E.I.'s cultural GDP is less than half the national average

The P.E.I. government launched a five-year strategy in the fall aimed at growing its cultural industry and according to a recent Statistics Canada report, the province has a long way to go to even reach the national average.

The province's five-year cultural strategy is still a work in progress

Having more Island musical acts perform internationally is one way to grow the cultural sector, says Michelle MacCallum. (Music PEI)

The P.E.I. government launched a five-year strategy in the fall aimed at growing its cultural industry and according to a recent Statistics Canada report, the province has a long way to go to even reach the national average.

The report measured the number of cultural jobs and the cultural GDP, and found P.E.I. ranking near the bottom among the provinces in both categories.

In 2016, P.E.I.'s cultural GDP, at $724 per capita, was a little less than half the national average of $1,486. Only New Brunswick's was lower. Statistics Canada recorded 2.4 per cent of Island workers in cultural sectors, with the national average at 3.5 per cent.

The cultural strategy promises to invest an additional $3.5 million in the sector over the next five years.

That investment is relatively small compared to the growth in cultural affairs spending during 2014 celebrations for the 150th anniversary of the Charlottetown Conference.

Cultural affairs spending peaked at $12.8 million in the 2014-15 fiscal year, before falling back to $2.5 million in 2017-18. That's about $1 million less than cultural affairs spending in 2011-12, before the 2014 boost.

Setting targets

Michelle MacCallum, director of cultural development, said in the early months of the strategy she is still working on making goals and how to measure them.

Michelle MacCallum says she will be announcing new initiatives as part of the cultural strategy this spring. (CBC)

Those goals, she said, will likely focus on sub-sectors, which will lead to overall growth.

"For instance, if you look at the crafts industry in P.E.I., they might be looking at increasing the number of participants as professional crafts people in the industry, and maybe looking at figuring out what their targets are for increasing the level of income for participants in the crafts industry," MacCallum said.

We're working with individual creative industries to look at what does success look like for them.— Michelle MacCallum

Music P.E.I., she said, might be looking at increasing the number of artists who are selling their music internationally, either through tours or recordings.

"We're working with individual creative industries to look at what does success look like for them," she said.

"At the end of the day, we want that to contribute to the GDP and we want to see increased GDP. We want to see increases in the number of jobs and we want to see increases in the amounts of income of the people who are working in creative sectors."

MacCallum said the province is also looking beyond economic benefits. Cultural investments, such as in community festivals, also improve the social life of people in those communities.

The new fiscal year, which starts in April, will see more announcements in connection with the cultural strategy, MacCallum said.

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About the Author

Kevin Yarr

Kevin Yarr is the early morning web journalist at CBC P.E.I. You can reach him at kevin.yarr@cbc.ca.