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CBC Ottawa

What you may not know about arts spending in Ottawa

There's a surprise buried within this new study, released today by Hill Strategies. Researchers compared cultural investment in five Canadian cities between 2006 and 2009. It's probably not big news that in terms of spending on operating budgets, arts grants and capital projects, Ottawa lagged behind most other municipalities. Where average per capita spending was 35 dollars in 2009, Ottawa spent just 28 dollars per resident, placing this city second-last, after Toronto.

The surpirse comes when you look at the funding trend over the study period. Growth in net cultural investment nearly doubled from the time O'Brien took over from Bob Chiarelli, when per capita spending was a miserly 15 dollars per capita, to his last days in office. That seens strange, since O'Brien's tenure was marked by protests over cuts to cultural budgets, and a general cooling in relations between City Hall and the city's arts community. Who knew?

"It's quite a consolation prize," laughs Hill Strategies president Kelly Hill. "Ottawa's growth rate was 90 per cent so there was close to doubling of investment in culture in Ottawa from 2006 to 2009, and that is the second highest rate of increase during that period."

Second only to Calgary, Canada's 2012 Cultural Capital. Could Canada's 'other' capital be unimagined legacy of the O'Brien years?

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