Province orders review of Manitoba Film and Music
Head of agency expects no cuts to result, though study promises to examine 'allocation of public funding'
Manitoba's Progressive Conservative government wants a private contractor to review the effectiveness of a Crown agency supporting the province's film, television and music industries.
The request to study Manitoba Film and Music was issued earlier this month.
The chosen firm will consider "the degree to which MFM's objectives warrant the allocation of public funding," the request for proposals says, and whether other policy or organizational approaches could achieve these objectives more efficiently.
Carole Vivier, CEO and film commissioner of Manitoba Film and Music, expects the review to demonstrate the importance of her organization, and that their mandate may actually expand.
"I think we're probably one of the leanest agencies the government has, so I don't expect any cuts as a result of this."
'There isn't a lot of fat to be trimmed'
Thom Sparling, executive director of Creative Manitoba, respects the province is tightening its belt financially, but he looks at the study with trepidation.
"We are cautious that there isn't a lot of fat to be trimmed," said Sparling, who runs a non-profit arts organization focusing on entrepreneur training and mentorship opportunities.
"Film and Music has had a cut already under this government … I think it's a very effective and efficient organization."
The agency's funding was reduced from $3.87 million in 2017 to $3.58 million in 2018, an annual report from the organization said.
Manitoba Film and Music is the primary support for the film and television sector in the province, according to a discussion paper which guided a 2017 review of the province's arts scene.
The agency runs the film commission and provides an array of financial incentives, including the film tax credit, corporate tax credits and project grants.
The consultant reviewing Manitoba Film and Music will be asked to identify the mandate and objectives of the organization and evaluate its effectiveness.
It will also study the agency's costs and staffing levels. They have 10 staff members, including four management and administrative staff, four film staff and two people working in support of the music industry.
Minister of Sport, Culture and Heritage Cathy Cox was not available to speak on Monday. In a statement, the province said the study will provide ways to strengthen the organization's role.
Tax credit, grants at risk: NDP
NDP Leader Wab Kinew is worried the review will result in the elimination of the film tax credit and maybe some grants to filmmakers and musicians.
"Having a vibrant cultural scene has a positive economic impact beyond just the tens of millions of dollars in economic activity that's created," Kinew said. It "also helps to keep people from all walks of life, especially young people, in Manitoba."
The government expects to award the contract next February.
The province's request for proposals comes as arts supporters await the findings of a 2017 study into Manitoba's arts scene, the first review of its kind in nearly a quarter-century.
The government held meetings and forums with cultural groups, arts organizations and other supporters. The final report was supposed to be made public late last year.
"We have questions about these reviews and hopefully the province will find the value in these things," Sparling said.
The government said Monday it will share more on the report in the coming months.
The province announced a working group earlier this year to review the film tax credit.
Sparling said Creative Manitoba is producing a peer-reviewed paper exploring benefits of the arts sector that's rarely looked at, such as labour production, educational attainment and the distribution of creative occupations. It will be released early next year.
Arts has far-reaching benefits
"We're trying to build the case to the province to say this is not just a nice, little cottage industry that we have here," he said. "This is an international growth industry that is growing faster in both jobs and labour productivity."
The film industry, in particular, has thrived this year. Manitoba boasts a record $210 million in production volume in the 2018-19 fiscal year, and there's still a few months remaining.
Vivier said word-of-mouth is working in the province's favour.
"We have always had people leave here having an extremely positive experience and wanting to come back."