Ottawa arts groups look to Trudeau to deliver on promises

On the campaign trail, Justin Trudeau promised to reinvest in Canada's cultural sector, increasing funding for the Canada Council, the CBC and artist travel programs. Today local arts groups will be watching for signs those promises will be honoured, as the new Liberal government and the new Minister of Canadian Heritage are sworn into office.

Investment in Arts Court development and seed money for arts projects expected

Peter Honeywell, executive director of the Ottawa Council for the Arts, expects a major investment in the Canada Council will benefit local artists. He also hopes for financial support for the redevelopment of Arts Court. (Sandra Abma /CBC)

Arts groups in Ottawa are anticipating a blossoming of creativity in the city, if the new federal government honours its campaign promises to increase spending.

There are hopes that could lead to a welcome financial boost to the multi-million-dollar plan to redevelop Arts Court, home to a number of galleries and many local creative organizations.

'Real sense a change has happened'

Peter Honeywell, executive director of the Ottawa Arts Council, said that after years of federal budget cuts, Ottawa's arts groups are cautiously optimistic.

"It's hopeful, it's a little bit guarded, because we have seen promises in the past that never came through," said Honeywell, from his office in Arts Court. "But I think there is a real sense a change has happened."

Justin Trudeau promised on the campaign trail to both increase arts funding to major cultural institutions and value the people who make art. When the new federal government is sworn into office today — including a brand new Minister of Canadian Heritage, Ottawa's arts community will be looking for signals that Trudeau is ready to live up to those commitments.

The $100-million redevelopment of Arts Court, which will expand gallery space and update facilities for local arts groups, has not received any federal funding. (City of Ottawa)

Honeywell said he's already been on the phone with the Department of Canadian Heritage looking for ways to support the Arts Court rebuild.

"Initially, they gave nothing to the development of this building. This is a $100-million project, and without having any federal funding in place at this time, there is an opportunity while we set up the spaces for the groups who are here, that can be specialized equipment, setting up lighting, trying to really deal with the programming expenses. I think we'll see some positives on that front," he said.

Trudeau pledged to redress years of budget slashing under the Harper Conservative government, and invest $380 million in new dollars into Canada's cultural and creative industries.

He announced the Liberals would double the annual federal contribution to the Canada Council of the Arts from $180 million to $360 million, while another $25 million would be put into Telefilm Canada and the National Film Board.

New attitude

Increased funding to the Canada Council and the CBC means more opportunities for income for Canadian artists and producers,and the reinstatement of the Trade Routes program that allows Canadian artists to tour and promote their work abroad is also a welcome, said Frédéric Julien of CAPACOA, the Canadian Arts Presenting Association.

"This will then be translated into arts programming by organizations across the country, be it a ballet company, or dance presenters or museums," said Julien, who is confident the Liberals will honour their promises.

"Looking at the overall Liberal platform, it's one per cent of their commitments, so I don't see any challenges with coming up with that money when they are willing to invest in so many other sectors."

Julien added that like many who work in Canada's cultural fields, he feels a sense of optimism. In the clip below, he discusses what he calls the new government's new attitude towards the arts.

Frederic Julien of CAPACOA


6 years ago
Frederic Julien of CAPACOA, director of research Canadian arts presenting association, believes that new government will stimulate artistic growth. 0:49


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