In the Montreal Gazette, a recent editorial called “Let Canadian artists be free” describes the hit that film and TV artists are likely to take because of a new tax bill called Bill C-10. According to the piece, the bill provides “arbitrary powers to the minister of heritage to deny tax credits retroactively to film or television productions the minister deems contrary to public policy, threatens freedom of expression as well as the financial foundation of our film and television industry.”

The article further explains that the bill will have “chilling financial implications. The ministerial powers to deny tax credits after the fact will create such uncertainty that banks will be reluctant to provide financing to cover tax credits. Industry group FilmOntario presented senators with the opinion of the Royal Bank of Canada: ‘Should the assumption of eligibility currently underlying all bank loans to this industry be compromised or diminished by Bill C-10, this will indeed limit the ability of the bank to continue funding Canadian content production.’”

Translation: Restricting freedom in this way—by keeping a close watch on how art affects the public good—will knock off Canada’s already hamstrung and suffering artistic community. Or as the story concludes:

The creative community in this country is fragile. We fight to have our voices heard over the roar of American pop culture. Our funding and protection slips away yearly. The artists of Canada - our writers, directors, actors, dancers, musicians, painters and poets - are not the rich and famous. The artists of Canada are among the working poor. But we know what we do is important. We do it with passion and conviction, empowered by our freedom of expression… To preserve artistic freedom and to avoid financial uncertainty for a significant sector of the Canadian economy, our film and television community asks the Senate committee to please fix Bill C-10.

7 Responses to “Canadian Artists Can’t Get a Freakin’ Break”

  1. s. holster says:

    Excellent. The Canadians are getting a dose of what the anti-expression crowd here in the US have been facing for decades. (all sorts of loose accusation going on there, I know) I see this, bills like 10-C as being a fine example of the law of unintended consequence, AND the prime arguement against any sort of govt intervention (including financing) of the arts. ” Community Standards “, as they pertain to govt, or third-party hosting services, or any situation where creativity prostrates itself to funding or outside influence to tell it (the art) what is or is not viable or acceptible or within accepted guidlines is the antithisis of creativity. Creatively working within those boundaries or accepted norms is another conversation.

  2. admin says:

    Hm. I guess I don’t track your argument against public funding for the arts. Just because some people are offended sometimes doesn’t seem like a valid reason to kill it off.

    I’ll try to address this issue briefly, since it’s late, I’m overwrought at present, and one could argue this issue for days…
    The issue is, for me, a constitutional one. The “Bill of Rights”–the first ten amendments that followed the Constitution and expanded on its provisions and protections (bear with me)–guarantees certain freedoms. Among those are freedom of religion and freedom of expression…
    Now, the main way that the American government has evolved to support these freedoms is not (unlike many other countries) through direct support–but rather it does so primarily through the tax code. That is, churches and arts organizations are given tax-exempt nonprofit status by the government. This means that these organizations survive because their assets (property, most often) are not taxed. Also, any donations received by these organizations are free from taxes–meaning, the government gives incentive to the rest of the tax payers to support these freedoms. It is a strange free-market-meets-free-tax-break way for the government to make sure these freedoms are granted to the people. And in this way, the typical arts org in the U.S. is supported 30-50% or even sometimes 60-70% by government-sanctioned free-market-tax-free money…

    If you’re arguing that the government should withdraw these tax-based incentives for people to support churches and the arts, you’re effectively, at this point, arguing for the end of these freedoms. Most churches and organizations would not survive longer than a year without the government’s support of the tax code. This means no MIA (and no job for you), no Walker (probably not the worst thing), no other small nonprofit art org (at all), no foundations supporting artists (and no grants to artists), etc etc.
    If you’re arguing that you disagree with this matter of direct support of money from the government, know this. The amount of actual money given by the government to artists is extremely small (a few pennies on the dollar) compared to the amount of support generated via the tax code (in the form of donations, primarily, from individuals, businesses, foundations, etc etc). I don’t know the exact numbers, but I’d be willing to be the money generated through the free-market-tax-free system runs into the hundreds of billions of dollars each year (yes, billions). Whereas government support of the arts across every part of the U.S. goverment (national, state, county and city) would be hard-pressed to break a billion. (My guess is its in the $750-850 million range for all cumulative gov’t support).

    In fact, the money government gives to the arts is so negligible that taking it away is relatively meaningless in light of the free market money. (So, in my opinion, it’s hardly worth arguing about, as opposed to arguing about the tax code….) The only reason governments DOES give money to the arts at all is because there are times that officials deem it appropriate and important to support certain aspects of the arts. The vast majority of government support of art is earmarked for the history and culture of America (Smithsonian, National Archive, history museums, comprehensive art historical museums…), but other examples include support of certain programs of national interest (Cold War artists), or certain forms of art that would die off otherwise (traditional craft artists or aging blues/jazz artists), or certain arts favored by constituencies that would not have art otherwise (rural art centers, community theaters, community symphonies). To end the tiny amount of money given by the government to the arts pretty much means killing off just these few populist programs. This is not a huge concern to me, but I dare you to try convincing the small town pol that you want to take away his kid’s community symphony… You might run into trouble there.

  3. admin says:

    I guess what I’m saying is that the little amount of direct money support the government gives to the arts is just another form of earmark. If you’re against earmarks in principle, that’s a whole nother debate. My opinion is that earmarks, while not always fair, are a necessary evil. The problem is that everyone wants them, and so that’s why god created lobbyists. And that’s why the arts have birthed, shudder, arts lobbyists…

  4. bob schulz says:

    I agree with the funding of the arts by any government considering first the extent that it affects the total budgetary requirement. In the case of the US, with a 3.1 trillion dollar budget, the Federal stipend could easily be tripled with no effect in the negative. Say the actual Federal committment is about 150 million dollars. That would amount to .0048 of a percent of our federal budget. That’s 48 ten thousands of one percent. Nothing! Triple it and it’s nothing. As an example, in the defense of our country a paltry 14.5 percent is spent in total, a mere 3 percent of our total GDP. I don’t know the exact number that is allotted today.

    In Canada, where for whatever reason over the last two decades, the government has been trying to zero out the budget deficit to the extent that in the late eighties, if my memory serves me, a value added national sales tax of 16 percent was debited against every retail purchase, and is still in effect today.

    Also, if my memory serves, Canada has built art warehouses to collect, store and preserve Canadian art. I believe so much was collected (bought) that they didn’t know what to do with it! After all, who is say what is worth collecting or saving. This doesn’t sit too will with regular Canadian folks.

    Last time I crossed the border I got 96 cents for a US dollar! Actually, I am still a little ambivalent on this topic. Right now I see some cultural value in supplimenting American cultural venues. I think there is some value that is not immediately apparent to the average taxpayer. In fact, we could drop the ethanol subsidies and commit that revenue stream to the arts! It’s a huge sum.

    So, Canadians may still be trying to perfectly balance their budget, and whenever I cruise throught the WAG in Winnipeg I imagine why this is so. Other than that, carry on ladies and germs.

  5. admin says:

    Bob Schulz?! That’s a name I haven’t heard in awhile…
    Welcome to Failure Land, Bob. What’ve you been up to?

    I have always wanted to visit those supposed government storehouses of art in Canada. It’d be like reaching the end of the Yellow Brick Road, dontcha think? Road trip, anyone!?

  6. bob schulz says:

    I’m still painting and haven’t lost my enthusiasm for, as you so aptly put it, leaving something behind other than a pile of pay stubbs. I try to paint as little as possible. I’ll have a piece in the ART-A-WHIRL auction the weekend of May 16th -18th in the Northrup King Bldg,, which is an annual outing for many NE local artists. If I may so bold as to make an announcement.

    It’s interesting to see how governments, Holland included, will handle art purchased and collected for the purpose of “helping” artists. Many years ago Robert Hughes lamented such activity citing the disposal of un-salable art, selling it at garage sale prices, or trying to give it away, could jeopardize and ruin an artist’s rep.

    An auction, on the other hand, regardless of the audience, sharply focuses the attention of an artist. I never really knew the feeling of selling a piece of art until, at an auction, someone paid for one. It’s the final act of making, selling itself. It has to sell itself.

    Protection of Canadian art and culture has long been the intent of arts councils in Canada. In the WAG one does get the feeling that there is something uniquely different about Canadian art.

    And you’ve done quite well for yourself wrestling with the Sturm und drang of art. Other than that bicycle riding has become an agent of change. I’m still eating a boiled egg every morning, and the lesson of less is more has never been more true as gratitude is the beginning of happiness.

  7. holster says:

    I feel as though I need to clarify. (sorry it took a few days, not hectic but a lot of activity) [and hey Bob! Long time no ’see’. Good to see you pecking at the keys again] So, to clarify a bit. I simply see creation - artistic, tech, industry, etc. - in a somewhat crude manner, it’s another product as any other. In the world of the living and currently producing. The products of prominent dead creatives/inventives enter the realm of the relic, or item of historical merit or reference and I see them as being in a different column. Another comparison to religion (from my bent little perspective) is that to place the work of a contemporary young artist actively producing next to the work of (pick historical reference or person here) and placing the same value on them is like saying that a Penticostal and a Catholic are the same religion, while this may be true on the level that they both fall into the category of art in the former and Christianity in the latter, I see a difference in supporting (through direct state or fed funding of individuals; NEA being at the top of my mind - incentives for institutional operations in the form of tax breaks for churches and non-profits I also see as similar but not the same, I don’t have so much of a problem with that, and not just because of where I work. At the same time I can’t help but look at the differences between a public and private institution, let’s use the Getty as an example, (granted it’s in a much larger market) the Getty is a private institution and well, it rocks. The budget that they have for their exhibition furniture alone - geeze-la-wheeze, I’m envious. (I don’t know their budget #’s but I do have a pretty good idea of the cost on the level of fixtures that they use.) The Menil down in Houston is another fine example of the power of the private foundation dollar over that of the tax dollar teat. As well, as far as I know, the vast majority of our operational budget here comes from our wonderful trustees and private donors. Which I’m sure comes off the taxes each year for these individuals and corporations so if you take it back far enough it’s still a form of govt funding. Another reason I see incentives and subsidies as two different breeds of the same species. Gotta run right now, but I have a bit more on this that I’d like to add later this evening. And hey, thanks creating this site - great topics and always an interesting read. Keep up the good work, man.

Leave a Reply