Evidence of meeting #24 for Canadian Heritage in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was museums.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

  • John McAvity  Executive Director, Canadian Museums Association
  • Kirstin Evenden  Vice-President of the Board, President and Chief Executive Officer, Glenbow Museum, Canadian Museums Association
  • Benoît Légaré  Board Member, Director of Museology, Mécénat conseil inc.; Canadian Museums Association
  • Jessie Inman  Chief Executive Officer, Confederation Centre of the Arts
  • Pierre Landry  President, Société des musées québécois

11:50 a.m.

Conservative

Terence Young Oakville, ON

The theatre at the Confederation Centre of the Arts, when I was there, was still fairly new. It's now, what, 44 years old?

11:50 a.m.

Chief Executive Officer, Confederation Centre of the Arts

Jessie Inman

It's 48 years old.

11:50 a.m.

Conservative

Terence Young Oakville, ON

You have planned some fairly extensive renovations of the theatre. Could you talk a little about that and its importance?

11:50 a.m.

Chief Executive Officer, Confederation Centre of the Arts

Jessie Inman

The theatre will soon be 50 years old. It was opened in 1964. It has never been touched. It has the original seating. We have tried to maintain it to keep it safe, but it does not meet current national building and safety codes. We're looking to put in a new theatre pavilion inside the same four walls—not a new building but a new inside. We would like to have that open for the 2014 celebrations. We have an extensive plan for doing it, which includes funding from Canadian Heritage, ACOA, and the province. The province has already committed. ACOA has almost committed. Our application is being reviewed by Canadian Heritage. We feel quite positive about their views on it.

11:50 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Rob Moore

Thank you, Mr. Young.

Madame Boutin-Sweet.

April 3rd, 2012 / 11:50 a.m.

NDP

Marjolaine Boutin-Sweet Hochelaga, QC

Thank you , ladies and gentlemen. Your presence here today is very important.

We are studying Canada’s 150th anniversary, but we will also devote several meetings to museums and their financial health. We will be hearing from museum representatives.

My first question is for Mr. McAvity, of the Canadian Museums Association.

Do you think that the federal government should adopt a national museums policy to ensure the health of our museums? If it does, what should it include?

11:55 a.m.

Executive Director, Canadian Museums Association

John McAvity

Actually, there is a museum policy right now, but in our opinion it needs to be updated very significantly.

I'll give you just a little bit of history.

In 1972 the first national museum policy was brought in when the Honourable Gérard Pelletier was the Secretary of State, and then the Honourable Marcel Masse in the Mulroney government updated and renewed and expanded the policy. However, over the last few years there has been some erosion in funding and generally in the effectiveness of the policy.

I'm going to seize upon some of the words that Pierre Landry used. He talked about 2017 as an opportunity to “right the ship”, and this would be one of the areas we believe need to be reviewed and investigated and one for which a more comprehensive policy needs to be developed.

Right now, frankly, we're just pleased to hold on to what we have in terms of funding, and in fact to see some improvements that have come out of the federal budget. So I think we've actually done quite well in the federal budget, but as we look forward there are still many unanswered questions. There are the needs Ms. Evenden referred to in terms of collections, and the proper preservation and facilities that need to be built upon, and these do need serious attention.

11:55 a.m.

NDP

Marjolaine Boutin-Sweet Hochelaga, QC

So if we were to consult you, you would have a number of suggestions for ways to improve the policy in specific areas.

11:55 a.m.

Executive Director, Canadian Museums Association

John McAvity

Yes, we would be delighted to be consulted on that.

11:55 a.m.

NDP

Marjolaine Boutin-Sweet Hochelaga, QC

Thank you. I think it is really wonderful that your two groups are here. We aren’t having many meetings about this, but you represent several museums, both large and small.

I was once a guide-interpreter at the Pointe-à-Callière museum, which is a medium-sized museum. Even though it’s a good-sized museum, it always has a hard time finding funding. When I was there, guide-interpreter jobs were always being cut, which meant fewer services to the public. That was always the first thing to go.

You talked about stable funding for museums. The Canadian Museums Association suggested the creation of a fund-matching program.

Mr. Landry, if a new museums policy or a fund-matching program is created, what can we do to help museums of all sizes? How can we make sure that small museums survive too?

11:55 a.m.

President, Société des musées québécois

Pierre Landry

Canadian Heritage already has a variety of programs, which, I believe, are available and open to all museums, and are relatively well known across Canada.

Some programs have to do with the production and circulation of travelling exhibitions, while others are for the production of virtual exhibitions. Another program, which unfortunately has been eliminated, assisted with the circulation and transportation of works of art from province to province.

Thanks to the Museums Assistance Program, or MAP, exhibitions can often be produced in small museums and then go on to be presented in our institutions and circulate throughout Canada afterwards. The idea behind the program is to show correlations between the various cultures that exist within the broader Canadian culture. These programs are very important.

Unfortunately, less money is being invested in the programs themselves, so it is harder for us to put together major projects.

Some programs have also been changed in recent years. Until very recently, the Canadian Arts and Heritage Sustainability Program, or CAHSP, allowed museums to review some of their practices related to marketing, human resources and management. The program had some very interesting features that gave us tools—for all institutions, whether small, medium or large—to review our practices, to work with professional firms in order to really make progress in our management practices, marketing strategies, and so on.

Unfortunately, this program was changed recently. It was not eliminated, per se, but it now applies more to groups of various partners, whether in museology or not. This means that the program is no longer directly accessible to museums. I find this somewhat unfortunate, because at our organization—and I am speaking only for my firm—it really allowed us to review some of our practices, to professionalize our domain, and so on. Museums definitely need these resources and this funding.

Several museums in Quebec—but not all—receive recurrent funding from Quebec's ministère de la Culture, des Communications et de la Condition féminine. This funding is rarely enough to meet the needs of museums. These needs often push us to work on the ground to seek other sources of funding and this support from the federal government is very important to us. We must also remember that this support is often linked to a specific project. In other words, this funding is meant for managing a specific project and does not really trickle down to the rest of the museum the same way that recurrent funding does.

So, that is more or less the current reality and it would be unfortunate, in that sense, if funding for museums were to diminish, which is what is happening now, and if programs were eliminated or scaled back.

In that sense, the celebrations planned for 2017 would provide an excellent opportunity for this wave of resources and funding to really allow all of Canada's museums to get back to being on an even keel. As Mr. McAvity was saying, perhaps we could go even further and review some of our practices, which would allow us continue to navigate more comfortably, once we are back on an even keel. Our numerous institutions are important and useful to our communities. We have large collections. In a way, we are almost like the soul of this country, and I think we need to recognize the value of that.

Noon

Conservative

The Chair Rob Moore

Thank you.

You're 22 seconds over, so you're out of time. We'll move to the next person.

Just for the benefit of the witnesses here, our first round of questions is for seven minutes, and then we go into five-minute rounds. The chair has been pretty loose with the time today.

Ms. Murray. And welcome to the committee, by the way.

Noon

Liberal

Joyce Murray Vancouver Quadra, BC

Thanks very much, Mr. Chair.

Thank you for the information and the vision you're putting forward.

I'm interested in a few questions around the economic benefits, the possibilities of the 150th anniversary, and the museums' participation in that.

Do you see this as primarily something for Canadians? Will your marketing be to Canadians, or to what degree do you see this as being a possible way to improve our international tourist visit numbers? They have been declining over the years. We used to be number seven in international overnight stays, and we're now at number fifteen or something. Is your focus in Canada, or to what degree is it on the international community?

Museums are a huge part of the product the tourism industry depends on to generate tourism dollars and jobs. Somebody may have some thoughts on that. I'm wondering how the 20% cut to the Canadian Tourism Commission for marketing Canada might affect our ability to let people know about the 150th anniversary and all the amazing products you're envisioning presenting. Do you have any thoughts on that?

Noon

Executive Director, Canadian Museums Association

John McAvity

Let me jump in and then invite colleagues to respond.

Of all visitors who come to Canada, 60% visit museums. They really don't come here to visit our forests, the logging industry, or open-pit mines. They come to see the magic of what this country's all about. I think there's a tremendous opportunity for Canada in 2017 to use the Canadian experience and the Canadian story diplomatically on an international stage.

The Canadian Museums Association works with a couple of countries right now. Through foundations and non-governmental support we facilitate exchanges with China. We have a book program for rural communities, particularly in earthquake areas in China. So there are some really good things, and we've been able to tap philanthropists and donors to do this. I think there's a huge opportunity there. At one point culture was one of the three pillars of our foreign affairs policy, but it is not today. So we have an opportunity there.

I'll turn it over to my other colleagues. They may have more practical experience than I, because they actually work in museums and centres.

12:05 p.m.

Chief Executive Officer, Confederation Centre of the Arts

Jessie Inman

We have several initiatives for exploiting Canada to the world, which we need to do to increase our tourism numbers in all provinces and territories of the country. There is a new musical that we will develop. It will tour internationally. It will be of a calibre that other countries will want to see it and have it on their stages. The content will resonate with other countries, even though it will be about Canada. We believe that the new musical theatrical experience will entice other countries and visitors to Canada. That's one thing.

Just a few months ago, Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery was launched in China. I think they quickly sold out their first 30,000 copies, which are not very many for China. We will keep building that momentum, and that will increase Chinese tourism to Canada.

We also intend to possibly tour Anne in other countries, other than the ones I've already mentioned where it has been. It is so easy these days with simulcast broadcasting to get the message out to other parts of the world. Canadian embassies around the world are dying for content about Canada to show to Canadians in their constituencies, or to the members of societies in countries they are looking after.

I think there are huge opportunities, because of these celebrations, to reach out to international communities.

Thanks.