Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Good morning, committee members and colleagues.
First, congratulations on being elected and on being appointed to this important committee. I also want to thank you for inviting us to appear today to discuss our government's support for the cultural sector during the pandemic.
The hundreds of thousands of workers in the sector, including 158,000 professional artists, are vital to our economy and society. Our government has known this for a long time. We've always been there for them, and we'll always support our arts and culture sector and our heritage.
To understand the scope of all that has been accomplished, you must think back a bit to 2015. At that time, the cultural sector had just gone through a decade of budget cuts, and we said enough was enough. That's basically what we told Canadians. Under a Liberal government, our culture and our languages would be protected from now on. That's what we've done. As soon as we were elected in 2015, in the 2016 budget, we started to reverse the budget cuts.
One of the first things we did was to reinvest $675 million in CBC/Radio-Canada. That same year, we announced the largest increase in history to the budget of the Canada Council for the Arts. We also invested in Telefilm and the Canada Media Fund. I could go on and on, Mr. Chair, but long story short, we made the biggest reinvestment in our culture in the history of our country.
When Canada began to feel the full impacts of COVID-19 in March 2020, the culture and heritage sectors were among the first and hardest hit. Many in the creative industry found themselves with little or, quite often, zero income.
We immediately understood that we had to help the cultural sector quickly. Time was of the essence and there wasn't a moment to spare.
I would now like to take the time to thank all the employees of Canadian Heritage and its portfolio agencies. Despite the pandemic and its challenges, they were able to quickly respond to the urgency of the situation.
We responded right away with a $500-million emergency support fund for cultural, heritage and sports organizations. It was delivered in record time and protected many jobs. The results speak for themselves: 77% of people said it helped them stay in business, and 95% of them were satisfied with the speed of the program.
The Liberal team has always been an ally of the cultural sector. We said that we would reinvest, and we did. We said that we wouldn't leave anyone behind during the pandemic, and we kept our word. Now we're telling people that we'll be there to help them hang on until the economy fully recovers, because this hasn't happened yet. People in the cultural community across the country know that they can count on us.
It should be noted that, as a result of the plan implemented by my colleague, the Minister of Finance, our recovery is very strong. However, the recovery isn't equal for everyone. Not everyone is benefiting from it in the same way. I'm thinking in particular of self‑employed workers in the cultural sector.
Even though most Canadians have acted responsibly by getting vaccinated and taking the necessary precautions, several sectors of the industry will need time to return to pre‑pandemic levels. There's still a gap.
That's why, in the 2021 budget, we made a historic investment of $1.93 billion to help the arts and culture sector join the recovery. I think that's important.
We've created several emergency assistance programs to support our creators, our festivals and our various institutions.
Mr. Chair, once again, I could go on and on, but I don't think you want that.
Let me focus on what's ahead of us.
On January 31 and February 1, we'll hold a summit on the recovery of the arts and culture sectors. During this summit, we'll focus on medium‑term and longer‑term solutions and priorities.
We're working with the Deputy Prime Minister on a key commitment in the Liberal plan presented to Canadians during the campaign.
We said that we would create a transitional program tailored to self‑employed and independent workers in the industry. That's what we'll do.
We're currently working with artist associations, guilds, unions and all sector organizations to create the program as quickly as possible.
They're telling us—and I think they also told the committee—that this step is extremely important and necessary. They want it done quickly, but more importantly, they want it done right. This is my top priority at this time.
I'm relieved to hear my colleagues talk about this issue. During the election campaign, the Liberals were the only ones who talked about transitional support for self‑employed workers in the sector. I must say that I was concerned.
Today, I'm pleased to know that my colleagues are asking the government to fulfill its own commitment. I can tell you that we'll do just that. This shows that we aren't alone. This is a good move for our workers and our culture.
I want to thank all my colleagues for their enthusiasm and support for our plans to help the cultural sector, our artists and our craftspeople.
In closing, I consider it important to take concrete steps and to act together.
In Bill C-2, there are very important measures for our arts and culture sector. For the hardest-hit organizations and for the people in the cultural sector, these are essential measures to help them pay up to 75% of wages and rent. This includes live performances and exhibits, museums, heritage sites, cinemas, festivals and others. Bill C-2 also contains measures that will help these organizations hire more people.
Our creators need it. They need the support provided in this bill right now. I know my colleagues from all parties are serious about supporting workers in the cultural sector, and I'm counting on them to make sure that Bill C-2 moves forward without any further delay.
On behalf of all our workers, everyone involved in culture, I'd like to ask my colleagues to quickly pass Bill C‑2.
These people were there for us during the pandemic. They made us laugh, they sometimes made us cry, and they often made us think. We've been there for them too. Now it's time to take the next step together.
I will now take your questions.