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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 museum.

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

12:20 p.m.

Executive Director, Canadian Museums Association

John McAvity

Just very quickly, we had been thinking about it before this committee started, and let me tell you, it's really exciting, because we get a chance to blue-sky it. It's not very often that we get the chance to do that. So we see there being a big opportunity, not just for museums, but for Canada and community organizations as a whole. We applaud you for that, and we hope you'll adopt all of our good ideas.

12:20 p.m.

NDP

Andrew Cash NDP Davenport, ON

How's my time?

12:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Rob Moore

You have a minute.

12:20 p.m.

NDP

Andrew Cash NDP Davenport, ON

Great.

I have another question. We see this in Toronto and we see it all across the country. We have all of these beautiful churches, small churches, medium-sized churches, and they are struggling to maintain the integrity of their buildings. These are also cultural treasures in our country.

When we talk about a national museums strategy, I know there was one that was studied several years ago by this committee. I don't know whether they included issues of heritage buildings and churches. Is this on your radar, this issue of churches?

12:20 p.m.

President, Société des musées québécois

Pierre Landry

Well, it is, in some ways. For instance, in Rivière-du-Loup there are three churches, and the question is on the table right now, what to do with these three churches. We have a project.

It is a question of expanding the museum. Our space is too limited, considering our collections.

We were looking if it was possible to maybe do something with one of the churches.

It's difficult, because the functions are not necessarily the same.

We can't think of having 150 church museums in Canada. It's a huge problem, but probably it could be addressed by the means we are talking about now. It could be, yes, and in certain communities, maybe.

12:20 p.m.

Board Member, Director of Museology, Mécénat conseil inc.; Canadian Museums Association

Benoît Légaré

Last spring, the Société des musées québécois held a general assembly to reflect on the current situation for museums in Quebec, in other words, where they stand and what direction they want to take over the next five years. I personally chaired one of the committees, which addressed outreach, that is, cultural exhibitions that are educational in nature. What we learned is that religious heritage is a major preoccupation. This means that we share the same preoccupation. The recommendations made by the Société des musées québécois included religious heritage, as well as performing arts heritage. In fact, the latter is also likely to disappear. What I mean are the sets and costumes and so on, basically everything surrounding the performing arts. At present, very few people are taking care of this. So, here we have two new areas of museology that are likely to grow in the years to come.

12:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Rob Moore

Thank you, Mr. Cash.

Back to Mr. Calandra.

12:25 p.m.

Conservative

Paul Calandra Conservative Oak Ridges—Markham, ON

I would like to go on a bit of a different vein.

I guess all of you can maybe answer, but Mr. McAvity, you talked about the Young Canada Works program. Could you just explain a bit more about that program? What does it do, how many people participate, and in the context of looking ahead, how might we consider augmenting or providing some greater assistance for 2017?

12:25 p.m.

Executive Director, Canadian Museums Association

John McAvity

The Young Canada Works program in heritage has been an extremely successful program. I believe its total budget is about $10 million, more like $8 million or $9 million. We at the Canadian Museums Association administer one of the components. The Heritage Canada Foundation administers a component, the Canadian Library Association represents a component, but the museums tend to be the biggest one because of the nature of our business and being open in the summer.

It's one of the programs that really benefits small museums. It's meaningful that they get one or two jobs for summertime. I visited some of the museums where the program has been in effect—for example, the little museum in St. Martins, New Brunswick—and seen its value. They work side by side with volunteers from the community and really develop effective skills.

This is not a program for young people to go out and mow the lawns, as it were, in museums. They are skill-developing programs. It's evaluated professionally on a national level, and it's come out at ratings that would be the envy of every political party as well. It has 99% approval, so it has been a very good program, success all around. Incidentally, the institutions do contribute 20% of the money, so it is a cost-shared program.

We're just simply overrun with applications. We cannot keep up with them. We are turning down 50% of the employers. You can imagine how many young people are applying to the employers. So in turn there's an opportunity here that we would really like to take advantage of. A couple of million dollars would go a long way.

12:25 p.m.

President, Société des musées québécois

Pierre Landry

With regard to this program, I would like to add that, unfortunately, students who go and work at an institution for a year cannot work at the same institution the next year. This makes things very difficult for small institutions, because they have to train new students every time. If even one change could be made to the program, I think that should be it. That would be very useful to institutions, especially small ones, because they have limited staff available to train people.

12:25 p.m.

Conservative

Paul Calandra Conservative Oak Ridges—Markham, ON

That's it for now.

12:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Rob Moore

Mr. Nantel.

April 3rd, 2012 / 12:25 p.m.

NDP

Pierre Nantel NDP Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher, QC

Thank you.

First of all, I would like to thank everyone here for all their work. Your presence is very important. The Confederation Centre of the Arts representatives appeared on the list very suddenly. We have seen how important your presence here has been and how many federative ideas you have for the 150th anniversary, especially since that is your role, as the museum of Confederation.

Mr. Landry, what you just said about jobs for students is something that we hear quite often. Many people have talked to us about that very problem. It is too bad you have to train good employees only to lose them every year.

I would like to revisit a few points. First of all, Ms. Inman, you are quite right; hosting weddings to increase revenues is a good idea. The Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec does the same things and it is very nice. So that is something we can explore.

Speaking of revenues, I would like to come back to a point raised by Mr. Calandra and Mr. Légaré. It has to do with funding and the networking aspect of it. I have a very brief question to ask each of you.

Do you think the Canadian Museums Association would be open to the following idea: before the 150th anniversary celebrations, beginning a campaign to sell a card that would give access to all museums in Canada at a reasonable price, with half of the proceeds going to the museum that made the sale locally? This could be your museum in Rivière-du-loup or the Musée de la femme in Longueuil, which is housed in what is practically a closet and is surviving on whatever it can scrape together. For $100, they could sell a national passport to celebrate the 150th anniversary. They would keep $50 for themselves and the other $50 would go into a communal kitty. There could be partnerships and the passport could offer discounts on travel between the provinces.

Do you think you are organized well enough to take on this kind of campaign? Would this be relevant in the current context?

Mr. Légaré, what do you think?

12:30 p.m.

Board Member, Director of Museology, Mécénat conseil inc.; Canadian Museums Association

Benoît Légaré

That is an excellent idea. Montreal already has something similar—the Montréal Museums Pass. I worked on that initiative when I was on the executive committee of the Board of Montréal Museums Directors, which brings together the chief administrators of 36 museums in Montreal. The board decided to try different marketing strategies in order to bring people into the museums. One of those initiatives was the Montréal Museums Pass.

This strategy is somewhat similar to the one you described, that is, for each institution to be able to sell the Montréal Museums Pass and obtain a percentage of the proceeds on the cards they sell, so as not to lose entrance revenues.

It benefits, too, since we know that everyone who buys the pass will visit these institutions three times. In other words, each card will generate about three visits, which is good. Furthermore, this encourages people to visit other institutions nearby that they would not necessarily have visited otherwise. However, since their entrance is free, it is good for them, too.

This could eventually be a model that others may want to emulate, since this pass also has a partnership with the Société de transport de Montréal. People can also buy a pass that includes public transit for a period of either three days or two weeks or even a year, if they want.

12:30 p.m.

NDP

Pierre Nantel NDP Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher, QC

This card could have many advantages. Emails could be sent out to anyone who signs up who would like to receive discounts, for example, to take the train to Prince Edward Island to go to a museum there.

Mr. Landry, could small museums handle such an initiative?

12:30 p.m.

President, Société des musées québécois

Pierre Landry

Yes, I think something like that would be completely manageable, but not by small museums or by the organization itself. Perhaps the Canadian Museums Association could manage the program in partnership with Canadian Heritage, for example. In any case, this has already been done. I know Kellogg's had a similar promotion a while ago. Things like this are conceivable and definitely desirable. What is important is that it is manageable for small institutions and that one organization oversee everything.

12:30 p.m.

NDP

Pierre Nantel NDP Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher, QC

We are running out of time.

Thanks to my colleague, Andrew Cash, you touched on the issue of churches. Would you agree that there is an urgent and relevant need to protect Quebec's religious heritage, from a Canadian perspective? Do you think this is just as urgent as commemorating the War of 1812, which took place in southern Ontario?

12:30 p.m.

President, Société des musées québécois

Pierre Landry

I would rather not comment on the War of 1812, but I will say that conserving religious heritage is extremely important. This point has been raised, but I would rather not confuse the issue.

Most churches currently belong to and are managed by parish councils, or parishes and so forth. Most museums, on the other hand, are autonomous, private institutions that are already established, so to speak. The mission of churches is losing momentum at this time, which is where the problem lies. In my opinion, these are two relatively different things. We need to look at how communities can get involved to safeguard churches, because this is important.

12:30 p.m.

NDP

Pierre Nantel NDP Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher, QC

Indeed, for the 150th anniversary, we need to ensure that all aspects of our history are being preserved.

Thank you.

12:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Rob Moore

Thank you, Mr. Nantel.

Mr. Calandra.

12:30 p.m.

Conservative

Paul Calandra Conservative Oak Ridges—Markham, ON

Thank you.

Sorry, Mr. Landry, I hate to keep focusing on you. It's just because there are probably some parallels between your museum and mine.

In my community there are two small museums, the King Township Museum and the Whitchurch-Stouffville Museum. The Whitchurch-Stouffville Museum is one that gets significant support from the local municipality. They have also recognized, though, the importance of doing other things at the museum, so part of their economic action plan initiative was to expand the museum, so they could host functions there and actually bring more of their collection out. One of the things they also talk about is the ability to actually work better and more closely with larger institutions.

I have a number of questions. In your context, how well does the municipality support the museum? Are there larger institutions you already partner with, as a small rural museum? What type of support do you get from larger institutions to actually display some of their collections, so you can actually bring more people into the museum?

12:35 p.m.

President, Société des musées québécois

Pierre Landry

In our case, we receive a good deal of financial support from our municipality. But some funny things have happened. These things may not fall within the scope of today's hearing, but I would like to mention them, because we are talking a lot about funding and these things relate to that.

I receive funding from the municipality of Rivière-du-Loup, and last year, I also managed to receive funding from the Rivière-du-Loup RCM. When the municipality found out that I had also obtained funding from the RCM, it cut back the amount it had planned to give to me by the same amount that it provides to the RCM. I am giving you this example simply to illustrate that this approach is not always productive.

At the SMQ, we are trying to work harder on these issues. We are currently working in partnership with Quebec's Ministère de la Culture, des Communications et de la Condition féminine to look at the various approaches we can take with respect to the municipalities. It might be a good idea to set some basic rules regarding the amount of funding that can be obtained from municipalities and so on.

As for your second question, I don't remember exactly what it pertained to.

Your other question was....

12:35 p.m.

Conservative

Paul Calandra Conservative Oak Ridges—Markham, ON

Just with respect to—

12:35 p.m.

President, Société des musées québécois

Pierre Landry

—large museums. It can be difficult for us, because large museums do offer us travelling exhibitions, for instance, but the cost is often prohibitive and their exhibitions are often too big for our facilities. There is a willingness to develop cooperation and dialogue, but the reality is that it can be hard for us in that regard. It is not due to any unwillingness; it is simply the reality.

And this does not mean that large institutions do not have their own problems. The entire sector is under-funded at this time, so we are all in the same boat.

12:35 p.m.

Conservative

Paul Calandra Conservative Oak Ridges—Markham, ON

I have more of a comment than a question. I know, obviously, how important churches are, but it makes me somewhat nervous when we start talking about expanding and moving into other areas when you're talking about the current situation being a difficult one. I know how important churches are. I see them across my riding. But I'd have a really tough time imagining a church as a function of a museum. I can't imagine it would be less costly to make a church a museum than it would be just to provide additional resources for a rural museum.

I'm sure if you tabulated the entire ask of the organizations that you represent, it would be far beyond the scope of this government or any government to actually finance. Having said that, we've obviously opened the door to how museums and theatres get out there and raise money and raise awareness within the community. I think if we accomplish anything out of the 150th, somehow getting the rural museums to participate or cooperate with some of the larger institutions, both nationally and provincially, would be massive--whether it's through passports, as they're suggesting.... Even if we didn't provide a dime—and I'm not saying that's what we're going to do—if we figured out how to coordinate the rural and the large national museums with the large provincial museums, so that there was more funding to provide all of you and that more people think about it, then I think that would be one of the best lasting legacies of the 150th.

I don't know if I have time.