Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
I want to apologize for my technical problems. We will have those fixed for our future appearances.
I'm speaking to you from Gatineau, Quebec. I would like to acknowledge that we are on the traditional Algonquin Anishinabe territory.
I would like to thank the members of the committee for inviting us here today to talk about this important initiative—the COVID-19 emergency support fund for cultural, heritage and sport organizations.
The focus today is on the cultural, heritage and sports sectors, which collectively employ 750,000 Canadians, contribute $61.9 billion annually to the national GDP, and whose products—arts, books, music and participation in sports—have provided Canadians with the comfort, community and sense of common identity that are so important in these turbulent times.
As you know, the cultural, heritage and sports sectors were among the first to suffer widespread closures, cancellations and associated losses due to the pandemic, and of course, public health guidelines, which imposed instantaneous containment on the entertainment and sports sectors from the outset of the pandemic. These sectors were among the first to experience the impact of the pandemic, and will likely be among the last to suffer. These sectors are already highly vulnerable, due to being overwhelmingly comprised of small-to-medium organizations, heavily reliant on not-for-profit models of operations. As a result, they have suffered severe damage.
Real GDP in the arts, entertainment and recreation sub-sector stood at $7.3 billion in July 2020 against $15.6 billion in February 2020. This is a decrease of more than 50% in just four months.
The total labour force in the performing arts, sports, entertainment and related industries decreased by 19.2% in September 2020 compared to September 2019.
The current situation demonstrates the fragility of sectors that are particularly vulnerable to the impact of this pandemic. Without financial assistance, many organizations would have ceased operations already, and many are still at risk.
As the pandemic unfolded, the government responded on April 17, 2020, when the Prime Minister announced $500 million to establish a new COVID-19 emergency support fund for cultural, heritage and sport organizations.
Very quickly after this announcement, the department went on to design the fund to complement the government's existing COVID-19 support measures, the Canada emergency response benefit and the Canada emergency wage subsidy. The department designed this to make sure that gaps left by those benefits would be addressed.
The key principles, besides the emergency support funding, were that the funds had to flow as quickly as possible, as time was of the essence, that the process be streamlined wherever possible and that applicants who are not normally recipients of PCH program funding be included in the disbursement of funds.
The emergency support funding built on pre-existing measures announced on March 25 to simplify the process for submitting and processing requests for 2020-21 funding for the Canada book fund and the Canada periodical fund, which allowed eligible beneficiaries to complete applications and access financial assistance much more quickly than usual.
The department also accelerated the distribution of its regular funding to eligible recipients in order to provide support quickly.
The emergency funding began in May 2020, and was disbursed in two phases—a first phase took advantage of existing funding mechanisms to advance approximately $307 million in temporary additional funding to recipients already benefiting from program funding, via a number of departmental funding programs and from the Canada Council For the Arts and Telefilm Canada.
Phase II funding was disbursed based on gaps identified after phase I, related to program coverage, diversity/equity and regional distribution—it included $45 million for special measures in support of journalism under the Canada periodical fund, $25 million for independent broadcasters investing in news and community broadcasts, and $52.1 million to arts and culture organizations that were not previously eligible for funding from regular Canadian Heritage programs.
In the distribution of these funds, the department was able to rely on the support of its partners, in particular the Canada Council for the Arts, Telefilm Canada, the Canada Media Fund, as well as FACTOR and Musicaction, for their assistance in distributing the funds through a streamlined process that facilitated the rapid distribution of funding in a consistent and equitable manner across organizations.
Apart from the COVID-19 emergency support fund, the government supported broadcasters by flowing funding to the CRTC to enable the waiving of part I licence fees for the 2020-21 fiscal year. The government also earmarked $25.7 million for national museums and the National Battlefields Commission to enable them to maintain their operations and offer some tours during the summer.
As the COVID-19 emergency support fund winds down, we are administering a survey to recipients of the emergency support fund to help assess the effectiveness of the funding in terms of financial relief, employment impacts and various social impacts. The results of this survey are currently being compiled.
Already, phase 1 COVID-19 emergency support fund recipients responded in high numbers to the survey and 77% of respondents said the fund helped them stay in operation to a large or moderate extent.
Just to wrap up and to give you an idea of the speed at which this all occurred, the Prime Minister made his announcement on April 17. Minister Guilbeault announced the launch of the program proper on May 8. Other measures I referred to were rolled out in parallel with the emergency support fund in the summer. Over 96% of the funding—which is $482 million—was distributed by the government-wide deadline of September 30. The remainder will be distributed by December 31. We're talking about approximately $18 million that is left to distribute between us and other partners.
The department is well aware that more needs to be done to support the sector during and following this pandemic. We are currently developing policy options regarding recovery. These options will be informed by the results of a series of 22 town halls and round tables that were conducted by Minister Guilbeault with stakeholders. These round tables occurred in September and October, and they highlighted the vulnerable state of the sector and potential areas to be acted upon going forward.
I'd like to thank the committee. This completes my opening remarks. I hope the sound was palatable. We would be happy to take your questions.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.