Good morning, Chairman and members of the committee.
I would like to start by thanking the Standing Committee on Finance for this opportunity to present on behalf of our members in the diverse communities that we represent. The IMAA is a non-profit national arts service organization that promotes and advances the interests of a vibrant media arts community. We represent over 80 independent film, video, and new media production, distribution, and exhibition organizations in all parts of Canada, serving over 12,000 independent media artists and cultural workers.
First and foremost, I would like to acknowledge the federal government for recognizing the value and importance of the arts in Canada through its investment in the Canada Council for the Arts, with the additional $30 million in annual support. This is an encouraging first step towards accomplishing the many vital goals held by the arts and cultural sector. Still, the IMAA wants to underline the fact the $30 million does not go far enough to relieve the pressures faced by the smaller artist-run organizations and independent artists.
To prove this, we can look at how the supplementary fund was allocated in this 2007-08 fiscal year. These funds barely addressed the needs of the larger traditional performing arts organizations and did not even come close to addressing the needs of the smaller organizations outside the urban centres, specifically organizations that support media arts practices. This is highly problematic, considering that the stated plans and priorities for both the Canada Council for the Arts and the Department of Canadian Heritage are for cultural and creative development in the 21st century, with an investment in new practices. The current reality is that more artists are working within the media arts, with a new focus on mediums such as electronic, Internet, video, and multi-disciplinary practices.
We urge the federal government to increase funding to match the needs of these diverse practices. Therefore, our first recommendation is for the increase of funding to the Canada Council for the Arts by an additional $100 million annually.
The second point I would like to make is our often-stated claim that cultural funding must be made statutory. Cultural spending should be acknowledged in all aspects of Canadians' lives, from health to education, leisure, technology, and the economy. Arts organizations are the backbone of the independent arts sector and provide a multitude of services within our communities. These include access to equipment, resources, and training, provision of dissemination and exhibition opportunities, as well as help in creating healthy, thriving communities.
Programs such as the Tomorrow Starts Today program help to create stability within the Canadian arts and cultural sector. As we approach the end date of this multi-year funding initiative, we emphasize that these funds are indispensable to the arts in Canada. We strongly recommend that the federal government make permanent the Tomorrow Starts Today initiative.
This fund supports programs such as Cultural Spaces Canada. This support must be sustained and developed further. The Cultural Spaces Canada program is essential for assisting organizations to establish permanent venues for the creation and presentation of artworks, be they theatrical plays, exhibitions of visual arts, musical performances, or cutting-edge screenings of media art. We need to create stability within our cultural organizations.
Arts funding contributes positively to the economy in many different ways, including through creation of cultural vibrancy in cities and towns that attract corporations to these centres. Given this, by instituting a portion of the federal budget as statutory funding, the government would be making a significant move towards showing its commitment to and investment in the arts in Canada.
The 2006 report by the Standing Committee on Finance identified that a region's artistic and cultural life is an important factor in attracting and retaining employees and businesses, who may be drawn to locations with artistic and cultural amenities that enhance well-being, quality of life, diversity, and prosperity. As the finance committee this year examines the Canadian tax system for its 2007 report, it is essential that you be reminded that businesses and corporations directly benefit from a healthy arts and cultural community.
We would like to see the level of taxation, fees, and other charges take into account the benefits a corporation receives within the global picture. By funding arts organizations and art activity across the nation, the government is stimulating increased economic activity while enhancing the cultural vibrancy of a community.
Arts organizations do not solely depend on federal funds to operate. An incredible amount of time is spent seeking alternative sources of funding, such as corporate sponsorships, foundation support, and other funding initiatives. However, there is not enough incentive for donors to fund arts and cultural organizations.
The IMAA thus urges the federal government to provide a cultural donation tax initiative for donors, to encourage the funding of arts and cultural organizations. This tax initiative should be supportive of the arts and culture communities of Canada, should not require undue pressure on the part of the staff of these organizations to maintain that support, and should not limit or lessen the amount given to any funding body for the purposes of supporting the arts.
Our final recommendation speaks about the urgent need for support for the preservation and archiving of media artwork. The preservation of film, video, and new media work is a major concern among all organizations that have media art collections, including the National Gallery of Canada. The works in question are audio, video, and film collections and include experimental, narrative, and documentary works by artists. The vast majority of these works have been financed by public money and are degenerating rapidly. It stands to reason that public money should be invested in the preservation of these works.
So we urge the federal government to increase support to the Audio-Visual Preservation Trust of Canada, the Canada Council for the Arts, and the National Library and Archives Canada, specifically to expand the process of preservation, archiving, cataloguing, and collection maintenance of Canadian artworks.
Thank you. I would be happy to answer any questions you have.