After the 2016 federal budget was announced March 22, headlines across major arts organizations glowed with an absolute rarity: positivity for the financial support shown toward arts and culture.
If you haven’t yet heard, the Liberal government came through on an electoral promise to increase arts and culture funding to the tune of $1.9 billion dollars over the next five years
In promising news for dance, the Canada Council for the Arts’ operating budget will double, totalling additional funding of $550 million dollars over five years.
“The Canada Council for the Arts welcomes the Government of Canada’s announcement today of an unprecedented commitment to Canadian arts and culture,” the Council announced on their website. “This once-in-a-generation reinvestment permeates beyond the walls of the Canada Council. It is a resounding acknowledgement that arts and culture function today as a robust social infrastructure in Canada.”
The support for the Canada Council comes at a crucial, transformative time, as the arm’s-length Crown corporation prepares to unroll a new funding model in 2017. “We could not have predicted … that at the moment we embarked upon our new funding model, we would be given additional resources to fulfill the ambitions that guided its creation,” said Canada Council Director and CEO Simon Brault in a statement on the agency’s website. “The doubling of the Canada Council’s budget is an incredible vote of confidence in the capacities of the arts to invigorate our economy and support social cohesion.”
However, the federal budget included a change that could resonate with some dance schools across the country. The pre-existing children’s arts tax credit has been cut alongside the children’s fitness tax credit in favour of a stronger Canada Child Benefit program: a tax-free monthly system that financially assists parents with the cost of raising children. Unlike the former undersubscribed-to children’s art tax credit, which some studios used in their advertising to increase appeal, the new Canada Child Benefit program is on a more socially conscious phase-out system, meaning, the lower your net household income, the more financial assistance you will receive. The biggest point of criticism here surrounds whether the percentage of phasing out is actually large enough to truly reflect the massive gap in net household incomes.
In the federal budget speech given in the House of Commons, Finance Minister Bill Morneau assured more families, nine out of ten in fact, will receive more than they currently do under the existing programs, which include the soon-to-be-replaced Canada Child Tax Benefit and Universal Child Care Benefit systems. Leica Hardy, a Dartmouth-based dance school director believes “the old arts tax credit program truly did not go far enough to ever influence the ability of lower income families to provide arts training for their children, which is a shame,” adding it “was a perk for middle and upper income families who had the ability to provide those things for their children in the first place.”
Parents can claim more under the new budget than they could under the previous one, but without the children’s art tax credit, the question is whether parents who had the money in the first place will now have the same motivation to enroll their kids, specifically in the arts.
“What the program did do,” says Hardy, “was acknowledge that extracurricular arts training was just as valuable as extracurricular sports and fitness activities in the development of a child, and that was a very good thing.”
Long-term effects remain to be seen, from both the new Canada Child Benefit program and the budget’s commitment to arts and culture. It does, however, sound like good news for dance in Canada.