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Tuesday October 23rd marked the Canadian Arts Coalition’s annual Arts Day on Parliament Hill. Building on four years of positive momentum, Arts Day 2012 welcomed over 130 arts supporters from across the country – converging under the banner of the Canadian Arts Coalition to advance a common message. The Coalition’s membership includes artists, arts organizations, business leaders, volunteers and audience members from all corners of the country – effectively the largest consortium of arts, culture and heritage supporters in Canada. The Coalition is non-partisan, 100% volunteer-led and receives no government funding – important features that have contributed to the Coalition’s reputation as a credible arts policy advisor. It is led by a dedicated Steering Committee that includes Co-Chairs Katherine Carleton (Orchestras Canada) and Éric Dubeau (Fédération Culturelle Canadienne-Française), as well as Melissa Gruber (CARFAC – Canadian Artists Representation – Le Front des artistes canadiens), Sarah Iley (Canadian Arts Summit), Bastien Gilbert (Regroupement des centres d’artistes autogérés du Québec), and myself (Business for the Arts).

Arts Day briefing session

Arts Day participants shared a common goal and strategic message, carefully crafted by the Coalition and focused on consensus issues within the sector that are reasonably aligned with Government interests and priorities. This year’s message focused on two key policy priorities, the first of which was to ensure critical program renewals at the Department of Canadian Heritage. A suite of programs re-packaged by the Conservative Government in 2009 is set to expire in 2015. These programs are currently under review by the Department and include the Canada Arts Presentation Fund, the Canada Arts Training Fund, the Canada Cultural Investment Fund and the Canada Cultural Spaces Fund. A total of $80 million is up for renewal.

The second priority is one that has been championed by the Coalition since its inception in 2005: continued and increased support for the Canada Council for the Arts. Given the government’s careful management of economic recovery at this time, our message was framed around sustained support with consideration for increased investment as the Canadian economy continues to recover. Last year the Coalition’s Arts Day helped to protect the Canada Council from potential cuts, in a context of spending reductions across all departments as part of the government’s Deficit Reduction Action Plan.

Arts Day participants

A record number of 115 meetings were scheduled this year with MPs, Ministers, Senators and senior officials from all parties. Key meetings included Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird, Labour Minister Lisa Raitt, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Heritage Paul Calandra, Official Opposition Leader Thomas Mulcair, Liberal Leader Bob Rae, and senior officials at the Department of Finance. Heritage Minister James Moore was unable to meet with us this year, as he was at home in his riding. Moore has been an important champion of the Coalition and our work, mentioning us recently on the George Stroumboulopoulos show as effectively advocating for sustained investment in the Canada Council for the Arts. Moore tweeted supportively during #artsday and commended the Coalition for our friendly and productive approach. Watch his impromptu speech from the 2011 Arts Day reception here.

Sarah Iley, Dorothy Dobby, Jean Giguere, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird, myself and Éric Dubeau

Arts Day participants were prepared with MP biographies, notes from past Coalition meetings with the MP, and profiles of arts activity in the MP’s riding. With the help of Government Relations firm Ensight Canada, attendees were also briefed on the politics and protocol of Arts Day. They were encouraged to frame key messages in the context of their own work, illustrating the impact of investment through personal stories and narratives that connect to the MP’s local constituency. For some MPs this is an important educational piece and for others a chance to express pride for the artistic activity taking place in their home communities.

Deputy Speaker Joe Comartin

Arts Day closed with a lively reception hosted by Deputy Speaker Joe Comartin. The room was beyond full and many MPs who were unable to meet with us during the day made brief appearances. Canadian actor and Queen’s University Political Science grad Graham Abbey of The Border offered a few compelling words on the importance of government investment in the arts, following an equally supportive and impassioned speech from Deputy Speaker Comartin.

The strategic approach to advocacy employed by the Canadian Arts Coalition has paid dividends over the years, as we are now recognized as a credible and respected representative of the arts sector across all parties, able to offer sound policy advice to Government and elected officials. Following Arts Day, the Coalition received an invitation to lend our “expert point of view” with the Standing Committee on Finance during their upcoming cross-country pre-budget hearings. I will be appearing in front of the Standing Committee on Finance in Ottawa on November 20th along with the Coalition’s Co-Chair Éric Dubeau.

With Coalition Co-Chair Éric Dubeau

Looking ahead, the Coalition continues to grow as an effective and strategic advocacy body for the national arts sector. We aim to maintain our focus on a small but effective complement of signature activities, including our pre-budget brief to the Standing Committee on Finance and our annual Arts Day. To continue this work, the Coalition is relying on contributions of time and financial resources from its members. Consider making a contribution to the Coalition – helping us strengthen our collective voice on behalf of the arts from coast to coast to coast. http://www.canadianartscoalition.com

Coalition Co-Chairs Katherine Carleton and Éric Dubeau

Sarah Iley and Jean Giguere of the Canadian Arts Summit

Dance artist Jordana Deveau and TAPA Advocacy Chair Brad Lepp (Luminato)

Actor Graham Abbey addressing the Arts Day reception

Actor Graham Abbey with MP Justin Trudeau

MPs Pierre Jacob and Jean Rousseau

With Melville-Yorkton MP Garry Breitkreuz

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My attempts at live blogging at yesterday’s Arts Day meetings was a challenge given my slightly frenetic meeting schedule. However, I’ve updated yesterday’s blog with play-by-play updates and photos so please take a look!

Perhaps the highlight of the event was a couple of heartfelt speeches given by both Heritage Minister James Moore and Canadian actress Cynthia Dale at the closing reception. The energy in the room was electric and by all accounts a wonderfully successful ending to a wonderfully successful day.





A special shout out to my colleagues on the the Steering Committee, Eric Dubeau, Melissa Gruber, Sarah Iley, Bastien Gilbert and especially to Katherine Carleton who, as always, does more than her fair share. It’s been a pleasure and privilege to work with such great people who are so committed to advancing the cause of the arts in Canada. Hats off to you!

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10:00am

It’s a beautiful sunny day in Ottawa today – perfect for a little arts advocacy activity on Parliament Hill. Just over an hour ago, 100+ members of the Canadian Arts Coalition from across the country headed out to meet with 120 MP’s, Senators, political officials, and Cabinet Ministers. We gathered before dawn this morning at the National Arts Centre for a breakfast briefing on the task at hand. Will Stuart and Jaqueline Larocque of Ensight Canada, the Coalition’s contracted government relations firm, walked us through our key messages and gave us some helpful tips and instructions for how to approach our meetings. Find our case online at www.canadianartscoalition.ca. We were organized into trios, with each team scheduled to attend 3-4 meetings throughout today. I still haven’t figured out how, exactly, this complicated meeting-organizing algorithm is applied but somehow it all works out. Some meetings began as early as 9am. As for me, I’m having a leisurely coffee before my first meeting at 12:15 with Heritage Minister James Moore. Wish me luck! I am energized and hopeful that these meetings will help the arts sector strengthen our relationships across all political parties and advance our common goals. More to come…

National Arts Centre


Canadian Arts Coalition Co-Chairs Katherine Carleton and Eric Dubeau


Arts Day participants


Heading to the Hill


Katherine Carleton et moi


Off to more meetings

1:00pm
The Coalition Steering Committee, consisting of Co-Chairs Katherine Carleton and Eric Dubeau, Sarah Iley, Melissa Gruber, Bastien Gilbert and I just met with Heritage Minister James Moore and his policy staff. We were thrilled at his positive reaction to our efforts to coordinate the sector from all parts of the country around key messages and he commended us for the way in which we created the conditions for a constructive dialogue between the sector and government, moving past the tensions that surrounded the 2008 election. On the list of discussion topics was how to sustain key investments in the arts, given the Government’s ‘DRAP’ – the Deficit Reduction Action Plan, intended to eliminate the deficit by 2014 through a strategic and operating review that would ask all departments and government agencies to offer up both 5 and 10% spending reduction scenarios for consideration by Treasury Board. In order to eliminate the deficit by 2014, a 5% savings must be found across Government, though some Departments will have to offer up more than 5% and equally, others may contribute less. The Minister assured us that the intention of this exercise was not to ‘cut’ unnecessarily, but to find savings that will have the least direct impact on artists and the stability of the arts ecology. The $2.9 billion budget of the Department of Canadian Heritage and its agencies (including Canada Council, the CBC, and others) will not be exempt from this process, though Moore reassured us that they are approaching this exercise, as he put it “with stilettos rather than hatchets”. He recognized the importance of the consensus issues we brought forward and reaffirmed the ways in which he has championed the culture file to his caucus. Then we took a group photo.

Melissa Gruber, Katherine Carleton, me, Bastien Gilbert, Minister James Moore, Sarah Iley and Eric Dubeau

3:30pm
My last meeting with Deputy Heritage Minister Daniel Jean took much of the same tone as the meeting with Moore, though Jean was even more straightforward about the need for all departments to contribute to reducing the deficit. He stressed that culture, overall, won’t be an exception though he encouraged us to measure our success by the degree to which our priority areas are affected. Less than a 5% reduction to the budget of the Canada Council, for example, would mean that the Council fared better than average and was seen by Government as a priority area. Spending reductions of any kind are hard to absorb in the cultural sector as it seems we’re known for doing more with less all the time. But understanding the bigger picture is indeed key to assessing the Government’s attitude toward cultural investment. I am now en route to Finance Minister Jim Flaherty’s office to meet with his Policy Advisor Andrew Rankin (not related to the Rankin Family or in any way connected to the east coast).

Signing in at the offices of the Department of Canadian Heritage in Gatineau

5:00pm
The meeting with Andrew Rankin at the Department of Finance was insightful. He himself was deeply involved in the arts growing up and seemed to inherently understand the importance of the arts to people’s lives and communities. He spoke openly of Minister Flaherty’s support of arts and culture issues and reported that he, alongside Minister Moore, is a major champion for us in the Conservative Caucus and in Cabinet. As we discussed our priorities and objectives, he encouraged us to respond more, as a sector, to positive policy initiatives that the government undertakes as this helps them gauge policy effectiveness. He commented that the sector is very vocal when we aren’t supportive of policy decisions, though much less vocal when we are. Now off to the ‘cinq a sept’ in the Speaker’s Chambers.

Micheline McKay and Erica Beatty



9:00pm
At the Ottawa airport now, waiting for Porter to whisk me home. The closing Arts Day reception, hosted by Deputy Speaker Denise Savoie, was a spirited event full of happy Coalition members and MP’s from all parties including Parliamentary Secretary for Heritage, Paul Calandra; Minister of National Revenue, Gail Shea; NDP Heritage Critic, Tyrone Benskin; Liberal Heritage Critic, Scott Simms and other art supporting MPs such as Charlie Angus and Justin Trudeau. Minister Moore made a surprise appearance and addressed the group with sincere support and gratitude for our efforts today. He encouraged us to continue working together and saluted MP’s from all parties who participated. “Supporting culture isn’t a left wing issue or a right wing issue, it’s the right thing to do”. Canadian actress Cynthia Dale also spoke, reminding us of the amazing work that artists do for Canada at home and abroad. She said, “We are an arts nation who create, perform and bring Canada to the world”. By all accounts, Arts Day 2011 was a great success and I’m so proud of all of the work done by the Coalition Steering Committee and its members. And most of all, I’m encouraged by the connections we made, and the relationships we built because it is the strength of this work that will help the sector move forward with strong support from our elected officials.

Signing off from Gate 26.

Reception in the Speaker's Lounge, Centre Block


Nathalie Fave and Stephanie Ballard


Justin Trudeau et moi


Minister Moore, Eric Coates and Micheline McKay


moi et monsieur le Ministre


Katherine Carleton, Eric Dubeau and Deputy Speaker Denise Savoie


Minister Moore and Cynthia Dale


NDP Heritage Critic Tyrone Benskin et moi


Leaving Centre Block



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Pierre Brault and David Leighton off to meet Patrick Brown.

On Thursday November 4th, members and supporters of the Canadian arts sector came together in Ottawa to participate in over 100 scheduled meetings with MP’s across all parties. The Canadian Arts Coalition – the largest-ever consortium of artists, arts workers, supporters and volunteers in the country – coordinated Arts Day as a part of a larger strategy to galvanize the sector and advance two key policy and investment priorities. They are: to increase investment to the Canada Council for the Arts by $30M annually over 4 years and to invest $25M in new market access and development initiatives. The Coalition’s full position is outlined in our brief to the Standing Committee on Finance.

Will Stewart and Jackie Laroque from Ensight Canada

Participants of Arts Day came from all parts of the country and met bright and early the morning of to hear a briefing session by Will Stuart and colleagues of the public relations firm Ensight Canada. The Coalition engaged Ensight to help us ground our strategy and messages in sound government relations expertise, in order to ensure a successful day with maximum impact. Ensight walked us all through our key messages, positioning, strategies and protocols for the meetings, equipping participants with the information they needed to navigate their day.

Samantha Fox, Lucy White, Christina Loewen and Caroline Miller in front of the Confederation Building.

By 8:30am, participants were off to the Hill. Scheduled meetings included MP’s from ridings in every province, as well as several Cabinet Ministers including Minister of Heritage James Moore. As the day unfolded, many participants were reporting positive exchanges with MP’s from every party. There seemed to be a buzz on the Hill about the arts meetings and after the fact, many MP’s made positive mention of their interactions with the arts sector to Minister Moore.

The Canadian Arts Coalition Steering Committee, Shannon Litzenberger, Melissa Gruber, Katherine Carleton, Eric Dubeau, Bastien Gilbert (missing: Sarah Iley)

I, along with my Steering Committee colleagues Eric Dubeau and Bastien Gilbert had the opportunity to spend over an hour with Moore to discuss our two priorities. In my assessment, the meeting was very productive. Moore praised our efforts to unify our message and take action by building support across the House for our issues. He noted that these kinds of efforts go a long way in building support for the cases he will need to make internally, within government process. In the course of our discussion, he was receptive and open to new ideas. He reiterated that there’s no money to spend given the country’s deficit position, though advancing ideas and building support for future investment as well as broader policy goals were welcome. In particular, he was keen to consider a revitalized, multi-faceted strategy on cultural diplomacy – an issue that is of great concern to the sector and an area where future investment in market access and development initiatives might be considered.

Rowena House and Justin Ford from the Nunavut Arts and Crafts Association with April Britski from CARFAC meeting with Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq.

As November 4th was the final day of the recent parliamentary session, most meetings concluded by 4pm as many MP’s were heading back to their ridings. However, the Coalition’s work doesn’t end here. While there will be a fuller report on the learnings of Arts Day that take into consideration the feedback from each meeting, what I can glean at this stage is the following:

Daniel Roy et Gilles Savary en route pour leur reunion avec Bernard Genereux.

Arts Day was an important launch to the Coalition’s renewed effort to rally the sector around key priorities. We had impact because we offered a unified message on two key consensus issues affecting the sector. We were thoughtful in our approach, which was strategic, constructive, non-partisan and a positive attempt to unite support across all parties. Though, where there is work to be done is at the local level. Several MP’s were not very aware of the arts activity in their ridings and noted that arts groups don’t often meet with them at home, or engage them in their events and activities. It’s clear that advocacy in the ridings needs to be a high priority going forward.

Taking notes!

Organizing a day of this kind is no small feat and there were many volunteers who contributed to the logistical planning beyond the core Steering Committee. It’s fair to say that going forward the Coalition will need more financial support and volunteer help from the sector in order to build on our positive momentum. It’s likely that we could be facing an election as early as the spring, and so our election strategy planning must start now.

If you or your organization would like to get involved, contact us at info@canadianartscoalition.ca. When we do a little for each other, a lot happens for all of us.

Coalition Co-Chairs Katherine Carleton and Eric Dubeau

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