OTTAWA – A cultural group founded by artists including Group of Seven member Lawren Harris is suspending operations after 67 years, a victim of federal spending cuts.
The Canadian Conference of the Arts, the largest national alliance of the arts, culture and heritage sector, said Tuesday it will start winding down its work immediately.
The NDP said the funding cut was retaliation for the conference’s opposition to government proposals to amend copyright law.
“There is no doubt in my mind that the Conservatives are punishing CCA for being a strong voice for the cultural community against the government’s changes to copyright legislation,” said heritage critic Pierre Nantel.
“As incredible as this may seem in a free and democratic country like ours, today, after 67 years of representing Canadian artists, the CCA is paying the price.”
The group said it was warned 18 months ago that the Harper government intended to end 47 years of funding.
It asked for two years of transitional financing while it weaned itself off public money, but was offered only six months of support.
The group said it found a lot of private backing, but its board decided it couldn’t make the shift in six months and decided to shut down immediately.
Conference chair Kathleen Sharpe said the organization made a concerted effort, but fell short.
“Despite our best efforts, transitional support of six months was not enough and we have simply run out of time to develop new revenue streams,” Sharpe said in a statement.
A spokesman for Heritage Minister James Moore said the conference got 60 per cent of its money from the federal treasury, including this year.
“Funding was provided to give the council the opportunity to work with individuals and groups it claims as its stakeholders to develop a new mandate and funding model,” Sebastien Gariepy said in an email.
“Our government has delivered unprecedented levels of support to the arts. We will continue to invest in affordable, effective programs that support culture in Canada.”
Alain Pineau, the national director of the conference, posted a farewell message on the group’s web site.
“This was not the way I was hoping to end my time with the CCA,” he said.
“But I leave knowing that all of us at the secretariat have given everything we had to make this transition a success.
“I can only hope that someone else will pick up the challenge. The Canadian cultural sector needs and deserves a CCA if it is to be effective and thrive.”
The conference was founded in 1945 to promote the interests of artists and the cultural sector at the federal level.
Pineau said the organization will be suspended in the hope that someone can eventually resuscitate it.
“We concluded that the best we could do in the circumstances would be to leave the organization in order, in a suspended state, in the hopes that a group ready to take on the challenge of re-launching this unparalleled instrument in the arts, culture and heritage sector would emerge.”