Sunday, October 28, 2012

Ontario budget cuts funding to arts community

In the next three years, the Ontario government plans to winnow tens of millions of dollars from its support of the culture, tourism and sport sector, including a 23 per cent reduction in funding to Toronto’s high-profile Luminato festival and modest decreases in operating assistance to such venerable institutions as the Royal Ontario Museum and the Art Gallery of Ontario.


More ambiguous is the fate of TVOntario, now 42 years old. The McGuinty government wants to reduce its annual direct investment in the educational broadcaster – last year it gave $52-million against TVO’s total budget of $62.9-million – and find new sources of funding. However, Tuesday’s budget was entirely lacking specifics in how big a reduction the government wishes to initiate and where it expects to locate new revenue.

A 10-day annual festival started in 2007, Luminato was promised $15-million over four years by the McGuinty government, starting in 2010. But Tuesday’s budget reveals that Luminato will lose $1.5-million in 2012-13 and another $2-million in the next fiscal year.

Luminato CEO Janice Price said there will be no impact on this year’s festival, scheduled for this June, but she’d be “starting work now” on inputting the reduced commitment in plans for its 2013 edition. She was philosophic about the loss and, given that the festival’s annual budget is more than $13-million, said it wasn’t a death knell. “Who can be surprised? Given all the reports, everybody’s had to take some cuts. The province . . . has been very clear that everyone’s going to have to share the burden and we understand that.”

Meanwhile, seven cultural “attractions” – the AGO, ROM, the Ontario Science Centre in Toronto, the McMichael Canadian Art Collection in Kleinburg, Burlington’s Royal Botanical Gardens, Ontario Heritage Trust (a conservation agency) and Science North in Sudbury – along with the St. Lawrence Park Commission are on tap to take an almost $5-million cut over the next three years.

This should not prove too onerous: in 2012-13, the total reduction to be shared by the eight agencies is just $900,000. Since 2009, ROM and the AGO alone have been receiving almost $28-million and $22-million, respectively, in annual operating support from the province.

To avoid what it calls “overlap and duplication,” the minority government also plans to collapse four granting programs, including the Museums and Technology Fund, into one, saving $11-million in the process. Also included in the scheme is the end of the Entertainment and Creative Clusters Partnership Fund, started in 2006 under the aegis of the Ontario Media Development Corporation.

Also closing are seven of the province’s tourism information centres, locations still to be announced. These closures and the province’s intention to “realign” more of its tourism marketing and support to the Internet is expected to save $3.3-million by the end of fiscal year 2014-15.

Editor's note: TVOntario's total budget for the past fiscal year was $62.9-million not $90-million as was previously reported. This version has been corrected.

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