This year, the province of Ontario invited written submissions to inform budget consultations to be sent to The Honourable Peter Bethlenfalvy, Minister of Finance. Galeries Ontario / Ontario Galleries is part of an advocacy coalition called the Provincial Arts Service Organizations of Ontario (PASO/OPSA) and below is the letter that PASO/OPSA members put together and submitted.
Dear Hon. Peter Bethlenfalvy,
On behalf of the Provincial Arts Service Organizations of Ontario, a coalition of 27 organizations serving Ontario’s arts sector, we would like to thank your government for its tireless work to support Ontarians through this pandemic. We are grateful for what has already been provided to individuals, small businesses, and the arts and culture sector.
At this time, we are writing to make key recommendations for the 2021 Budget. We recommend:
- A permanent increase of $25 million in base funding to the Ontario Arts Council, to be distributed at the discretion of the OAC including to its identified priority groups. We applaud the support that has already been provided, and strongly recommend this permanent increase to ensure our sector’s long-term vibrancy. It is critical that this funding include individuals, collectives, and organizations of all sizes to ensure the resiliency of arts and culture in Ontario, a significant contributor to the GDP of this province’s economy (3.4%).
- Increased COVID-19 relief support for individuals. To move our sector beyond the emergency phase, we recommend the creation of a high-access, rapid-response relief fund for individual artists and arts workers. This fund should be open to all disciplines and prioritize equity-seeking groups, as well as those who have sustained significant income loss due to COVID-19. Criteria should be flexible to best provide the needed relief for individuals, and not be seen as a replacement for Ontario Works and Ontario Disability Support Program.
- Paid Sick Leave: We strongly recommend implementing paid sick days for all employers so that workers don’t come to work sick. Sick days make workplaces safer for everyone, supports higher retention rates, and are a key pillar of an equitable approach to decent work. Sick days are fundamental to keeping communities across Ontario safe. We note that the federal government has already moved to cover paid sick days with the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit. However, this remains insufficient as the program provides less than minimum wage and has other shortcomings.
- Funding for PPE and HVAC upgrades: Arts facilities that host gatherings for the general public (such as conferences, special events, live events) need financial support to welcome Ontarians and tourists back into safe environments. Organizations of all sizes must receive sufficient funding to ensure spaces and events across this province are safe.
- Indigenous Culture Fund: We continue to advocate for an investment of $10 million for an Indigenous Culture Fund. This would provide much-needed support for Indigenous cultural production and economic stimulation within Indigenous communities.
These five recommendations will be crucial elements in ensuring the resilience of our sector. It depends on continued support from the Province of Ontario to provide meaningful cultural experiences and economic stimulation to our communities throughout and after this crisis.
As a powerful conduit to the arts community, PASO-OPSA would be happy to provide further information on the above recommendations and insight from our sector.
Zainub Verjee – Executive Director, Galeries Ontario / Ontario Galleries
Ruth Burns – Executive Director, Ontario Culture Days