Welcome back, everyone. It's good to see everyone. I can see everyone online.
This is different for me, because I'm actually now in the committee room itself. It's quite cavernous and echoey in here; nevertheless, it's always very nice to see everyone, whether it be virtual or not.
Now that I am here in person, I want to say thank you to our interpreters, our staff and our technical staff as well. I may not have thanked you before, but it's not because I wasn't thinking of you; it's because I am here now in person. Thank you so much for all that you do.
Let us now get to it. Today, of course, we're continuing our study. Pursuant to Standing Order 108(2) and the motion adopted by the committee on October 23, 2020, the committee resumes its study of the challenges and issues faced by the arts, culture, heritage and sport sectors during the COVID-19 pandemic.
We are going to have two hours of testimony, broken up into two one-hour panels, with three witnesses in the first hour and three in the second hour.
Here are our witnesses for the first hour. From Union des Artistes, we have Sophie Prégent, president, and Pascale St-Onge, president of the Fédération nationale des communications et de la culture. From Orford Music, we have Wonny Song, executive and artistic director. From the Segal Centre for Performing Arts, we have Lisa Rubin, executive and artistic director.
I can see hands waving already. What we are going to do is have opening statements of five minutes or less each. I will give you some leeway, but of course an hour runs by very quickly, so let's get right to it. I'll time you for the first five minutes.
First, we have two representatives from Union des Artistes. Could I see a show of hands to see who is going to do the speaking, either Sophie or Pascale?
First, thank you for receiving us and for taking the time to listen to us.
Let me begin my remarks with the accountability mechanisms.
We are very much aware that the various levels of government have earmarked funding for revitalizing our culture. We are extremely grateful for that. However, despite the value of this assistance, it is mainly for institutions and producers. Right now, thousands of people are being forgotten. The performers and professionals who are an integral part of the cultural milieu will find themselves completely excluded from these recovery programs.
Clear accountability mechanisms must be established to ensure that the money reaches artists and artisans, and programs must be created specifically for them. In addition, when funds are given to institutions or producers, contracts must be traceable, verifiable and honoured. This should be a prerequisite.
The floor is yours, Ms. St-Onge.
Tens of thousands of people work on contract or freelance and do not have access to the Canadian social safety net because of their status as self-employed workers. They therefore must not be let down, as both the cultural and media communities would suffer considerably. It is urgent.
Our organizations want to work with governments and partners on long-term structural solutions, because the crisis has highlighted the need to rethink some aspects of our social safety net, such as a complete overhaul of the EI system and the creation of meaningful comprehensive and structuring assistance plans for the sector. As you know, in Quebec, venues will be closed until January 11. So it will soon be 10 months without work.
Our sector is among those in culture and communications that are not experiencing as strong a recovery as other sectors, and the people we represent find themselves in an extremely precarious situation. We were very enthusiastic about the announcement of the Canada recovery benefit (CRB) but some problems remain. The CRB is valid for 26 weeks.
One problem is that there is no mechanism in place to phase out the CRB. This means that contract workers receive either all or none of the CRB. The criterion of 50% income reduction on average weekly earnings makes it very difficult for many self-employed individuals with an average annual income of about $14,000 to access the CRB. If they earn more than $138 per week, they have no access to the CRB at all, which is extremely problematic.
In addition, there are many administrative delays, and responses to applications are slow. There is a great deal of concern about the files still under review. We are working in a significantly shaken sector, and the people we represent are experiencing a lot of anxiety because of this situation.
I will let my colleague take over.
At the end of the day, in these extremely difficult times for our artists and artisans, I feel it is my duty to share my concern about a Telefilm Canada program, Talents en vue. It is a very well-intentioned program that, first, seeks to support a wide range of emerging filmmakers, producers, directors and screenwriters. Second, it seeks to accelerate their careers by giving them the opportunity to create their first feature film or web series.
One of the program's criteria is: “The average budget for feature film projects is between $125,000 and $250,000, but must not, as a general rule, exceed $250,000.” Frankly, making a feature film today with that sort of budget is problematic. The Union des artistes must express its concerns to Telefilm Canada about that particular criterion of the program.
With that cap, the artists and artisans inevitably end up financing the film projects of young directors. Without increasing the funding, the Crown corporation could, at a minimum, refrain from capping the total budgets of those productions.
That concludes our presentation. Thank you very much for listening to us. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to ask us.
Thank you, Ms. St-Onge.
Honourable members of the House of Commons, thank you very much for the invitation to speak to you today on behalf of Orford Music.
Located in Quebec's Eastern Townships, Orford Music is a place where people come from all over the world to learn, create and perform music together at the very highest level. In 2021, we will proudly celebrate our 70th anniversary, which is no small achievement for an organization in the arts and culture sector.
Orford Music is a charitable organization, and since 1951 we have offered high-level mentoring and training to emerging musicians between the ages of 18 and 25. Every summer, our international academy of classical music, one of the largest in Canada, welcomes world-class professors and artists to share their passion and knowledge with hundreds of mainly Canadian young musicians.
In parallel with the academy's activities, the Orford Music festival attracts more than 25,000 music lovers every summer. We present over 60 concerts, including several free ones featuring the academy's best musicians, at various sites in our region. Orford Music is a 365-days-a-year operation and hires nearly 70 permanent and temporary employees.
The pandemic has radically transformed our reality. Our flagship festival, group bookings and major annual fundraising events were all immediately cancelled. Our self-generated revenues, which represent over 60% of our income, disappeared overnight, and over 50% of our permanent staff had to be laid off.
In many ways, however, Orford Music has been very fortunate. With significant help from all levels of government, we were able to make a successful switch to online teaching this summer. We have invested in new technology and reorganized our workforce. We are trying to attract new audiences, and we are looking for opportunities to fulfill our mission in other ways.
In the midst of it all, we are very grateful for the support we have received from you and from the people who count on us to keep teaching and playing music, even in the darkest of moments. For Orford Music, however, the real threat of COVID-19 lies in the crippling damage it has done to our medium and long-term planning.
In the months leading up to the pandemic, we had been working toward agreements with federal, provincial and private partners to enable us to revitalize our aging infrastructure. A business plan was submitted to the Quebec government and a fundraising committee was created to approach donors.
The buildings of Orford Music are recognized as crown jewels of Quebec's contemporary architecture movement and have tremendous historical significance. Visitors to Orford Music can even experience the original Man and Music Pavilion from Montreal's legendary Expo 67, which was dismantled, transported and rebuilt on our site.
Our concert stage and classrooms have welcomed generations of great Canadian artists, from Maureen Forrester and John Newark to Gregory Charles, Yannick Nézet-Séguin and Stéphane Tétreault, many of whom describe their time at Orford as being among the most creative and impactful experiences of their career.
But many Quebec winters have taken their toll, and today's music students have different needs and must access different kinds of resources to reach their full potential. We have very big dreams, including a virtual library for all artistic activities on site and a high-level technological pavilion for recording classical music. The preservation and adaptation of these buildings is critical to the future of Orford Music, and now COVID-19 has robbed us of the opportunity to address the situation in any meaningful way.
Orford Music may have navigated through the immediate crisis, but even our most optimistic scenarios suggest that it will take years for our self-generated revenues to recover to pre-pandemic levels. Our urgent infrastructure needs have become only more urgent in the last year.
We believe that the best way for the Canadian government to support us as an arts and culture organization is by providing funding for these types of essential infrastructure projects. Without revitalizing our buildings, our mission cannot be maintained in the medium term. We need your help to plan and build for the future so we can continue to play an essential role in the lives of young musicians, great artists, and ordinary Canadians, who need music now more than ever.
Our founder, Gilles Lefebvre, said that “the arts carry a message full of joy and unexpected delight”. It's a vital message, surely, for our times.
Thank you again for this opportunity and for your support.
So who are we? Who is the Segal Centre? We are the largest not-for-profit English theatre in Montreal, with an operating budget of $6 million and 35 full-time staff. We have a very large endowment, which we're so proud to have built up, of $28 million and counting.
Prior to the pandemic, we were a wonderful developer of new musicals: Belles-sœurs: The Musical, which was headed to Broadway; Mythic, which was headed into the Mirvish season; and Piaf Dietreich (The Angel and the Sparrow), in Montreal, was a best-selling production for Mirvish and was headed to England. We were just on the rise.
Of course, then COVID happened. We laid off a ton of people.
Oh, and we also just won the prix du jury from the Conseil des arts de Montréal for our indigenous musical Children of God with Urban Ink.
Things were looking great. Fast-forward, and of course we had to cancel everything. We did a lot online. We shifted. We're just in the middle of rehearsing for Underneath the Lintel, a co-production with Théâtre du Nouveau Monde and the National Arts Centre that was scheduled to be live, in person, beginning next week. We're moving that onto livestream now.
What is the good? The good in all this is that culture is needed more than ever. We know this. Artists are resilient. We're continuing our mission of bringing people together.
As far as our institution goes, it's interesting what UDA was saying, but we're okay. Thank goodness we have the tremendous support of our public funding bodies. We have the support. We have these top-ups. We have these incentives. We have the wage subsidy. Thank goodness for all of this to help our employees.
Okay, but why are we here? What can I tell you? The industry is obviously crumbling, as are people's entire careers. They're leaving the business. Different provinces have different trajectories and visibilities. In Quebec in particular, we've been yo-yoed around. Even though we recognize that everybody is doing the best they can, we're still at the mercy of public health.
In the interest of time, I'll give you the top five things, and one for good luck, of how you can help.
Number one is insurance. Theatre is a front-loaded investment. People look at us as the show, but before the show, there is concept, creation, development, production and then presentation. It's interesting; Telefilm and Heritage have come up with a wonderful plan to insure film sets. Theatres need something similar. To continuously hire people with the hope that they're going to perform, only to shut them down on opening night—it just can't continue to happen. On top of that, it means forcing us to do modest productions, one-person shows, because if someone gets a sniffle, we have to cancel the whole thing. We just can't take on the risk. So that's insurance.
Two is recognizing the length of time, the timelines. Even though we're getting this great support now, our concern is really in the recovery period. What happens when all of this support goes away and we will be in a state of recovery probably two or three years out?
Three, we need you to stand up for us. There is a distortion that theatre is like a rock concert. But with reduced seating, with the safety measures we have put in, theatre—trust me, I was in a Winners lineup yesterday—is a very safe place to be, especially with the tremendous effort we've put into all of the safety protocols. When we hear messages from the government that theatres can't open but bars and restaurants can, it gives the false perception that our workspaces aren't safe and that we can't go on and conduct business.
Four, remember that live doesn't mean digital. It's a tool for access. We have all pivoted to online, but it is not a replacement for live theatre.
Five, keep these subsidies going as long as possible, but we also need programs to offer incentives for the production chain, as I was mentioning before, for the development, and not a focus on just the show. In these times, it's too hard to say we can have a show; we need the investment so that we can give the money to the artists, the expectations are managed, and we can plan for the recovery.
Those are my top five. My one for good luck is along the same lines as that of our colleague here at Orford. It is our infrastructure and our need for renovations. The Segal Centre embarked on a renovations project in 2015. We were granted funding for phase one in 2017 because our roof was falling down. In 2018, we got our accord de principe from the ministre de la Culture et des Communications, which led us to apply to Heritage. We were able to hire a project manager and get going on the completion of our renovations.
The elapsed time forced us to re-budget and re-analyze. We are now in a holding pattern with crumbling windows, crumbling stonework and 30-year-old seats. Wouldn't it be wonderful for us to be able to renovate during the shutdown? That is the greatest gift we could have—having been planning these renovations since 2015 and waiting for the funding to come through—so that we can come back with a strong organization and give people a reason to come back, with our infrastructure.
Thank you very much for having me. I hope that was clear.
That was quite clear, Ms. Rubin. Thank you so much.
I just want to say thank you. You're the first witness I've ever had who has actually timed themselves with a timer. That's quite something. Thank you for being cognizant of that.
Now we're going to go to our question round, where we go from party to party to ask the questions. We'll start with the Conservatives in just a moment.
Before I do that, I'd just like to say to our witnesses who are here that if you wish to get in on the conversation and you weren't specifically asked, try to raise your hand so that the questioner can see you. I will remind my colleagues to have a look at the other witnesses who are there to see if they want to weigh in on some of your questions.
We're going to start with the Conservative Party.
Mr. Rayes, you have the floor for six minutes.
First, I want to thank the four witnesses for using their valuable time to come and talk to us about the challenges of their organizations.
Before I get into the post-COVID details, I would like to take advantage of the presence of the Union des artistes representatives to ask them a question about the broadcasting bill, which may well have an impact on their work afterwards.
When the bill was introduced, you said it was time; it was long overdue. However, after some analyses, you expressed some reservations.
What would you like to see amended in the bill? Please be brief, if possible.
Yes, and these are not just concerns. I sincerely think this is the reality in our sector. I would like to point out that we have mentioned it to all levels of government.
We are very aware that a lot of money has been injected into the cultural sector, but there is very little money going directly to the people on the ground. If they don't have contracts, there's no trace of it. Even if they have contracts, there are no guarantees anymore, because the pandemic is an act of God. There is no way to enforce a contract. The difficulty in our sector is that we are self-employed.
It's sort of like the CRB, which relies on the previous year in terms of compensation. There can be a $60,000 difference in my compensation from one year to the next. If I rely on the previous year, I can be heavily penalized because my salary is not constant. This is the reality of self-employed workers.
If my contract falls through, nothing is guaranteed and there is no trace. That's sort of the mentality behind subsidies, whatever they are. We are in good standing with the associations and suddenly there is no enforcement measure or traceability of the contract. The subsidies are offered in good faith, but the measures and regulations in the Labour Code govern them.
We have to ensure the traceability of the subsidies granted. At the very least, this could be a prerequisite establishing that, if contracts are not honoured, there are no subsidies.
Ms. Prégent, Ms. St-Onge, Mr. Song, and Ms. Rubin, you are an example of the great diversity of Quebec culture. It is a great pleasure to have you with us today.
I have taken careful note of the comments of the Union des artistes on the CRB, and I will come back to them.
Mr. Song, I know that my colleague Ms. Bessette will have questions for you.
I am going to go to questions for Lisa Rubin, since the Segal Centre is in my riding, in Mont-Royal. It's been an incredible pleasure to work with this incredible organization that often has two or three things going on at once, between plays and concerts and all kinds of incredible activities for our community.
I want to congratulate you, and I do want to encourage the Quebec government to move quickly on your application to revise the infrastructure projects for the renovation of the Segal Centre.
But coming back to the issue at hand, the recovery, Lisa, you talked a lot about timelines. I think timelines are important because we all think that when the Quebec government gives the go-ahead for theatres to reopen, theatres will just be able to reopen, but they won't, because you need to plan sometimes a year in advance to buy the rights to a show to put it together. Can you talk to us about...? Let's say, if Quebec said theatres could reopen on January 11, when would you be able to actually get running to the point that your revenues would be equal to what they were before the pandemic?
Thank you for your question and for your support always. It gives us so much confidence when we have an MP who cares about the arts, so I just wanted to share that and thank you.
A great example was in Quebec. We got the go-ahead earlier this summer, so theatres scrambled, scrambled, scrambled to get work going for the fall. In this case, everyone was doing a one-person or a two-person show because of the financial risk and the timeline. In order to do a musical, for example, we usually cast the musical a full year ahead.
In order to get back to where we were before, you usually work on a project one to two years out. If you're a distributor or just a presenter, then you can kind of grasp for these things that can come in and just get up in a few days, but when you're really creating, when you're really part of the ecosystem of development, it really takes a year.
I'd like to piggyback for a second on what Madame Prégent was saying in that we understand that, with our unions—we work predominantly with the Canadian Actors Equity Association and sometimes with UDA—when we are making an offer, that contract needs to be signed in equity 10 days from the offer, so it's very, very scary for an institution to say that we're going to do a big show, because everybody will need to be paid if we're going to cancel. This is what's happening with Underneath the Lintel.
Zebrina. Une pièce à conviction, at the Théâtre du Nouveau Monde.
It's a one-man show with a full team. We hired everybody under UDA for 16 performances. We're not doing any, and they're all being paid. It's a tremendous loss for us, although CALQ has given wonderful support to try to recoup some of the ticket losses so we're all very grateful for that. Bit it's the mounting of these productions and knowing that you're just going.... We want the money to get into the hands of the artists, but living under this back-and-forth, are we or aren't we, makes it impossible to do anything that we could do before. There's going to need to be a vaccine before we can have 10 people on stage who can dance and sing.
I'll just jump back in and then I'll leave it to Pascale.
Our contract, in a way, with audiences and artists has completely shifted. You describe it really well, with that bridge period.
Also, we need to acknowledge that right now, because of the support, we may be okay in the office, but it's very hard to hire people. The people we can hire are super busy—I was going to have a concert, but he's too busy and he can't do it—and the rest have moved on; they've left our industry.
We need to find a way to support the artists and the technicians, to help them not leave us so that when we do come back, we can come back strong. It's a problem right now in terms of hiring people, even if we have our jobs in the building or outside of the building.
I will start, and Ms. Prégent can complete my answer.
Clearly, we are not against helping institutions. We are well aware that there must be theatres, producers and so on. What we want is measures designed in such a way that they reach the artists.
Ms. Rubin said that artists, technicians and people in the field are leaving because it's too difficult right now. It's going to be a real problem and it's going to take a robust, comprehensive action plan.
One aspect that has not been raised so far is the distress of people in the arts. There should be help with mental health, training, labour market reclassification, and so on.
We are in the process of surveying our members about that sad reality. The Union des artists has 8,500 active members. In any given year, about 2,000 members do not earn a penny; their income is zero dollars. That leaves about 6,500 members. In our business, there's clearly not enough room for all those people. Imagine the impact that that reality can have.
Although there is no room for 6,500 members, 6,500 members still want to work in our profession. At the moment, there is no work. This will have a direct impact on the membership of the Union des artistes. I expect lots of memberships to lapse and a number of members to leave the union. We have a foundation and, mercifully, it is doing well. You have probably heard that Netflix has provided funding and that the Ministère de la Culture et des Communications injected $2 million for the performing arts, and so on.
Since April 1,the Fondation des artistes has distributed a total of more than $1 million, mainly from the Fonds Jean-Duceppe. This is mostly money from the foundation, not from Netflix or the government. In general we distribute around $115,000 per year.
Yes, that is also an avenue that could be explored and that could easily be studied. It's somewhat like the system we thought about at the outset.
I will also say that we must not throw the baby out with the bath water. Some things in the CRB program, which was somewhat modelled on the employment insurance system, are commendable and very helpful. However, employment insurance works on the basis of income that is regular and consistent. That's what it does best.
With the CRB, they should try to tailor it a little better to the varying incomes of self-employed workers. If they were able to do that, we would end up with something good. We are not here to tell you that there's nothing good in the program. On the contrary, it has something in it that we have never seen before, and you have our sincere thanks for that.
I am just pointing out an imbalance in the CRB program. For example, if I earned $17,000 or $27,000 in 2019, I would be penalized, whereas, in theory, an income of $38,000 would let me get more money. The balance has to be reestablished. The guaranteed income that you are talking about does that.
Sure. Thanks for the question.
I think it's just a matter of time and we're in it for the long haul. Just as, when this first started, people would say “I'm not wearing a mask to the theatre”, now we're all saying “It's fantastic to wear a mask to the theatre.” It will take time for the fear to subside, particularly among the baby boomer-plus generation, who, as many know, with their disposable income form the majority of the theatre-going audience.
We are doing a lot of work for students, for the under-30s, all of which comes with a different pricing structure, but yes, there is going to be a slow, gradual return to a full house.
We believe it's there, but it may come in 2024. When we say we're in it for the long haul, then, we're definitely in it for the long haul when it comes to reduced seating and trust and confidence, and the way we understand that everybody is vaccinated or the fears subside.
Yes. We are really unique in that our government funding represents about 4% of our revenues. Unlike many other arts organizations, which live and die by their public support, our endowment revenue is keeping our lights on. It is supporting our infrastructure. It is supporting our building right now, which is why we're giving it away for free to support artists who want to come to work.
Outside of that endowment, our fundraising is our number two source of revenue. Ticket sales are only about 20%, so it's fundraising and endowment. The fundraising has, as expected, taken a big nosedive. We always know that the future is in the endowment. To really safeguard institutions, this is the future, so we are embarking on a life and legacy campaign and really encouraging donors.
Also, I should say that our endowment is this big because of the matching program. It's because of the incentives from Heritage—the incredible matching program that bridges the philanthropist with the government. I have been on committees to try to keep that going, and it has worked, so thank you very, very much. That philanthropists can dump a large amount and know that it's going to be matched is the greatest incentive to help us continue to grow and to help all these organizations to build their endowment. I think all not-for-profits should be working towards that at the moment.
Perhaps this is not the right answer, but I believe that, given the size of the Orford Musique team, we arrange for each donor and sponsor to experience the same adventure as we experience. I believe that credibility has been built over the years because we work with them a lot and we have them dream our wildest dreams with us. It means that they are often with us on our journey.
As you know, this year truly was not a normal year for business because of the pandemic. We want to encourage our people, not only our artists and our young people, but also our donors to create inspirational projects together. However, in the short term and perhaps even in the medium term, if we can't provide concerts and festivals, I am afraid that we may lose those precious relationships that are so precious for organizations like ours at Orford Musique.
The pandemic has forced us to bring our technology plans forward by several years. It is the same in all cultural media, especially in classical music.
Fiber optics go through Magog, but not through Orford at the moment. We had to undertake additional initiatives to bring dedicated fiber optics to us. It is a major issue for us: we absolutely must have a very good Internet connection for our activities.
At the start of the pandemic, our management meetings on Zoom were quite the headache. Our employees live around the region, in Sherbrooke, in Eastman or in Hatley. Personally, I am in Magog. We all had to pray to God that there would be no wind, because if there was, our faces froze on the screen hilariously.
For virtual meetings, we designed webinars with our artists for our loyal supporters. We quickly learned that it was risky to broadcast them on our sites because our Internet connection was not stable. We had to appeal to the generosity of Kezber, an IT company in Magog. We moved to their offices temporarily so that we could broadcast quality webinars.
If audiences in our region want to see our broadcasts but if reception is bad because of a poor connection, they certainly will not like our content, unfortunately. We are working very hard to find solutions at our end, but, if people don't have a proper connection that allows them to consume our content in the regions, it is very difficult to reach them.
We're back in session for our second panel.
Thank you for joining us. Now that our audio checks are done, and seeing that we're ready here technically and our interpreters appear to be ready, we're ready to go.
I want to say a big welcome to our witnesses.
From Diversified and Event-Funded National Sports Organizations, we have Katherine Henderson, who is the CEO of Curling Canada. From Fringe Theatre, we have Adam Mitchell, executive director and today's recipient of the award for best beard. Congratulations, sir.
Also, from Regroupement des événements majeurs internationaux, we have Martin Roy, chief executive officer, festivals and major events. He also has a nice beard, apparently. Yes, we took a vote, sir. You're both doing really well.
We will now allow you up to five minutes. I'm going to be a little bit strict because I want to get all four parties represented at the table on two rounds.
We'll start off with Katherine Henderson, for five minutes, please.
Thank you, Mr. Chair, and thank you very much to the committee members for allowing me to speak today. I do apologize for the lack of beard.
My name is Katherine Henderson. I'm the CEO of Curling Canada and I'm here in my capacity as the spokeswoman for Diversified and Event-Funded National Sports Organizations. We're a group of six NSOs that have come together because of the distinct nature of our organizations' funding model and the impact that COVID is having on Canada's youth sport system.
Our organizations include Curling Canada, Canada Soccer, Hockey Canada, Tennis Canada, Skate Canada and Rugby Canada. As NSOs with the largest commercial and grassroots operations, the total participation reach of our sports is over 10 million Canadians. While we are different in many ways, the common thread that ties us together is that our funding is predominantly generated from non-governmental sources, namely commercial events, hosting of domestic and international competitions, sponsorship, broadcast rights and registration fees.
Thanks to the revenues from these commercial operations, as non-profits we invest heavily in grassroots, community sport and high-performance sport. Unfortunately, these revenue streams have been greatly impacted by the pandemic. While we are grateful for the federal government's $72-million support of the NSO and sport sector and the emergency programs like the wage subsidy, the truth is that Canada's sport system is in dire straits. To put Canada's response into perspective, just last week the British government dedicated emergency funding to the equivalent of $500 million for sports in the U.K.
Let me be crystal clear with the committee today. We are at a critical juncture, with some of our provincial and local associations on the brink of collapse. We have already furloughed staff and we're depleting our reserves. We need financial help—
We've already furloughed staff and depleted our reserves, and we need financial help just to emerge from the pandemic. We do know that we are not as important as front-line health care workers. We do not operate in life-and-death situations, but we do know the important role that sport plays in the lives of millions of Canadians for their health and their mental health, for their wellness and, importantly, for joy.
Canada's sports system is a collaboration between government and NSOs. We are already a delivery partner of the federal government, with our clubs and local sports being part of that system. With your support, we can stand together to ensure that our system does not fail.
We are seeking a dedicated stream of funding to replace the net revenues self-generated by our events, which would be reinvested into our grassroots sport. Let me share an example.
In March, the World Figure Skating Championships were mere days away from taking place in Montreal when COVID hit. That cancellation meant that $6 million in legacy funding for local area figure skating clubs in Quebec didn't happen. This is just one example of the types of events that were meant to take place in the country this year and support all of our grassroots programming.
Our system is not focused entirely on high-performance athletes. It is also on the little girl hitting the field or the ice for the first time or the young boy competing in his first bonspiel. We want to partner with the federal government to keep grassroots sport alive and preserve the healing power of sport at the community level for kids and for Canadians at a time when we feel they need it the most.
In closing, I encourage you to think of Canada's sport system as a tree. COVID has forced our organizations to trim the branches to keep it alive. We can trim, but if the roots die, it won't be there when we are out of this storm. Planting a brand new tree will take years, and it won't be there when people need it the most. Rebuilding the sport system will mean we've lost decades of growth for amateur sport and sport development, so the decisions made right now will impact generations of both amateur sport and our high-performance athletes.
Thank you. It's my honour to join you today from Treaty 6 territory. I appreciate the opportunity to share with you the experience of the Edmonton Fringe Theatre and the impacts that the pandemic is having on our industry.
Edmonton Fringe has served as a cornerstone organization in the community for 39 years. We produce the Edmonton International Fringe Theatre Festival, North America's largest and longest-running fringe festival.
In that time, we have supported more than 38,000 national, local and international artists. Our festival seeds creative work and is a pipeline for emerging art and artists. This work is often remounted, toured or exported nationally or internationally.
Outside of the festival, we operate a three-theatre, two-studio facility that is home to more than 500 local arts events each year. We cultivate and incubate artists and new work and remove significant barriers for artists and audiences alike, stewarding an accessible, affordable community-minded arts space.
For the first time in its 39-year history, we cancelled the festival, because of the pandemic. The health and safety of our community was and continues to be top of mind as we navigate these difficult but necessary decisions.
In 2019, thanks to the ongoing support of government funding agencies, sponsors, individual donors and healthy festival and regular seasonal activity, we were a $5-million organization. Of that $5 million, $1.5 million went to pay arts workers, the administrative team, technical and front-of-house staff, summer contracts, festival security, student internships, etc., and $1.43 million was paid directly to artists in the form of box office returns, performance fees and contracts. More than two-thirds of our operation in 2019 went directly back to people and directly into the community.
In a normal year, we are more than 3,000 artists and arts workers and more than 800,000 patrons. The cancellation of the 2020 festival means a devastating $3-million retraction for our organization, but more than that, it means that our people and our community have gone without. The festival cancellation meant that more than 200 summer staff went without contracts. It meant that 1,600 festival artists had no opportunity to connect with other artists, sell tickets and make a living. It meant that more than 50 vendors were unable to serve food and sell their artisan wares, and that 1,200 volunteers and 800,000 people who normally come to welcome and celebrate 11 days of live theatre in August stayed home.
As a major cultural event, we are a key local economic and tourism driver for our city. Local spending during the 11 days of the festival is approximately $39.7 million, $16.7 million of which is directly connected to the event and to tourism spending. Our attendees are diverse in background and income. We have one of the youngest theatre-going audiences in the country. The average “fringer” is 39 years old, and 14% of our attendees come from outside of the Edmonton area.
The arts simply drive the economy. Our survival and the survival of many organizations within the arts sector depend on the ability to gather a critical mass and on connecting artists and audiences.
Our industry was the first to be shut down and will be one of the last to recover. Most artists have been without work for nearly nine months now, and restarting will take time as we rebuild teams and restart essential creative planning processes.
Arts jobs are cost-effective and highly impactful. We know that arts events and the people those events employ drive the economy. We know that arts improve the quality of life, cultivate community, nurture a sense of belonging and well-being, and spark an important discussion about who we are as a nation.
Your support is essential, and our message is simple. If we cannot revive the arts ecosystem in its entirety, organizations like the Edmonton Fringe will not survive. Significant financial supports will be key to our own recovery and to the survival of our industry. Our society can't afford to lose the talent, knowledge, creativity and social perspective of people who make their living in the arts.
Sector relief is desperately needed now, and will continue to be for months, if not years, but with the right supports, we can rebuild a more viable, sustainable and equitable arts sector. We can protect our institutions and create new opportunities for people to see a viable path to making significant contributions to society through the arts.
Thank you for your time and consideration. I'd be happy to answer any questions.
As the himself said here a couple of weeks ago, when he spoke about festivals, his department had not managed to find a adequate program of assistance and he was continuing to work on it. He added that it was certainly one of the sectors where more had to be done, and as quickly as possible. With your permission, I will tell you what we believe you can do.
The Regroupement des événements majeurs internationaux, or REMI, and Festivals and Major Events Canada, or FAME, plus a number of other festivals, have joined the coalition of the most affected companies that is once more taking up arms these days to demand an increase in the Canada emergency wage subsidy for the most affected companies, as well as broadened support for fixed costs and easier access to cash.
It is important to specify that this wage subsidy must be very flexible and must accommodate the very seasonal nature of our activities. As for cash, we believe that the Government of Canada must respond financially with a fund specifically established to pay off the deficits of cultural organizations, including those of festivals and events.
Most of our organizations are not-for-profit and have no financing or capital. According to one survey, FAME estimates that the accumulated deficit of festivals and events is at least $150 million at the moment. Why? First, event organizers had spent their money for their 2020 event six months before the pandemic, and second, they were not able to generate income over the 3 to 10 days of a festival, as is usually the case.
We have therefore asked the government to renew, on an urgent basis, the investments in the main programs for festivals and events that were set up in 2019, but for two years only. If nothing is done, next year, we will be back at the 2018 level, which was the same for 10 years. That makes absolutely no sense and it would be universally interpreted as a major cut to culture.
At this very moment, festivals and events are receiving letters telling them that, in 2021, they will be receiving less from the Department of Canadian Heritage. This comes at a time when we are in the middle of a pandemic and their survival is at stake. There must be action. We are talking about $15 million to maintain the 2019 envelope or $30 million to maintain the 2020 level, and we need to do more.
Let us be clear. Up until 2018, more than 1,050 festivals shared about $31.5 million from the $50 million in the two main programs for promoters. That went to about $42.5 million in 2019 and 2020. In 2020, $10 million dollars or so were added because of the pandemic, taking the contribution to festivals and events to a little more than $50 million. However, next year, we will be going back to $31 million, which would mean a reduction in the order of 40%.
To put those figures in perspective, $31 million is what the Government of Quebec gives festivals and events each year through the Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec, the Société de développement des entreprises culturelles, ou SODEC, and the Ministère du Tourisme.
We have also suggested the creation of a ecological and digital transition fund on top of the two main programs. This would allow us to make our recovery greener and, from now until the end of the pandemic and beyond, to add digital components to our activities. As an example, let me tell you about the Toronto International Film Festival, or TIFF. The organizers managed to sell more than 48,000 tickets for their recent online edition. There's a whole world to conquer for Canadian festivals and events.
In terms of the recovery, we have invited the government to establish a program modelled on the Marquee Tourism Events Program created by the Conservatives after the 2008 crisis, and to fund it to a level of $225 million over three years. This is what the Minister was probably alluding to when, on the program Tout le monde en parle, he said he was in discussions with the because it was run by Industry Canada at the time, and, this time, he was proposing that it be implemented through the regional economic development agencies.
This would be a new stimulus program designed to attract more tourists by using festivals and events, in Canada at present, and internationally, once that is possible again.
We know that one quarter of festival goers' expenses are made in hotels and accommodation and one third are made in restaurants. In the context of recovery, any support to festivals and events should be interpreted as indirect assistance to restaurants and hotels. They have suffered greatly, as have those in transportation, as well as the artists and crews. We are proposing that this be done quickly. If we want to keep our teams together, we have to be preparing right now for the festivals and events in 2022.
Thank you for your attention.
I'm going to start with Ms. Henderson.
You mentioned that you're here on behalf of Curling Canada today, but for hockey, tennis, rugby, Skate Canada and yourself it has been a disastrous year. You mentioned the World Figure Skating in Montreal. Those funds, you can never get them back.
We had the Junos slated for Saskatoon on March 15, and we lost up to $9 million in economic benefits. We're seeing Hockey Canada and they're playing in the Q right now, but the OHL isn't playing and the Western Hockey League hasn't played. I agree with you.
Anyway, I'm going to start with curling, because you're involved in that. We're seeing more of these hubs being recommended. The Scotties was for Thunder Bay and the Brier was for Kelowna. You have suggested now that they go to fanless hubs. Millions of dollars will be lost. Curling is a social sport, as you well know, and there will be no Brier Patches involved. I don't know how curling can survive in a fanless hub, such as we saw the NBA and the NHL attempt earlier this year.
What are your comments on that?
I think you've grasped the situation very well, Mr. Waugh.
Fanless hubs are an obligation that we have right now. This is really in order to fulfill contracts that we have with commercial partners. But the fact of the matter is that, for any of us who are doing a fanless hub, we're trying to think beyond 2022. We will all lose money doing these. This is dipping into our reserves. We're doing it on reduced staff, and the hope is really to create something better.
Normally, when we do a Brier or a Tournament of Hearts, we are creating very significant income that then gets invested back into that community, and we'll never be able to do that with the situation that we find ourselves in.
I think right now the reality for the athletes is that due to all the interprovincial things, without hubs and without safe places to play, they are out seeking competition and ways of keeping themselves competitive for when the world turns better.
The thing, Mr. Waugh, that I'm most worried about, though, is the little clubs that you're talking about. I know there are many, many of them in Saskatchewan; that's a real hot bed for talent.
Those little kids getting onto the ice for the first day really want to be Matt Dunstone at some point. I belong to the East York Curling Club, and for most of us those dreams are very far in the past, but it's a community place. It's a place where juniors, seniors, teenagers and two million Canadians spend their winters, and a lot of that will go away because of this.
Thank you, Mr. Chair. Thank you, Mr. Waugh. You didn't say what you were buying, but I think the inference was clear.
I want to thank all the panellists and witnesses for being here. You're obviously showing your dedication and your passion, which is much needed in an industry that's working so hard to just recover. The arts are so hard hit. We know this. They're the first to be affected and the last to come back, so I appreciate that.
I'm happy to say that the visited us in my riding virtually. We put together round tables and had discussions. Even before that, I had ongoing panel discussions with our arts community, because there are big sectors, and then there are small grassroots ones like the ones we're talking to.
I was hoping to direct my questions to Mr. Mitchell and talk about theatres. We have the Drayton Theatre in my riding. It's one of the largest theatres in the country. We also have those small community theatres: Elmira Theatre Company, The Community Players of New Hamburg, KW Musical Productions, MT Space and Kitchener-Waterloo Little Theatre. These little theatres really become hubs for emerging artists.
In our last panel, I didn't get a chance to ask questions, but we talked about cultivating and incubating artists and how it's so difficult to have people stay in the arts. Many people are leaving the arts right now.
Mr. Mitchell, can you give some examples of how we can keep people, maybe with a bit of mentoring? How can we support artists? How can we help the next generation to get in? Right now these stages are dark.
Yes, I agree. Thank you.
Maybe I can use that to pivot. According to the artists I've heard from, the two things that have been most helpful are the wage subsidy and then the CERB, now the CRB, which I've heard people refer to as a lifeline. For some of the traditional brick-and-mortar industries in the arts, the wage subsidy has made a difference. The CERB and the CRB can help with that gig economy, as well as those small, independent artists and self-employed people.
Maybe I could switch to Mr. Roy to talk about festivals. There are no one-size-fits-all solutions. We have large festivals in all our ridings, including in mine. They include jazz festivals, multicultural festivals, blues festivals, Oktoberfests and maple syrup festivals in the bigger communities. In the smaller communities, you have corn fests and strawberry festivals. It's not a one-size-fits-all.
Mr. Roy, you mentioned working with the regional economic development agencies and possibly seeing if there could be a tailor-made solution instead of a one-size-fits-all. I wonder if you could share your thoughts on that.
Thank you for the question.
Indeed, major festivals have their own reality. That's the case for the smaller ones, too, but generally speaking, many of them deal with the two existing programs I mentioned, the Canadian Heritage program and the Canada arts presentation fund. Many small festivals that are created in communities are created through them.
For efficiency and given the current urgency, we can use these two programs to better support both small and large festivals with more funds.
In terms of regional economic development agencies, I know that some agencies in Canada haven't made the festivals and events sector a priority. In fact, they are rather reluctant to get involved in the arts and culture sector. However, this isn't the case with Canada Economic Development, which supports festivals and events.
For example, particularly in Quebec, this agency supports REMI members to the tune of about $4 million each year. However, outside Quebec, it's quite difficult to get support from economic development agencies. It's done somewhat in Ontario, but with the exception of Ontario and Quebec, it's quite rare.
We are indeed proposing that economic development agencies be more engaged and implement this updated version of the marquee tourism events program, which existed in 2009 and 2010. Thanks to the support of regional economic development agencies, we could therefore also intervene with smaller festivals.
As you said, I'll be sharing my time.
Mr. Roy, I was a little bit struck by what you said earlier about the funding levels for your organization and for the events sector, funding that has remained the same since 2008. You said that if the one-time support that was provided in 2019 and the pandemic support that was provided in 2020 aren't reintroduced, you're going to fall back to the 2008 funding level in 2021.
It doesn't make sense, of course. Often, strong images are needed to convey the impact of this lack of funding. So, what will be the first thing to go if the funding is not adjusted?
Thank you for the question.
The existence of festivals and certain events is clearly in question. The current reality of festivals and events is that they have gone into hibernation and are trying as much as possible to retain their teams, expertise and assets so that they can get back into operation when possible.
The problem is that they have been spending and running deficits. There will come a time when there will be no more cash. Their very existence is in question. Currently, festivals and events only have one category of revenue, which is grants. Approximately 4% of the financial packages normally come from Canadian government grants, and in Quebec, 8% come from the Quebec government. Contributions also come from municipalities and sometimes from regional tourism associations.
Currently, only these contributions are keeping teams and organizations alive. It's essential that this be done and that grants be increased for the time being.
Again, I think one of the keys is this great program I was talking about, the marquee tourism events program.
If we proceeded quickly, we would give the remaining teams and leaders the opportunity to perhaps recall people who have been laid off, as well as the opportunity to work over the next 12 to 15 months on a relaunch, a 2022 edition for their festivals and events.
We know that all this bad stuff is going to go away eventually. In 2022, we're going to speak about recovery, we're going to want to attract tourists. We're going to want to find ourselves also. I think we will need, let's say, social healing.
For the moment, in 2021 and for future editions, we'll try to turn to digital mode, to make hybrid editions and smaller editions. We'll still try to stay active. However, if we focus on 2022 now, we could keep our expertise. It's extremely important to keep the expertise in our organizations.
For example, you can't replace overnight a program director who has contacts with major art agencies and artists all over the world. You can't find someone with equivalent skills and the same contacts all over the world overnight. It's extremely important to keep the expertise within our teams.
Thank you to all of our witnesses.
I have a few questions for Mr. Mitchell to start with.
I don't think people across the country necessarily recognize just how important the Edmonton International Fringe Festival is for theatre in this country and what a wonderful festival it is for our community. It is, in fact, the heartbeat of Edmonton Strathcona. It's actually where my husband and I had our very first date, and we are now going on to our 20th anniversary. We have celebrated our anniversary at the Fringe every single year.
There is one thing I want to ask you about, Mr. Mitchell, to ensure that I can actually go on my 20th year. Could you talk a little bit about what the rebuilding and the restarting for the fringe festival will look like, in your opinion?
I'm not sure I can answer that one properly, because we take advice from medical officers of health, and I think the situation is quite different.
We know right now that for many sports, in order to deliver just a tiny bit of sport in a safe manner, we have to spend an awful lot of money and a lot of our resources putting something in fanless buildings, just to allow people to enjoy a tiny bit of sport. I think what we're really missing is, in fact.... I will go on the record and talk about curling. It's one of the last great interprovincial, interterritorial competitions there are. You truly have to be a Canadian. You have to come from that province and compete at any of our championships.
I want to go back to why we're here. Any help that you can give us.... What it's really about is these large events, which not only create economic impacts for people in the cities, as some of my colleagues have said, but the money we make as not-for-profits gets invested across the country again. You know, it goes to juniors and to young people who are starting out for the first time. It goes into our clubs, and it goes into places where everyday Canadians play.
I very much thank the people on our panel today.
Mr. Roy mentioned a deficit number, so what I'm going to come back to with Mr. Mitchell and Ms. Henderson is the sense that he's suggesting a number. I believe this is part of economic recovery and will be significant to economic recovery. In thinking about it, in the next six months to a year, could it be feasible to develop a deficit number that could be collated across the country that we could deal with?
Ms. Henderson, I have 30-plus rinks in my riding—not quite as many curling rinks, but they exist in all small rural areas in Canada. Mr. Mitchell, I probably have programs from before my colleague from Edmonton was born. I have the Fringe programs from the fifth anniversary, the 10th anniversary and the 15th anniversary, and I was disappointed when they went to buying tickets online, because the fun was to try to get into events and line up.
From your two sides, Ms. Henderson and Mr. Mitchell, is it feasible to get a deficit number and supply that within six months to a year so that we could look at a number? When money was funnelled down to organizations, as we heard in an earlier panel, the government lost track of it and of whether it got to the original artists at that level.
Ms. Henderson and Mr. Mitchell, could you respond to that question about a deficit number and the possibility of putting one together nationally?
Right now I can't speak to deficit numbers. In all of the sports I'm sure we could come together.
I think what we're looking for is just separated-out funds that would give us an ability to apply for them with a good business case in order to demonstrate that this money is in fact missing from the system.
I can use curling as an example. Last season we had to cancel the Women's Worlds and a number of our other competitions beginning on March 12, which was one of the sadder days of my career. Not being able to hold a number of events going forward, we predict that this year there will be about a $6-million deficit.
I can't speak for the other sports. We have put a framework in front of . It has criteria and a business case, and we'd be very happy to review it with you.
It depends at what level.
By the way, I'm very familiar with your career. I've worked in major games previously, so it's always a thrill to talk to somebody who has competed at that level.
At Curling Canada, we've had to reorient our high-performance training. It has been set up very differently this year. Depending upon where you are in the country, we have developed return-to-play guidelines for those people who can go into a local club.
Everything has to be done, however, very locally right now. In curling, for example, much of the way the athlete develops is through competition. Our competitions-to-training ratios are thus relatively high. We have quite a bit of competition in Canada, and that's one reason—I'll use curling as the example—that our athletes do so well on the world stage and have won many Olympic and world championship medals.
Right now they're limited, though. They are preparing for the Olympic Games in Beijing in 2022 and are very worried about their inability to compete in order to become better and make sure that they represent Canada very well on the world stage.
We also have a medical officer of health whom we work with, and we have high-performance coaches and teams who are trying to replicate something for them so that they can do dryland training or very protected training at their home base.
We're very grateful for the assistance we've received so far. We were able to access some of the money from the emergency funds that were provided. Doing so actually helps us survive as an NSO, as an organization. We were able to access some of the emergency wage subsidy funding over the last number of months.
Beyond that, I guess what we're really saying is that when we put on a competition, it's not really for our own survival, but for the survival of the system, because these major competitions, which have commercial aspects.... We're funded differently from many of the national sport organizations, in that we're able to hold very large events and generate from them the majority of our revenues, which we reinvest back into the system. In Canada, that system consists of a thousand local clubs and 14 member associations, as well as a national sport organization.
The competition is something that really starts at the roots and works all the way to the top. We as an NSO have received funding from the federal government, which has helped us survive as an NSO.
Unfortunately, I have to end it on that note, but, again, it's illustrative of what's happening across this country. I want to thank all our witnesses for coming in and providing some great information from varied backgrounds. I want to thank Ms. Henderson, Mr. Mitchell and Monsieur Roy for being very generous with their time today and helping us in our report.
That concludes today, folks. We will reconvene on Friday at 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. eastern time.
Thank you so much, everyone.
The meeting is adjourned.