With the CBC and other publicly funded cultural organizations reeling from federal budget cuts, the Stephen Harper government has announced new and sustained spending on arts festivals and institutions.
Indeed, since the federal budget was presented last month, many in the arts community have noted a split in the government's approach to arts and culture funding.
On the positive side of the ledger, the Toronto International Film Festival is receiving more than $362,000 in new funding and the Soundstreams program of concerts is receiving $120,000 this year and next.
The funding announced by the Department of Canadian Heritage on Wednesday is concentrated in the Greater Toronto Area.
Live events and concerts were the primary recipients of new money in Heritage Minister James Moore's latest announcement. Also on the list of recipients was the Canadian Creative Music Collective's Music Gallery, which will receive $52,000 this fiscal year and next, and Music Toronto's concert seasons, which will get $80,000 in each of the next two years. The Images Festival, a showcase for avant-garde filmmakers and visual artists, is receiving $65,000 in 2012 and 2013.
The money for TIFF is specifically earmarked for the development of a participatory, high-tech reality game, part of an upcoming retrospective of director David Cronenberg's films at the TIFF Bell Lightbox. "We're delighted to bring the amazing world of David Cronenberg to a global audience in an interactive, online experience," said Noah Cowan, Lightbox's artistic director.
Soundstreams executive director Chris Lorway also applauded the assistance. "As Soundstreams enters its 30th season, we are keenly aware that the ongoing support of the government of Canada – who was with us from the beginning – has contributed significantly to our growth and success."
However, the good news for TIFF and others came as Telefilm Canada said on Wednesday that it has to cut its film-development funding this year by $700,000, its promotion and training program by $500,000 and its funding for theatrically released documentaries in half. In order to absorb a reduction of $10.6-million in government funding, or 10 per cent of Telefilm Canada's budget, the agency will also be eliminating 16 full-time jobs this year.
This comes a day after the CBC outlined major cuts to its original television and radio programming and the elimination of 215 jobs this year in its English services.
This week, protesters disrupted traffic in downtown Montreal in opposition to budget cuts at the National Film Board of Canada and other arts institutions. The protest, which stopped traffic on rue St-Denis, was organized through word of mouth and Facebook.
"It was about making a point," said Tyrone Benskin, an NDP member of Parliament and the Official Opposition's Heritage critic. He visited the Montreal protest, which took place midday on Tuesday. "You can't say you support Canadian culture and support Canadian history, celebrating the War of 1812 [referring to Heritage funding for War of 1812 commemorations] but cut the entities that help tell those stories."
Calls to the Department of Canadian Heritage were not returned on Wednesday.