The state and progress of Status of the Artist legislation in Saskatchewan, Quebec, Ontario and Newfoundland are reviewed in this document.
“The need to recognize that artists have the same rights as other citizens, in the workplace and in society, has been the subject of discussion for at least 30 years in Canada, and has been debated for an even longer time in other countries around the world.” Canadian Conference of the Arts.
Reports and Recommendations: Three Ministerial Reports on Status of the Artist have been commissioned by the province. 1993 was the major one and nine years later renewed interest due to artists’ pressure brought legislation and two more, one was made public in 2004. However, the government called for a review to clarify the recommendations; this report has been completed but not yet made public.
Legislation: In response to the arts community’s demand for action in 2001 the government enacted the Status of the Artist Act in 2002. This is enabling legislation recognizing the importance of artists to society and the need to provide equitable treatment in economic and social benefits. Saskatchewan’s legislation remains the second provincial Status Act in Canada after Quebec.
Advocacy: The Saskatchewan Arts Alliance has continued to press the provincial government to move on several simple steps to advance Status issues in the areas of taxation, collective bargaining, procurement, health and safety, workers compensation and amendments to strengthen the Status Act. (*) Efforts not yet rewarded by action.
Quebec passed the earliest Status legislation (‘87 and ’88) and remains well ahead of other provinces in supporting artists. Quebec has two Status Acts dealing with performance and visual / literary disciplines. A significant subsequent reform initiative has been in providing tax exemptions on copyright income (inclusive of performing rights and public lending income) for artists. Quebec has also introduced a form of income averaging for artists. Quebec‘s support for artists and artistic activity is grounded in the recognition of the importance of artists to Quebec society.
The Liberal government, following an election promise to act on Status of the Artist within the first year, established a Committee to investigate Status issues in 2005. A survey of artists was conducted with a very substantial response from the province’s artists. Subsequently consultative sessions were held with the cultural community. This process was regarded as highly successful in involving the community, but there was some disappointment that the Ontario budget did not include funding for Status programs, that is, support for individual artists. The Ontario Committee is expected to complete their report by the end of June.
In April of 2006 the government announced a broad cultural policy. Greeted with warm support, this policy sets forth guiding principles that commit the government to active support of arts and culture on many fronts. Highlighted in the policy is action on Status of the Artist, inclusive of legislation, benefit programs, and artist’s code, labour programs, collective bargaining and a Status Advisory Committee. Key arts organizations in NFLD have undertaken both advocacy and research to ensure the momentum is not lost.
Interprovincial Government Action:
Ministers of Culture meet from time to time and in 2005 they established a “Working Group on Socio-economic Status of the Artist”. This “Group” of administrators, which includes most provinces and territories, will be proposing Status measures to their Ministers in preparation for the next inter-provincial Ministers meeting in September as a major agenda item will be Status of the Artist. This could create an opportunity for Provincial Ministers to influence the Federal Government on some critical Status issues such as taxation.
Quebec has provided an early example of what can be done. The Federal Status Act has provided through its Tribunal (CAPPRT) recognition of artists and producer organizations and provided a forum for dispute resolution, other aspects of Status programs remain incomplete at the Federal level. There has been some action taken by provinces other than those reported here. Despite, however, many reports and many recommendations concrete action to advance the individual artist’s economic and social conditions (Status) have been fitful. The struggle to achieve equity for artists, access to the benefits other workers have, has been a long one. It is certainly due to continuing efforts of artists and their organizations that some advances have been made and the issue kept on “the agenda”. We can take encouragement from new developments, but keep the pressure on.
(*) SAA Action Plan containing these proposals can be found on the SAA website Action Plan Proposal