2023–24 Provincial Budget: Growth that Works for Everyone
On March 22, 2023, the Honourable Donna Harpauer, Minister of Finance, delivered the 2023–24 Provincial Budget: Growth that Works for Everyone. The 2023-24 Budget has a $1.0 billion surplus and saw a modest increase in funding to the arts.
The Saskatchewan Arts Alliance (SAA) wants growth that works for everyone, including our province’s artists, arts administrators and patrons. We appreciate the work done by the Honourable Laura Ross and the Ministry of Parks, Culture, and Sport to increase funding to SK Arts to address inflationary pressures. This increase is a positive step in the right direction, but funding is still precarious and well below historical levels – approximately $180,000 less than a decade ago.
This year’s provincial budget again brings mixed news – near status quo funding to the majority of the arts sector and a two million dollar increase for Creative Saskatchewan.
We must recognize that despite significantly increased investment in Creative Saskatchewan and a slight increase to SK Arts in this year’s budget, the arts in Saskatchewan are still in a funding crisis. Simply maintaining SK Arts granting levels is inadequate for our province’s artists, arts organizations and patrons. The arts ecosystem in Saskatchewan is at risk, this was the case before COVID, and the ongoing impacts of the pandemic, massive inflation and last year’s PST expansion have only exacerbated the situation.
Research shows that 85% of Saskatchewanians agree that “arts and cultural activities in a community make it a better place to live” (Hill Strategies Research, 2022). Saskatchewan people deserve to live in a province where the arts are adequately supported to grow and thrive and can contribute to all citizens’ wellbeing and quality of life.
In 2020, the GDP generated by arts & culture was $895,871,000, accounting for 11,156 jobs in Saskatchewan – these are substantial figures (Statistics Canada, 2022). With the PST expansion for admissions, recreation and entertainment in place, the arts and culture sector contributes more than ever to the province’s revenue. Despite advocating that this be met with a meaningful return investment – an increased investment in SK Arts – we are met with little movement.
Increased and ongoing investment is needed for a strong and sustainable arts sector. The SAA thanks the provincial government for the increases to Creative Saskatchewan and SK Arts. Creative Saskatchewan CEO, Erin Dean, says “a 20% increase to our feature film and television production grant program is great news, and we’re really thrilled with the government’s decision to continue investing in the film sector.” The SAA is hopeful that more increases, especially to chronically underfunded SK Arts, will be seen in coming years. Such increases are a worthy investment for the well-being and growth of the province.
The SAA was pleased to see an increase of $165,000 to SK Arts, the first increase in nine years. Throughout the past year, the SAA has advocated for an increase in the 2023-24 budget to SK Arts that correlates with the provincial consumer price index rates since 2017, approximately $1.3 million. SK Arts saw an increase of 2.5% in this budget, which is less than half of the provincial inflation rate of 6.6% over the past year. These are disappointing numbers for artists and arts organizations, especially considering there is a projected $1.0 billion surplus.
Such a nominal increase to an essential provincial organization such as SK Arts puts significant pressure on the arts sector to meet its increasing obligations with fewer and fewer resources. Despite status quo funding, SK Arts has kept its granting levels unaffected. The SAA hopes this increase will again allow SK Arts to avoid reducing grant dollars to creators in the province in its 75th year.
SK Arts CEO, Michael Jones, responded to the increase, “we are pleased not to see another flatlined budget. That is certainly a move in the right direction. Over the next week or two, SK Arts leadership will have to consider how we can use this money to address sectoral and internal needs.” He continued, “we are proud at SK Arts that we have managed to maintain or even slightly increase total granting over many years of flatlined budgets. We understand the challenges faced by the funded organizations and artists we support.”
The fact remains, the arts have an impact on Saskatchewanians beyond its entertainment value; they improve well-being and develop a sense of inclusion in communities. Research studying the linkage between arts participation and well-being shows particularly strong results for health, mental health and satisfaction with life – all top of mind at the moment.
Following are excerpts from the Parks, Culture, and Sport section of the 2023-24 Estimates. Links to other budget documents can be found here.
2023–24 Arts Related Estimates with Comparisons to 2022–23 Estimates