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Les artistes canadiens craignent d’être laissés de côté

Ottawa, Thursday, January 29, 2009 – The Canadian Artists’ Representation (CARFAC) is pleased that the federal government will invest in new cultural programs but is concerned that artists themselves, the backbone of the creative economy, will get left behind.

“Investing in galleries and festivals is a smart way to stimulate the creative economy and inject money into a sector that represents 3.8 % of Canada’s GDP,” said Gerald Beaulieu, president of CARFAC National, “But if artists are left out, there won’t be anything to show in those galleries and festivals.”

Despite encouraging investment in the arts, the federal budget does little to help individual artists, half of whom earned less than $10,000 a year, according to 2004 statistics. Artists create wealth for communities simply by living and working in a neighbourhood but virtually none of these benefits come back to artists themselves. Government investment in the arts is key for sparking urban renewal, and other spin off benefits generated by artists who can return 200% or more on investment in arts funding. If nothing is done, these artists could be forced to change careers, leaving many communities without an important economic driver.

An opportunity to invest in Canada’s artists:

CARFAC, along with many other arts organizations, made several suggestions to stimulate the creative economy. The following recommendations, made by CARFAC to the Finance Committee last summer, would help government maximize return on their investment in Canadian artists:

Tax exemption

A tax exemption on copyright royalties would encourage creative production and innovation which, in turn, feeds into local economies. Artists in Quebec and Ireland already benefit from tax exemptions of up to $15,000 and €250,000 respectively. The Irish Arts Council’s 2005 report Testimonials on the Artists’ Tax Exemption Scheme describes that, for artists, the Scheme “represents the difference between taking on a second job and being able to concentrate entirely on their art form and on creating output of an exceptionally high standard.”

Grants and awards

Similar to tax exemptions on copyright income, some artists who have demonstrated a high level of excellence are supplemented by grants that allow them opportunity to produce work. These grants and awards are currently subject to tax deductions at both the federal and provincial level. In most cases, the amounts awarded are already minimal, and any deduction makes a big difference. If grants and awards were not subject to tax deductions, it is money that would otherwise be invested back into the artist’s work.

Income averaging

Artists’ income levels fluctuate over months and even years, making it difficult to predict what their yearly income may be in any given year. It is hard to know how many exhibitions artists may have, how many artworks may sell in a year, or whether a commission or teaching position will open up. The traditional system of annual tax assessment is therefore inappropriate for artists for this very reason. Income averaging allows artists to average their income revenues out over a block of time, as has been implemented in Quebec.

Social security net

Self-employed artists do not have accessibility to social security programs that other professionals receive. These include such benefits as pensions, disability insurance, maternity leave, and employment insurance. The Federal Budget documents suggests artists may have access to some of these benefits in the future – which is a good first step – but does not bring them close to the same level as average Canadians. The extension of social security programs to self-employed artists is consistent with policies applied to other self-employed groups, such as fishers, taxi drivers and hairdressers, all of whom are eligible for such programs as EI.

CARFAC (the Canadian Artists’ Representation/le Front des artists canadiens) is the national association of Canada’s professional visual and media artists. CARFAC defends artists’ socio-economic and legal rights through advocacy and professional development and produces a schedule of artists’ fees that is widely recognized as the national standard. The Status of the Artist Act empowers CARFAC to negotiate with national organizations on behalf of all visual artists in Canada.