At the Halfway Mark
Annual Public Meeting Speech, Pierre Lassonde
January 15, 2019
I would also like to thank everyone who is here with us today. Every year, your attendance is proof that you believe in the Council’s importance, and I’d even go so far as to say it is proof that you believe in its growing impact on the lives of all Canadians.
As you know, we are at the halfway mark in the progressive doubling of our budget. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank the current government for the Council’s budget increase. To my knowledge, there are few national arts funding organizations in the world that are in our position, with the ability to invest so strategically in the future of the arts sector. And I want to emphasize national, because the city of Calgary has just announced that it was doubling its own investment in the arts.
The Council is delighted to have the means it now has to support the arts and artists so that they can take their rightful place in society and have a lasting impact.
I’d also like to thank you on behalf of the artists who now have enhanced means to give the general public access to their great creativity. Numerous communities in Canada are already reaping the benefits. And this is just the beginning.
Needless to say, many people are benefitting from this. For businesspeople like me who know the importance of measuring the results of our investments, economic impact is a more concrete gauge. In 2016, more than 650,000 jobs in Canada were culture-related, and culture’s gross domestic product exceeded 53 billion dollars.
Let’s take a small break and watch the video produced by the Council. Thank you to all the artists and organizations who submitted images and footage.
The video is a remarkable expression of the diverse and dynamic nature of artistic creation and the ways it impacts us.
As expected, the doubling of the budget has created great expectations and raised questions, both from current recipients and those the Council is attempting to reach out to for the first time. I would like to assure the arts community that the board is well aware of these questions and is keeping its ear to the ground.
This is why we will continue to explain the incremental doubling—because it means that investments are incremental, spread out over five years and based on clear-cut funding objectives. Simon will expand on that in a bit.
Solid and Transparent governance
We make our increased investments by respecting our processes, principles and strategic commitments. To that end, sound governance of the Canada Council for the Arts is crucial. The management of public funds must be transparent and take into account diverse and ever-changing societal realities.
In order to ensure this management remains optimal, the Council relies on various bodies, like the Board and its committees. But an outside perspective is always welcome. Parenthetically, I’d like to add that the Council submits to a special audit from the Office of the Auditor General every ten years. This is a performance audit, further to which the auditor general will issue an opinion on the Council’s overall management.
These audits are long and complex procedures throughout which the Council is required to provide a plethora of documents for examination. While on the subject, I’d like to congratulate the different teams that rallied to ensure that all demands were rigorously met. You accomplished a phenomenal amount of work.
The last audit took place in 2018, and the ensuing report was incredibly positive. Not only did it validate the quality of the Council’s management but it also confirmed the efficiency of its new direction. Additionally, the various recommendations expressed by the auditor will help the Council adjust accordingly.
Earlier, I mentioned transparency, and that’s one of the reasons the Council connects with Canadians in two main ways every year. First, the Council publishes an annual report that takes stock of funding and progress on commitments. Second, it holds an annual public meeting, which is what we’re gathered here for today, to report on its activities and answer questions.
In 2018, our staff held information sessions with groups ranging from 50 to 200 people across Canada to address various issues. The sessions were a unique opportunity to engage directly with the artistic community.
The activities of the Canadian Commission for UNESCO, which often coincide with those of the Council, contribute greatly to our society. The The activities of the Canadian Commission for UNESCO, which often coincide with those of the Council, contribute greatly to our society. The Let’s Talk About Reconciliation initiative, led in collaboration with various partners, has sparked rich conversations between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people thanks to films made by Indigenous artists being shown in some 30 libraries across Canada., led in collaboration with various partners, has sparked rich conversations between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people thanks to films made by Indigenous artists being shown in some 30 libraries across Canada.
The Council has also been present on various key podiums. And I was thrilled this year to take part in an event with our Vice-Chair, Nathalie Bondil and Simon Brault. We were invited by the Conseil des relations internationales de Montréal (CORIM) to examine the importance of the arts on the international stage. Under the theme of “Why the arts need to transcend borders,” we showed how each distinct aspect of our expertise can explain and highlight the Council’s strengths.
Increasingly Diverse Expertise
Speaking of expertise, I’d like to say a word about our board. It is made up of 11 members whose expertise and diversity is well worth mentioning.
This year, we welcomed two new members, Karl Schwonik, from Medicine Hat, Alberta, and Kim Spencer-Nairn, from Vancouver, British Columbia. They both have a wealth of experience in the management of artistic organizations, and are joining a solid team whose extensive knowledge of the arts sector and its realities are undeniable. With the board’s six men and five women at its helm, the Council is in good hands.
I want to congratulate Vice-Chair Nathalie Bondil on receiving the prestigious Peter Herrndorf award, which every year recognizes arts and business leaders who build partnerships. As director general and chief curator of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, Nathalie is the first director of a Quebec cultural organization to receive the award. Under her direction, the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts has become Canada’s most visited museum. The Council is indeed quite fortunate to be able to draw on her expertise.
We are very fortunate to have a board that is totally committed to delivering values for all Canadians.
I would like to conclude by thanking Simon Brault for his enlightened and courageous leadership at the Council, and by expressing my gratitude to all Council staff for their passion and hard work, which is appreciated by all.
I’m confident the upcoming year will be an exciting one for the arts in Canada.