Feds promise more money for arts, culture in budget but with few details

The Liberal government promised more funding for arts and culture in Wednesday's budget, but offered few concrete details as to what the money will be spent on.

The budget promised an extra $1.8 billion for culture and recreation over the next decade, starting next year. More than $1.3 billion will go to the provinces and territories via bilateral agreements but the budget didn't say how they can spend it, or how much would be allocated to arts and culture facilities in particular.

Pierre-Olivier Herbert of Canadian Heritage told CBC News the money could be used to fund cultural spaces like community recreation centres and history complexes.

There was a focus on Indigenous languages and cultures, with the government promising $89.9 million over the next three years for improving the existing Aboriginal Languages Initiative, digitizing language and cultural materials and creating archive and educational tools based on oral history.

The budget also earmarked $300 million over the next 10 years to go to Canada Cultural Spaces Fund, which deals with arts and culture infrastructure, like building, renovating and equipping museums and music halls. It's something the Canadian Arts Coalition had been asking for more of.

"We are very pleased to see the investment in infrastructure," said Kate Cornell, the coalition's spokesperson. The fund was also given $168.2 million over two years in last year's budget.

Cornell didn't expect a great deal for the industry in this year's budget because of the big boost given to the country's largest cultural institutions last year — in 2016, $1.9 billion was committed over five years to the CBC, Canada Council, the National Film Board and national museums, among other institutions.

There were some omissions

Cornell said she was a bit surprised there was no mention of the Showcasing Canada program in this year's budget, which helps Canadian artists promote themselves abroad. It was promised two years of funding in the 2016 budget, so she said she is not "extremely worried" about its future and will press the government to continue it.

There was also no mention of the artist's resale right (ARR), something that ticked off CARFAC, the national association of visual artists.

The association has been gunning to get the ARR added to the Canadian Copyright Act since 2011 — it would ensure artists are compensated when their work is re-sold at a higher price than what it was originally purchased for.

"Artists have been waiting a long time for Canada to legislate the ARR, and this was a huge missed opportunity to provide support for artists," CARFAC national president Susan Tooke said in a statement.

And while the budget promised to modernize the Broadcast Act and Telecommunications Act to bring it into a digital age, there weren't any details about what this would look like or mean for media or content creators.

Those are apparently to come in a few months.