Saskatchewan Finance Minister Ken Krawetz brown leather shoes may have been untraditional but he certainly kept up the tradition of not addressing culture, arts, and heritage during the official budget address. In a thick stack of pre-packaged press releases, mention of the arts is held until the very last page.
Krawetz unveiled the 2015-2016 budget which, at a glance, is quite reminiscent of last year’s.
The balanced budget boasts zero tax increases, controlled spending, and low unemployment. It also has directed significant dollars towards investments in infrastructure.
“I can say that I would be surprised to see any major changes,” said Nova Alberts, president of the Saskatchewan Media Production Industry Association, when asked what her expectations were regarding funding for arts agencies.
Her prediction was correct. In fact, there were no changes in funding for the Saskatchewan Arts Board or Creative Sask. The numbers are an exact replica of last year.
“We want to, as a government, support all of the creative industries and we are going to continue to do that through Creative Sask, so it was important that we showed a commitment to the creative industries by offering a stable budget, ” said Mark Docherty, minister of parks, culture and sport.
“Neutral is better than a cut but what we’re seeing is the government having $144 billion to spend and they’re obviously making choices about where they're going to spend it,” said Cathy Sproule, NDP culture critic. “We’ve been calling on the reinstatement of the film employment tax credit for one thing. Creative Sask is in some ways new money, but in some ways it doesn’t even cover what the film employment tax credit used to provide for the industry.”
Daniel Woloshin said he keeps an eye on Saskatchewan's art community and is disappointed by the zero per cent increase in funding towards the arts, especially the film industry.
“We have already seen the arts stripped to the core, and as pieces of work and living will continue to go up, I feel increasing (the funding) should as well,” said Woloshin, who studies political science at the U of R. “When you strip the arts it forces Saskatchewan residents to move out of province to pursue their passion.”
Alberts said she is pleased to see the government hold the line on this budget because she thinks their programs are just starting to work for the film industry. “It would be really unfortunate if their ability to support us was damaged at this time,” said Alberts.
“With the state of the economy we weren’t anticipating an increase, but the reality is that our industry does need further investments,” said Alberts. “We need to get some changes through at Creative Sask so we have the right infrastructure and mechanisms to be able to further grow.”
Sproule notes that other creative industries are able to access Creative Sask funding which brings optimism, however there are still concerns.
“Until Creative Sask gets its act together, we don’t even know where it’s headed, and there seems to be a lot of chaos in how they determine their programming,” said Sproule.
Docherty said the government will be taking a look at Creative Sask over the next year in terms of its impact. “It’s our opportunity to look at the organization, and again look at all the pluses and the potential minuses and revamp it,” said Docherty.
Last year, Creative Sask’s budget increased 18 per cent, from $6.5 million to $7.7 million, where it will remain for now. The agency was created to replace the axed Saskatchewan Film Employment Tax credit, as well as all other creative programs in the province.
The Saskatchewan Arts Board’s funding was increased by eight per cent over the last two years, but will remain frozen at $6.9 million this year. The money is directed towards supporting arts organizations.