Canadian Conference of the Arts

Canadian Conference of the Arts

What Happened

On October 30, 2012, the CCA announced it would be ceasing operations. The CCA’s annual subsidy from the Department of Canadian Heritage, which represented the bulk of its $525,000 operating budget, was cut in the federal government’s March 2012 budget. The CCA had been advised 18 months previously that its funding would be withdrawn, and asked for two years of operating funds to develop the capacity to become self-sustaining. When transitional funds were granted for only six months, the CCA shut down operations in October 2012.

The Canadian Conference of the Arts (CCA) was established in 1945 by a group of Canada’s leading artists to encourage artistic expression and sustained growth for the arts in Canada.

It was Canada’s largest arts advocacy body counting among its members Canada’s leading arts institutions: the Royal Conservatory of Music, the Writer’s Union of Canada, the National Ballet of Canada and the National Theatre School. Since 2001, the CCA has held national conferences that bring together representatives from many different areas of the arts.

The CCA was instrumental in the creation of the Canada Council for the Arts in 1957 and, in 1961, held its first national conference.

The CCA also advocated for legislation, policy, and federal budgets that are supportive of the arts to give the cultural sector a strong voice in federal government.

Budget cuts with short transition

In March 2012, the federal budget announced cuts to the Department of Canadian Heritage, which was the main source of funds for the CCA’s $525,000 annual budget. A year and a half ago, the CCA was warned that funding would likely be cut. It asked for two year grace to develop a sustainable business model.

In April 2012, Canadian Heritage reportedly informed the CCA that it would only be receiving six months of operational funding. The Board of Governors of the CCA decided that the short time frame and lack of financial support from the Canadian Heritage department and the federal government would not allow them to properly transition to a different business model and sustain themselves. As a result, the CCA announced that the organization had no choice but to close on October 30, 2012.

Andrew Cash, an NDP MP, was critical of the decision to cut the funding for CCA and questioned the motives of the federal government: “This government consistently wants to reach in to arts institutions in this country and reshape them, rename them, remandate them, disagree in very muscular ways with our exhibits and music videos that they don't particularly like."

Speaking out against the Copyright Modernization Act

In 2011, the CCA denounced Bill C-32, the Copyright Modernization Act, citing that the bill did not support artists, composers or other creators of works and material. The CCA wanted the bill amended to protect content creators and not favor distributors and retailers of material as strongly as it did. But their critique of the bill was discarded and it was eventually passed as Bill C-11 in the winter 2012, after another round of criticism from the CCA.

In an interview with the CBC, Alain Pineau, National Director of the CCA, said his organization’s outspoken views on the issue were “not particularly welcome” by the Conservative government. However, Pineau insisted that the CCA has never spoken against the government itself. “We are non-partisan and we’ve followed that throughout our history,” he told the CBC. “That doesn’t mean that sometimes we can’t say ‘We don’t think that this is good or we think you should be doing this instead.’ We believe in evidence-based decision making and we try to contribute to public debate.”

Pierre Nantel, NDP Heritage Critic, claimed that “there is no doubt in my mind that the Conservatives are punishing CCA for being a strong voice for the cultural community against the government’s changes to copyright legislation.”

CCA National Director, Alain Pineau, said shuttering his organization is costing Canada’s arts sector a much-needed national forum for the debate of issues that are critical to its health. “This opportunity to look at issues from a broad perspective and from a common interest perspective as opposed to the tunnel vision that exists unfortunately too much in the cultural sector, that is what the sector is losing.”

The CCA, as an organization, will remain intact for now but in a dormant state. It will remain this way in order to preserve its accomplishments and research in the hopes that another interest group or outside organization might wish to revive it. “I can only hope that some­one else will pick up the chal­lenge. The Cana­dian cul­tural sec­tor needs and deserves a CCA if it is to be effec­tive and thrive,” stated Pineau.

Relevant Dates:

  • 1945: The vision of the Canadian Conference of the Arts (CCA) is established and created by a group of artists.
  • 1957: The group creates the Canadian Council for the Arts.
  • 1965: The CCA is given federal funding and able to hold national conferences every few years.
  • 2011: The CCA speaks out against the Copyright Modernization Act Bill C-32, issuing a joint statement and holding press conferences. The act is eventually passed as Bill C-11 in 2012 despite more concerns voiced by the CCA.
  • March 2012: The Department of Canadian Heritage is cut in the 2012 federal Budget and stops funding to the CCA, forcing them to try to become privately funded within a six-month time frame.
  • April 2012: The CCA announces it is forced to cease operations and put the organization in a dormant state. 

Role or Position

The Canadian Conference of the Arts (CCA) was a not-for-profit arts advocacy organization established in 1945 to promote the interests of Canada’s cultural sector workers and serve as a forum for research, analysis and dialogue on the arts. The CCA had been funded by the federal government since 1966.

Implications and Consequences

  • Democracy: The cuts show not only a lack of support for the arts in Canada, but represent an important loss of another independent knowledge organization. Through research, the CCA informed public policy and carried the voice of the cultural sector at the federal level, allowing them to participate effectively in public debates, a process that is essential to a functioning democracy.
  • Free Speech: The CCA’s critique of the Copyright Modernization Act is considered to be a factor in the cuts and a reprisal for speaking out on public policy. These cuts must also be understood within the broader context of the federal government’s undermining of advocacy work and dissent on public policy in Canada.

Date published: 21 December 2012

Photo of the CCA.