Cultural spending by order of government: Cities matter! #yycartsplan
- Posted by Terry Rock on April 18th, 2012
Here's another reason why cities matter in Canada, at least to the arts and culture sector: they disproportionately fund our work.
Stats Can recently published data on government expenditures in culture. I've long had a thesis that cultural planning/strategy and investment is more important and perhaps more relevant at the local level, because of how it relates to identity: people and places linked together. I wonder if the graph below supports my thesis:
At 29.1% of the total spending on culture (which, by the way, is a VERY wide bucket, including libraries, broadcasting, etc.), municipalities way outspend the other orders of government relative to their revenue generation capacity. Take a look at this graph, adapted from A Case of Fiscal Imbalance: The Calgary Experience, which breaks down the tax revenue generated by the 3 orders of government in our city in 2007:
Yes, that's right... of all the taxes paid in Calgary in 2007, The City of Calgary received only 6.6%. Though I haven't seen the data, my understanding is that the revenue picture isn't much different in other Canadian cities.
What are we to make of this?
First, when Mayor Nenshi says that, in this provincial election "Cities Matter," the graphs above illustrate just how much cities matter for culture. I think this is logical: civic leaders are increasingly realizing that a thriving arts scene is critical for both economic development (see this report from Calgary Economic Development) AND for quality of life: people want to live in neighborhoods with character and visit downtowns that buzz with activity. They want arts education opportunities for themselves and their children. Because our local council members hear about these local issues every day, it is no wonder that they find ways, with their limited means, to ensure that culture thrives in their city.
Second, Provincial and Federal governments should perhaps take a lead from their municipal colleagues. Culture matters to citizens, and municipal councils across the country are leaders in ensuring their citizens have access to these experiences.
Finally, and most importantly: imagine what would happen if that little orange slice of pie in the second graph was able to expand? What if cities in Alberta had the opportunity to control their own destiny? To fund their priorities with no strings attached? I'm confident that Calgary's Council will continue to invest in the arts if we have a strong vision and clear plans for how this sector will grow and contribute to the quality of life and economic growth of our city.
I can't tell you who to vote for in this or any election, but based on this quick and dirty analysis, it is clear that a better deal for cities in Alberta would amount to a better deal for the arts.