The Canada Council fosters and promotes the study, enjoyment and production of works in the arts. The Council also coordinates Canadian participation in UNESCO activities abroad and in Canada. It functions very much like a granting council with over 90 per cent of its budget allocated to provide assistance to individual artists and arts organizations. Part of the Department of Canadian Heritage, the Council’s budget, through the years, has made up roughly three per cent of the Department’s total expenditures. Traditionally, the Canada Council has been an important source of financial support for fine arts programs in Canadian universities.
In The Red Book, the Liberals speak of the importance of cultural development, "culture is the very essence of national identity, the bedrock of national sovereignty and national pride. It gives meaning to the lives of every Canadian and enriches the country socially, politically and economically." The Red Book goes on to chastise the Mulroney government for reducing the budgets of the CBC/SRC and the Canada Council. The Liberals argue that these cuts indicate their "failure to appreciate the importance of cultural and industrial development." With a Liberal government, The Red Book leads us to believe that things will be different.
Things are different. They are worse. The Liberals have continued the Tory precedent, only more aggressively. Since 1994, the budget of Canada Council has been slashed an additional 10 per cent. The Council has responded by restructuring its administration and trying to do more with less. Many funding areas have been re-profiled. This had lead to programs being eliminated and funds directed towards other initiatives. The concern for many in the arts community is that the re-organization of programs has been driven by administrative rather than strategic concerns. Programs have been cut, not because they were not effective or valuable, but because they were more complicated or costly to administer.
One can only speculate that with even further administrative cutbacks, funds will be less effectively targeted, awarded and evaluated and longer term strategic planning will suffer or perhaps be non-existent.
In the 1997-98 budget, the Liberals announced a further cut to the Council's budget. One month later, in their election platform, they've promised to allocate an additional $25 million to the Canada Council in 1997-98 and an additional $25 million in subsequent budgets for the next four years.