Is culture, vector of our identity, a priority?

A rare phenomenon testifying to great solidarity was held last Thursday, in front of the office of Minister of Culture and Communications, Mathieu Lacombe, a demonstration of artists and cultural workers who came to express their dismay at the little money granted to the Council des arts et des lettres du Québec (CALQ) in the most recent Quebec budget. This budget is however of capital importance, since it seals the financial prospects of the organizations for the next four years.

The last exercise of this kind dates back to 2017. An eternity in a post-pandemic context. We would like to say that such spontaneous mobilization surprises us. He is nothing. Last winter, when writing their grant applications, hundreds of organizations spent dozens of hours thinking about and rigorously measuring their financial needs to continue their activities, grow them, ensure fair remuneration for their staff and to artists.

Our associations and groups were busy producing studies in preparation for the budget; they quantified and prioritized needs, demonstrated the economic benefits generated by this sector, arguing that the latter, exhausted by the pandemic, was close to the breaking point, and that financial catch-up was necessary. We were hopeful of being heard.

Then, reality hit: a meager addition of $4.8 million for 2024-2025 to the CALQ mission support program, and around 8 million for the following three years. Once the shock was absorbed came the anger, because, with the end of certain measures and the decrease in funds for certain others, a reality appeared: the credits available to the CALQ for all of its programs increased from $161 million. last year to 160 million this year.

In addition, by digging deeper into the analysis, we even see that the money available to specifically support the operation of cultural organizations increases from $97 million in 2023-2024 to $90.9 million in 2024-2025. ; a drop in credits largely attributable to the end of a $22 million measure over two years granted to the CALQ in the Plan to consolidate, shine and propel the cultural community. This measure, implemented in 2021, helped organizations deal with the labor shortage and counter inflation by injecting $11 million per year to support the organizations’ mission. Withdrawing this funding inevitably results in a significant setback. That’s 6.1 million fewer to face these same challenges.

On this day of study of appropriations at the National Assembly, we would like to hear the minister explain to us how we will be able, in this context, to continue our work. How does he suggest we respond to the requests of staff and artists who would like to see their salary indexed to the cost of living? What arguments does he advise us to use to convince them not to change jobs or careers? With what means does he want us to maintain the enviable reputation of our artists internationally? How does he plan to go about ensuring that creations remain accessible and circulate throughout Quebec? What is happening with the orientations of Quebec’s cultural policy, Everywhere, culture ? What will happen to the CALQ strategic development plan unveiled a few months ago, in this context?

Visiting Paris last week, the minister, more nuanced than the day after the budget, seemed to concede that the sums available were insufficient. He now says “working actively with the CALQ to find a way to improve financial support for cultural organizations from the ministry’s budget envelopes.” We expect better from this government which nevertheless constantly repeats that culture, vector of our identity, is a priority. We expect him to adopt a real development posture with respect to the arts and letters of Quebec and to carry out a financial catch-up worthy of the name.

The issues are clear, the needs abundantly quantified and detailed. We no longer have the luxury of time. Our organizations and those who will join us, united in this Common Front for the arts and letters, will not fail to remember him in the coming months.

* The Common Front for Arts and Letters brings together the Professional Association of Show Presenters (RIDEAU), En piste (national grouping of circus arts), the Quebec Crafts Council (CMAQ), the Quebec Council de la musique (CQM), the Quebec Theater Council (CQT), the Guild of Musicians of Quebec (GMMQ), the Peer Group of Independent Arts of Research and Experimentation (REPAIRE), the Group of Artists in visual arts (RAAV), the Regroupement des centers d’artistes self-gestiones du Québec (RCAAQ), the Regroupement québécois de la danse (RQD), the Société des musées du Québec (SMQ), Associated Theaters (TAI), the Union of Quebec writers (UNEQ).

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