Skip to main content

How Will Canada’s New Liberal Government Treat Its Famously Well-Funded Musicians?

It's too early to know if the first Liberal government in over 9 years will have a positive affect on the country's music industry.

Canada’s new Prime Minister-designate Justin Trudeau can be seen in YouTube videos dancing, quite well actually, to Bhangra and Caribbean music, but it’s too early to know if the first Liberal government in over 9 years will have a positive affect on the country’s music industry. But its platform makes many sizeable funding promises to the arts.

The 43-year-old who has attended the Juno Awards and hung out with some of Canada’s top musicians is expected to be more supportive of the arts than Stephen Harper‘s Conservative government which cut tens of millions of dollars, including $150 million to national public broadcaster CBC/Radio Canada, which the Liberal party has promised to restore.


He also vowed to double investment to the Canada Council for the Arts to $360 million per year from $180 million.

“Canada’s cultural and creative industries are a vibrant part of our economy and our national identity,” Trudeau said in Montreal in late September. “Our artists, producers, composers, and technicians are world leaders in their fields and undeniable Canadian assets. With more platforms available to share our Canadian content, now is the time for targeted investment that will grow local economies, create jobs for the middle class, and help Canadian artists share our stories.”

The new cabinet will be appointed Nov. 4 and, following renovations, the Trudeaus will move into 24 Sussex Drive (the official residence of Canada’s prime minister) in Ottawa with his wife and three kids. It is the childhood home of Trudeau, whose father Pierre held the office from 1968-79 and again from 1980-84. He died in 2000.

The election Monday night led to a Liberal win with a 185-seat majority.

Leading up to the election many musicians made their voices heard to encourage people to vote, some went so far as to say for whom.  Multi-platinum country-rock band Blue Rodeo made a protest song and video called “Stealin’ All My Dreams.”

According to page 56 of the Liberals’ 88-page New Plan For A Strong Middle Class, the party says:

We will reverse Stephen Harper’s cuts and make new investments to support our national broadcaster. 

As the anchor to our cultural and creative industries, CBC/Radio-Canada is a vital national institution that brings Canadians together, promotes and defends our two official languages, and supports our shared culture. 

By severely cutting its budget, Stephen Harper has jeopardized our national broadcaster’s ability to do this important work. 

We will protect the interests of our national broadcaster, in the interests of all Canadians. We will reverse Stephen Harper’s cuts and invest $150 million in new annual funding for CBC/Radio-Canada, to be delivered in consultation with the broadcaster and the Canadian cultural community. 

We will review the process by which members are appointed to the CBC/Radio-Canada Board of Directors, to ensure merit-based and independent appointments.

After Trudeau was declared the new PM, Music Canada, which promotes the interests of Canadian music community — including to government and public agencies for legislative and regulatory matters — issued a statement indicating it was pleased with outcome.

“We look forward to working with him and the newly elected government to rebalance the copyright regime and ensure the business needs of the music sector are met.

“We are pleased that the Liberal government has committed to taking a leadership role to initiate preliminary consultations for the 2017 Copyright Review. The Liberal government’s Copyright Review promises to give full consideration to the views of artists and creators. This is an opportunity to ensure that copyright legislation works for the 21st century.

“Importantly, the Liberal government recognizes the significant challenges that creators face with the current Copyright Board structure. They have said that the current 2-3 year wait time for decisions is unacceptable due to its negative impact on people’s ability to earn a living. Music Canada has been a strong advocate for Copyright Board reform, and we look forward to partnering with our new government to find some real solutions to the problems that creators in Canada continue to face.”

The Canadian Independent Music Association (CIMA) is equally pleased to be rid of Harper’s Conservative regime:

“CIMA and its members are keen to engage the new Government as it implements its arts and culture platform in the months ahead,” it read. “The platform includes a commitment to new and much-needed annual funding for CBC/Radio Canada, investment into the Canada Council for the Arts, Telefilm Canada, the National Film Board and new investments into cultural infrastructure.

“In addition, CIMA is excited about the new Liberal Government’s policies that directly support the Canadian music industry’s strategic goals of promoting and exporting our artists and their music, both domestically and around the world. CIMA and its members are looking forward to the restoration of the ‘Promart’ and ‘Trade Route International’ cultural promotion programs in particular. This new Liberal government investment of $25 million annually will serve to ‘reinstate culture as part of our foreign diplomacy, ‘ ensuring that Canadian artists can be heard around the globe.

“Furthermore, the Liberal Government has committed to a review of both the Broadcasting Act and the Copyright Act, and has noted the importance of reviewing the Copyright Board to ensure that decisions are made in a timely manner – all of which are CIMA priorities.”

Not everyone is pleased with the new government and funneling money into the arts.

“Do we not have enough art?” wrote “Sunny Ways” on a Toronto Star comments section following Martin Knelman’s story titled “Mr. Trudeau, the arts ball’s in your court.”

“There seems to be quite a glut of it. What about artists who do not make a career of getting grants? The system privileges grant-seekers, just like the music business. Art would benefit from a different approach. Or at least the suggestion of a different approach, rather than this.Art should not depend wholly on government funding. And in Canada, it does.”

A press release issued on Sept. 22 said a new Liberal government will:

  • Invest $150 million in new annual funding for CBC/Radio-Canada, a commitment that reverses Harper’s cuts and goes even further to ensure that our national broadcaster is able to fulfill its mandate – promoting Canadian culture, identity, bilingualism, and minority voices across the country.
  • Double investment to the Canada Council for the Arts to $360 million per year from $180 million.
  • Increase funding for Telefilm Canada and the National Film Board, with a new investment totaling $25 million per year.
  • Restore the Promart and Trade Routes international cultural promotion programs that Harper cut, and increase funding to $25 million per year.
  • Increase funding for the Young Canada Works program to help prepare the next generation of Canadians working in the heritage sector, as part of a renewed Youth Employment Strategy.
  • As part of our historic new investment in social infrastructure of nearly $6 billion over the next four years and almost $20 billion over ten years, we will invest significantly more in cultural infrastructure. These investments will include facilities used by communities to express and promote their culture.