Before the pandemic, community arts councils and arts service organizations across Ontario got together rarely – maybe once every couple of years. However, we’ve certainly learned since March 2020 how easy it can be to stay connected online. Since last fall, a network of arts leaders from across the province, now called the Alliance of Arts Councils of Ontario (AACO), has held monthly Zoom meetings to connect, share, collaborate, and learn from each other. It has been a pleasure to get to know my peers at other community arts councils much better.
Advocacy for the cultural sector, whether at the community, provincial, or federal level, has been a recurring theme in our online get-togethers. At AACO’s March meeting we were joined by Craig Berggold. Craig is the Team Leader, Case for Basic Income and the Arts, for the Ontario Basic Income Network. Craig is a volunteer organizer with OBIN, which heads up the campaign for basic income within the national conversation. He was asked to initiate a campaign focused on the arts. He joined our meeting to share information about the campaign and to encourage our organizations to become signatories to a public letter from the arts community for a basic income guarantee.
Guelph Arts Council is proud to be a new signatory to this letter. It calls on the Government of Canada to implement a Basic Income Guarantee for all residents. This letter, within the broader, multi-sectoral case, focuses on the impact the pandemic has had for artists and arts workers. As the letter notes, the arts, culture, heritage, tourism, and creative industries have been deeply affected: productions have been canceled, venues shuttered, and livelihoods lost. Often working in the gig economy, many arts workers are subject to precarious short-term contracts, without access to benefits, paid sick leave, or even employment insurance. Structural inequalities have been highlighted in the pandemic too, and disproportionately affect vulnerable communities.
A Basic Income Guarantee will help to create a healthier, more equitable social safety system and build on existing support including CERB. It will provide financial security to meet people’s basic needs and allow them to live with dignity regardless of their work status. Throughout the pandemic, artists have continued to create. Their work helps us all weather isolation and hardship, and makes an essential contribution to our resilience, well-being, and recovery as individuals and communities.
CERB has taught us that modest financial security has allowed many artists to focus on – or even return to - their art practice. As Craig noted in our meeting, basic income is a human right, and when basic needs are met, people are in a better place to improve their lives, find work, and start businesses.
The signatories to this letter include the Toronto Arts Council, Montreal Arts Council, International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, Canadian Federation of Musicians, Canadian Artists’ Representation (CARFAC), Canadian Actors’ Equity Association, Playwrights Guild of Canada, The Writers’ Union of Canada, Media Arts Network of Ontario, Electric City Culture Council (Peterborough), Kingston Arts Council, and Quinte Arts Council, among many others. GAC is proud to join these arts leaders, who together represent thousands of artists and arts workers across Canada, in advocating for a basic income guarantee.
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