Briefing to the Standing Committee on Finance

May 8th, 2020

Orchestras Canada/Orchestres Canada (OC) is the national association for Canadian orchestras, representing over 130 groups from coast to coast, ranging from volunteer-driven community ensembles to youth and training orchestras to nationally and internationally-renowned groups. Our mandate includes advocacy, convening, research and knowledge-sharing, and we work in close collaboration with the Canadian Arts Coalition, Canada’s Performing Arts Alliance, and Imagine Canada.

We are pleased to share orchestras’ perspectives on the Government of Canada’s responses to the COVID-19 pandemic, and hope they are helpful in the Committee’s work.


Canadian orchestras are not-for-profit organizations and registered charities. In 2018-19, according to OC’s comparative data from 71 of our largest member orchestras, orchestras derived 35.8% of their revenues from ticket sales and sold services, and 40.2% from individuals, corporations, foundations, and special fundraising events. Government support (from all three orders of government) made up the difference. Our members reported revenues of almost $218 million and connected with 2.8 million Canadians.

Canadian orchestras are structured in different ways, depending on mission, mandate, and community context. They range from volunteer groups with a paid music director and a hands-on board of directors to fully-professional ensembles with collective bargaining agreements with tenured musicians, a professional staff, and a high-powered governance board – and all points in between. Depending on the size of the orchestra, anywhere from one to well over 200 people are paid to do work directly for and with the orchestra each season, and they are all vulnerable to changes in their orchestra’s financial health. Orchestras also tend to plan and market their concerts 18-24 months in advance.

With public gatherings effectively banned in mid-March, our orchestras moved to cancel already-scheduled (and in some cases, sold-out) concerts; as the pandemic has continued, orchestras (which typically perform a September-June season, with some groups also programming in the summer months) have cancelled both spring and summer programs. Refunds or credits for ticket purchases have been processed; and many loyal patrons have converted the value of their tickets to charitable donations. We are tracking the impact of the pandemic on contributed income, and will have more to report as orchestras complete their fiscal years.

Still, we emphasize that some 76% of orchestras’ revenues are vulnerable at this time, their potential loss is highly destabilizing, and – as Canadian Heritage minister Steven Guilbeault said to Montreal’s Chamber of Commerce last week, “« Il est difficile de voir un retour à la normale avant le début de l’année prochaine, et c’est peut-être ça aussi, un scénario optimiste ». Indeed, every published provincial guidelines place concerts and other large public events in the final stages of their proposed reopening plans.

Orchestras are now looking at alternate scenarios for fall 2020 and beyond, including the cancellation or postponement of concerts, the implementation of physical distancing measures for artists, audience members, and venue workers, and re-programming already-planned concerts to feature smaller ensembles, physically-distanced audiences, and different venues. The logistical, financial and legal challenges that these scenarios imply are daunting: the increased costs of implementing recommended health and safety measures combined with significantly reduced ticket revenues are simply incompatible. At the same time, we emphasize that orchestras will not put the health of audiences, artists or workers at risk.

Observations on Supports from the Government of Canada

First of all, orchestras are profoundly grateful for the speed at which the Government of Canada has moved to implement economic supports across the broader economy: speed that has been matched with a high level of responsiveness to emerging needs and issues. The pace at which such programs as the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy, Canada Emergency Response Benefit and the Canada Emergency Bank Account have been successfully introduced and adapted to meet diverse needs across the economy has been nothing short of remarkable. We also note the Canada Council for the Arts’ decision to expedite the release of 35% of core grants to organizations payable in the 2020-21 fiscal year; while this will not have an impact on year-end results, it will assist some 37 Canadian orchestras to manage cash flow at a tremendously challenging time. Thank you.

Secondly, we eagerly await details on the $500 million investment in arts, culture and sports, first announced by Prime Minister Trudeau on April 17. We hope that some portion of it can be directed to meet needs not yet addressed in the cross-economy measures already in effect.

Specific gaps during the emergency relief period include the following:

  • The CEWS only applies to employees, and not to long-time independent contractors. This leaves a number of orchestras in a difficult situation: they are continuing to compensate their contracted musicians (whom they treat as independent contractors) to create and work from home, but are not yet eligible for any form of subsidy to assist with this cost. This could be addressed by expanding the program to incorporate more classes of workers.
  • We also note that CEWS is due to end June 6: well before orchestras are likely to see any stability in their earned or contributed revenues, since many may still be closed until early 2021 or later.
  • The CEBA is available only to groups with payroll between $20,000 and $1.5 million per year. Larger groups, with greater cash flow assistance needs, are ineligible for consideration for interest-free loans by BDC and EDC because they are organized as registered charities. This could be addressed by expanding the CEBA to cover more employers, or potentially removing the exclusion of organizations that further a charitable purpose under the Canada Small Business Financing Act, to enable banks to assist larger organizations in our sector and to provide additional support for mid-sized orchestras who need more than the $40,000 that CEBA offers.
  • Smaller arts organizations and grassroots community groups have, to some extent, fallen between the cracks of the targeted government assistance to date, yet play a key role in their communities and are profoundly affected by the crisis. We join with Imagine Canada in the call for a non-profit and charitable sector stabilization fund to help them continue to function through this time.
  • Many cultural and community-based organizations own and manage their own buildings, edifices that need to be heated, lit, secured, and maintained even when closed and not generating revenue. They are under unique pressure at this time. Again, we are pleased to support Imagine Canada’s call for a sector stabilization program that would help address the needs of valued community-based groups that own and manage community infrastructure.
  • We’d also emphasize the desirability of providing broad-based incentives for charitable giving and business sponsorship at this time. We support a temporary increase in non-refundable tax credits for charitable giving, believing that this will be the most helpful to the greatest number of groups, and would be relatively easy to administer.

At another point in the Standing Committee’s process, we would be pleased to share perspectives on the re-building, re-imagining and re-launching phases ahead. Although the timeline for lifting restrictions is currently and inevitably far from certain, it is likely that the live performing arts will be at the far end of that process. Identifying and addressing the interim needs for support for our sector will be fundamental to achieving a robust and comprehensive return to core activities.

In both good and challenging times, our member orchestras serve and connect with audiences in every Canadian province. The Government of Canada has been an important partner in this work over many years, and we look forward to continued work together. Thank you for your consideration.

Katherine Carleton, C.M.
Executive Director
Orchestras Canada/Orchestres Canada

Submission to the Ontario Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs

January 2020

On behalf of Ontario’s sixty-nine orchestras, the audiences they serve, the musicians they engage, and the enterprises they work with, Orchestras Canada is pleased to participate in the Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs’ pre-budget consultations. We appreciate this opportunity and look forward to a continued and constructive dialogue with legislators in the coming months.

Orchestras are part of Ontario’s not for profit arts sector and a key element of the province’s creative economy. Ontario’s creative sector sustains over 286,000 jobs and contributes $25 billion to the province’s GDP. According to recent Statistics Canada data, the sector is over three times larger than either agriculture or mining (respectively contributing $7.4 and $6.9 billion to the province’s GDP).

Orchestras contribute to jobs and the economy in towns and cities across the province, a key priority for the Government of Ontario. It’s a good news story: every dollar invested by the Ontario Arts Council in operating grants to not-for-profit arts organizations (such as orchestras) is complemented by an average of $15.58 in private sector revenue (ticket sales, fees, donations, and sponsorship); furthermore, every dollar invested by the Ontario Arts Council in operating grants enables $21.60 in spending, including $12.26 on fees and salaries to Ontarians. The economic multiplier effect associated with the not-for-profit arts in Ontario has been conservatively estimated as 1:1.23.

Orchestras in Ontario

The Province of Ontario has had a long and mutually beneficial relationship with Ontario’s orchestras, demonstrated by thoughtful investment through the Ontario Arts Council (OAC). This investment (though proportionally small at 5.2% of Ontario orchestras’ overall revenues in 2018-19) plays an important role in the viability and success of our orchestras: the timing of grant announcements allows groups to plan responsibly, and the thoroughness of the grant review processes ensure that applicant organizations are addressing critical issues and are well-placed to succeed on-stage and in their communities, as well. Public support is seen as a vote of confidence in an organization, helping to leverage private sector investment.

From Thunder Bay to Owen Sound, from Windsor and Timmins to Ottawa, Toronto, and Kitchener- Waterloo, orchestras and the musicians they engage touch the lives of our citizens in meaningful ways that create impact: economically, socially and culturally.

  • Orchestras support jobs in communities around the province, directly through fees paid to musicians and related personnel, and indirectly, in their relationships with concert venues, media, print media, IT professionals, marketing firms, hospitality, and tourism industries.
  • The musicians that orchestras engage are the same people that perform in long-term care facilities, churches, and community centres. They offer music lessons, and support education programs in the schools and community. If there’s no orchestra, the musicians disperse, and these many contributions are lost.
  • Through their public performances, education and community engagement programming, and extracurricular activities by their musicians, orchestras make cities and communities more active and attractive places, leading to happier, more engaged and more productive citizens. Tourism operators call orchestras “destination enhancers”. Additionally, orchestras have developed programs that specifically address important facets of our lives, like health and wellness, healthy aging, better learning outcomes, social integration, and newcomer welcomes.
  • Orchestras are an acknowledged part of Ontario’s civic infrastructure. If a community is not large enough to support an orchestra, its residents still benefit from orchestras’ activities, through touring performances, teaching programs, or digital dissemination.

The diversity of Ontario’s orchestras (ranging from internationally-renowned ensembles that engage skilled professionals to perform at home in Ontario and on the world stage, volunteer-driven groups performing for neighbours and friends, our vibrant youth orchestras, seniors’ groups, big-city and small- town orchestras alike) is unique in Canada. Each one of these groups is a source of pride to its community.

The power of leveraging Ontario’s investment in orchestras

In 2018-19, grants to smaller-budget orchestras from the Ontario Arts Council ranged between $8000 and $17,000. These relatively modest investments might make the difference between an organization’s ability to mount a community engagement program, or not; might cover a part-time wage to an administrator to coordinate the orchestra’s activities, or not; might allow the orchestra to engage a skilled professional music director, or not. Relatively modest investments have major impact at the community level.

OAC investment in larger-budget orchestras in 2018-19, while greater in dollar amount, still represented on average well under 10% of the funded groups’ annual revenues. These larger orchestras create a significant number of jobs for professional musicians across the province, and reported attendance of over 820,000 people in 2018-19.

Looking forward

Orchestras, like any other business, thrive when they have access to stable, adequate resources to plan with confidence, develop long-term relationships, and make meaningful commitments to workers, whether artists, administrators, or production personnel. In turn, they contribute to communities, our education system and economy.

In 2018-19, the Ontario government reduced the OAC’s funding in-year by $5 million, as part of an overall reduction to government spending. Reduced funding to the OAC means that orchestras – along with the rest of the arts community – are re-shaping their activities to match the resources available, resulting in less arts activity, less ability to invest in long term developmental initiatives, reduced capacity for strategic risk-taking, and less economic spin-off. This affects their contribution–economically, socially and culturally–to the fabric of Ontario.

Building alternative models

Between 1998 and 2008, the Ontario Arts Endowment Fund (launched by a prior Progressive Conservative government and administered by the Ontario Arts Foundation) matched a remarkable $60 million in private sector contributions to arts organizations of all sizes in communities across the province. The combined funds have been invested in perpetuity, and income from these investments provides unrestricted revenue that arts organizations (including orchestras) are using to sustain and develop important programs, including arts education, community engagement, and accessibility-focused programs. While the Ontario program ended in 2008, donors’ enthusiasm for this kind of matching funds program remains high: an equivalent federal program, in place since 2001, has been consistently over-subscribed.

Alternative approaches to financing such as the Ontario Arts Endowment Fund can strengthen the long- term sustainability of arts organizations, including orchestras, in times of fiscal restraint. We would welcome the opportunity to explore this and other approaches to resourcing the arts.

Our recommendations

Earlier this month, OC consulted our Ontario member orchestras on key messages and issues. Here’s what we heard, and here’s what we recommend:

  1. Stable, adequate investment from a trusted arms-length agency like the Ontario Arts Council is vital for orchestras. Without it, their capacity to serve their communities effectively is diminished, as is their ability to leverage funding at the federal level and from the private sector.

Recommendation: We ask the Government of Ontario to increase its investment in the arts through the Ontario Arts Council by $5 million in fiscal 2020-21, to work with the OAC to measure the impact of this investment, and to sustain and increase the investment over time.

  1. There is an integral connection between the quality of arts education (including music) in the province’s publicly-funded schools and the vitality of local musical culture. Orchestra leaders acknowledge that strong school music programs (with relevant and visionary curricula, qualified teachers, and collaboration between local arts organizations and school arts programs) are necessary for strong community-based music organizations, today and in the future. Orchestras are eager to play their part in introducing students to the power of live performance, thereby strengthening school programs, reducing barriers to arts access and participation, and expanding the work that they are already doing in their communities.

Recommendation: We ask the Government of Ontario, through the Ministries of Heritage, Sport, Tourism, and Culture Industries and Education in collaboration with the Ontario Arts Council to pilot and evaluate a program (over a three-year period, in different jurisdictions across the province) to fully subsidize student attendance at live performances by Ontario professional arts groups. Modeled on a highly successful program in the province of Quebec, a relatively modest investment – to be determined between Ministries – could yield significant results.

  1. Orchestras would welcome measures to leverage existing private sector investment and help diversify revenues. One such model was successfully introduced in Ontario in the late 1990s as the Ontario Arts Endowment Program, matching private sector contributions to arts organizations’ endowment funds dollar for dollar up to a capped amount. According to the Ontario Arts Foundation (administrator of the program), during the program’s existence, arts organizations across Ontario attracted $60 million in matching funds. And over the last 20 years, the investment has yielded more than $87 million in income to participating Ontario arts organizations.

Recommendation: We ask the Government of Ontario to explore with the Ontario Arts Foundation the feasibility of revising, re-investing in, and re-launching the Ontario Arts Endowment Program.

  1. Orchestras are keen to expand their use of digital tools to expand their reach and serve their communities more effectively. Yet, lacking capacity for the required investments in new technology and expertise, they often lag behind. Relatively small investments in digital transformation (modeled on the Digital Main Street partnership between the Ontario government and the Ontario BIA Association) will make a significant difference in the not-for-profit arts sector, and complement the targeted investment the province has already made in revitalizing the digital footprint of small businesses.

Recommendation: We ask the Government of Ontario to explore the feasibility of piloting a Digital Main Street-style program for not-for-profit arts and culture organizations.

Investment in orchestras and the arts is an investment in the people of Ontario that will drive economic growth and cultural development. Arts investment provides a return in investment that can be measured by economic growth, social cohesion and well-being, and cultural engagement – all elements important to making Ontario a fair and welcoming province.

Thank you for considering Orchestras Canada’s recommendations for Budget 2020. We sincerely appreciate the opportunity to participate in this process.

Katherine Carleton, C.M.
Executive Director
Orchestras Canada/Orchestres Canada

Orchestras Canada – Ontario Member Orchestras 2019-20

Ardeleana Chamber Music Society/Whispering River Orchestra (Parry Sound, ON), Brantford Symphony Orchestra, Burlington Symphony Orchestra, Cambridge Symphony Orchestra, Cathedral Bluffs Symphony Orchestra (Scarborough), Counterpoint Community Orchestra (Toronto), Deep River Symphony Orchestra, Dundas Valley Orchestra (Dundas), Durham Chamber Orchestra (Port Perry), Durham Youth Orchestra (Oshawa), Esprit Orchestra (Toronto), Etobicoke Philharmonic Orchestra, Georgian Bay Symphony (Owen Sound), Guelph Symphony Orchestra, Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra, Huronia Symphony Orchestra (Barrie), International Symphony Orchestra (Sarnia), Italian Canadian Symphony Orchestra (Toronto), Kanata Symphony Orchestra, Kawartha Youth Orchestra (Peterborough), Kindred Spirits Orchestra (Markham), Kingston Symphony, Kitchener-Waterloo Chamber Orchestra, Kitchener-Waterloo Community Orchestra, Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony, Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony Youth Orchestra, London Community Orchestra, London Symphonia, Milton Philharmonic Orchestra, Mississauga Symphony Orchestra, Music4Life Ensemble (Ajax), National Arts Centre Orchestra / Orchestre du Centre national des Arts (Ottawa), National Youth Orchestra of Canada (Toronto), Niagara Symphony Orchestra (St. Catharines), North Bay Symphony Orchestra, Northumberland Orchestra & Choir (Cobourg), North York Concert Orchestra, Oakville Chamber Orchestra, Oakville Symphony, Oakville Symphony Youth Orchestra, Ontario Philharmonic (Oshawa), Orchestra Breva (Harrow), Orchestra Kingston, Orchestra Toronto, Ottawa Pops Orchestra, Ottawa Symphony Orchestra, Ottawa Youth Orchestra Academy, Parkdale United Church Orchestra (Ottawa), Pembroke Symphony Orchestra, Peterborough Symphony Orchestra, Quinte Symphony (Belleville), Richmond Hill Philharmonic Orchestra, Rose Orchestra (Brampton), Sault Symphony Orchestra, Scarborough Philharmonic Orchestra, Sinfonia Toronto, Stratford Symphony Orchestra, Strings Attached Orchestra (Toronto), Sudbury Symphony Orchestra, Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra (Toronto), Thirteen Strings Chamber Orchestra (Ottawa), Thunder Bay Symphony Orchestra, Thunder Bay Symphony Youth Orchestra, Timmins Symphony Orchestra, Timmins Youth Orchestra, Toronto Symphony Orchestra, Toronto Symphony Youth Orchestra, Windsor Symphony Orchestra, York Chamber Ensemble.

Ontario Associate Organizations, 2019-20: 

Ars Musica (Toronto), Brott Music Festival/National Academy Orchestra (Hamilton), Canadian Federation of Musicians (Toronto), Dean Artists Management (Toronto), Domoney Artists Management (Toronto), Music Toronto, National Ballet Orchestra (Toronto), Sultans of String (Burlington), University of Toronto Faculty of Music

Federal Election Polling Trends

Note: The following analysis is based on data from as of October 15, 2019.

In Ontario

  • Both the Conservatives and the Liberals could either lose or gain significant ground in Ontario. So many races are too close to call that the outcome in Ontario could help either party to form the next government. The Liberals held 76 seats in Ontario when the writ was dropped and are projected to win between 32 and 92 seats. The Conservatives held 33 seats in Ontario and are projected to win between 20 and 73 seats. Conservatives have been trending up in Ontario over the past week.
  • The Liberals are projected to lose up to 5 seats in OC member ridings: Kitchener-South-Hespeler, Peterborough-Kawartha, Richmond Hill, Oakville-North-Burlington, St Catharines.
  • At the onset of the election, we had identified 6 ridings to watch for OC members in Ontario: Kitchener-South-Hespeler (Toss up Liberal/Conservative – possible Liberal loss), Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound (Conservative hold), Hamilton-Centre (NDP hold ), Barrie-Springwater-Oro Medonte (Conservative hold), Richmond Hill (Toss up Liberal/Conservative – possible Liberal loss), Oakville-North-Burlington (Toss up Liberal/Conservative – possible Liberal loss).
  • Since the televised debates, NDP fortunes have been on the upswing in various regions throughout the country, including Ontario, where the party has now pulled into several tight races with Liberal incumbents.

In Québec

  • The NDP’s fortunes have improved somewhat since the televised debates, but the party still stands to lose significant ground in Québec. At the time the writ dropped, the NDP held 14 seats in Québec. As of now, they project to win 2 to 5 seats.
  • The NDP are projected to lose up to 5 seats in OC member ridings: Laurier-Sainte Marie, Hochelaga, Rimouski-Neigette-Témiscouatta-Les Basques, Trois rivières, Sherbrooke.
  • The Liberals could lose the most ground in Québec. At the time the writ was dropped, the Liberals held 40 seats in Québec. As of now, they project to win 18 to 44 seats.
  • In several ridings where OC members are based, the races between Liberals and the Bloc Québécois are too close to call.
  • The Bloc Québécois stands to be the biggest winner. At the time the writ was dropped, the Bloc held 10 seats. As of now, they project to win between 21 and 47 seats. The number of projected wins for the Bloc has nearly doubled since the televised debates.
  • At the onset of the election, we had identified 7 ridings to watch for OC members in Québec: Laurier-Sainte Marie (Toss up Liberal/Bloc – NDP loss), Hochelaga (Leaning Bloc – NDP loss), Outremont (Liberal Hold), Ville Marie-Sud Ouest-Île des soeurs (Liberal Hold), Longueil-Charles Lemoyne (Toss up Liberal/Bloc – possible Liberal loss), Québec (Toss up Liberal/Bloc – possible Liberal loss), Chicoutimi-Le Fjord (Toss up Bloc/Conservative – possible Conservative loss).

Updates on Instruments with Endangered Species Material

Following three years of consensus-building among music stakeholders, governmental authorities, and conservation experts, policy requests put forward by a consortium of partners in the international music community (led by the League of American Orchestras, and heartily endorsed by Orchestras Canada, among many others) gained approval on August 28 at the gathering of 183 parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) at the Conference of the Parties (CoP18) in Geneva.

Actions were approved that will improve the mobility of performing artists, and redirect enforcement resources to support conservation, and facilitate international cultural activity.

For orchestras and individual musicians seeking to buy and sell instruments across borders, or to travel internationally for performances, CITES sets some limitations and requires permits for instruments containing material from species under protected status, such as rosewood, lizards, sea turtles, and elephants. At CoP18, treaty negotiators considered new rules related to items containing rosewood, cedrela, and mammoth ivory, and improvements to the Musical Instrument Certificate in use by touring orchestras.

Delegates from the U.S., Canada, the European Union, the CITES Secretariat, World Resources Institute, and the World Wildlife Fund International all spoke in support of policy changes that will advance both conservation needs and cultural activity. The following improvements were adopted:

Rosewood: A proposal was adopted to allow all commercial and non-commercial movement of finished musical instruments, parts, and accessories that contain rosewood (the dalbergia genus) to be exempt from CITES permit requirements, aside from Brazilian rosewood (dalbergia nigra), which has been under tighter restrictions since 1992, and will remain subject to permit requirements. The exemption will be in effect starting in late November 2019, 90 days after adoption.

This represents a significant relief for musicians that buy and sell instruments containing rosewood internationally. This also adds certainty for musicians and orchestras traveling with instruments that contain rosewood. These instruments will be fully exempt from permit requirements.

In the course of discussions among a variety of stakeholders, a consensus emerged confirming that conservation goals are not furthered by requiring finished musical instruments, parts, and accessories to repeatedly undergo permit processes. However, the rosewood material used in making musical instruments will remain subject to permit requirements; this conservation effort was supported by musical instrument stakeholders.

Cedrela: A proposal related to newly listing Cedrela (a tree species used in making some classical guitars), was amended to exclude finished musical instruments containing the wood from new CITES permit requirements. The exemption will be in effect starting in late August 2020, 12 months after adoption.

Mammoth: A proposal to include the woolly mammoth as a species subject to CITES controls was rejected. Many Parties stated that mammoth ivory can be differentiated from elephant ivory in trade. Mammoth ivory has been used in small quantities to replace elephant ivory in musical instruments for several decades. CITES parties agreed to consider studying how the trade in mammoth ivory impacts elephant conservation.

Musical Instrument Certificate: A decision was approved to initiate a CITES effort to streamline and simplify permit requirements for “the international movement of CITES specimens where the trade will have a negligible impact on the conservation of the species concerned,” including the non-commercial cross-border movement of musical instruments. The CITES Musical Instrument Certificate is used by musicians performing internationally with older instruments that contain protected species material that require CITES permits, such as elephant ivory tips on bows, tortoiseshell embellishments, and lizard skin bow grips. Currently, substantial resources must be invested by both musicians and enforcement authorities to enable musicians to perform internationally with their instruments. Next steps in response to calls to ease the permit burden will take place in CITES meetings beginning in 2020. Resolutions were also approved to harmonize the codes used on the Musical Instrument Certificate and clarify the requirements for determining that items qualify for CITES permits.

The international musical community has a lasting commitment to the goals of CITES, and will remain at the table to help form policies that support the sustainability of endangered species. Detailed information on changes to the current rules for traveling with musical instruments containing endangered species material is available on the League of American Orchestras website.

In Geneva and over the course of the three-year negotiations, orchestras and other stakeholders have been ably represented by Heather Noonan, Vice President for Advocacy at the League of American Orchestras. We are grateful to Heather, the League, and the many international partners that collaborated to advance these policy requests, including:

American Federation of Musicians, Argentinian Association of Musical Instruments Manufacturers, Association of British Orchestras, Australian Music Association, Brazilian Music Industry Association (ANAFIMA), The National Association of German Musical Instruments Manufacturers, C.F. Martin & Co., Confederation of European Music Industries (CAFIM), Dismamusica, Fender Musical Instruments Corporation, ForestBased Solutions, LLC, French Musical Instrument Organization (CSFI), International Alliance of Instrument and Bow Makers for Endangered Species, International Association of Violin and Bow Makers (EILA), International Federation of Musicians (FIM), International Wood Products Association, Japan Musical Instruments Association, Madinter, Music Industries Association, National Association of Music Merchants, Orchestras Canada, Paul Reed Smith, PEARLE*, The Recording Academy, The SOMM – Society of Music Merchants e. V., and Taylor Guitars.

Submission to the Standing Committee on Finance: 2020 Pre-Budget Consultation

OC Logo

The entire submission is available here.

Orchestras Canada/Orchestres Canada Recommendations:
  1. Ensure that charities and not-for-profits have the same access to federal programs supporting research and fact-based carbon reduction education and projects as their SME  and MUSH sector counterparts.
  2. Ensure that the five-year $180 million investment for the Canada Council for the Arts announced in Budget 2016 is completed in Budget 2020-21.
  3. Enhance the budget of the Endowment Incentives component of the Canada Cultural Investment Fund by $6.5 million annually, to help arts and culture organizations raise private sector contributions and develop stable, long-term revenues through the growth of endowment funds.
  4. Increase funding and support for internships and on-the-job training for arts managers by $500,000 annually to ensure succession planning and diversification of the sector.

On behalf of our 125 member orchestras from across Canada, the audiences they engage, and the diverse communities they serve, Orchestras Canada/Orchestres Canada (OC) is pleased to participate in the Standing Committee on Finance’s pre-budget consultations.

At OC, we believe that orchestras are strong contributors to quality of life in Canadian towns and cities, valued participants in community commemorations, capable partners in community cultural and educational development, and proud standard-bearers for Canadian achievement, locally, nationally and internationally.

Canadian orchestras are not-for-profit organizations and registered charities. According to data collected by Orchestras Canada, Canadian orchestras performed 3718 performances for 2.894 million Canadians in 2017-18. That same season, our members generated revenue from box office and other earned sources (an average of 36.2% of revenues); donations, sponsorship, and special events (38.8%), and from grants and contributions from various levels of government (25%). Over 70% of a typical orchestra’s budget is spent on people. Orchestras manage their resources prudently, but – without adequate capitalization – they can be profoundly affected by prevailing economic conditions.

Orchestras contribute significantly to the vitality, cohesion and competitiveness of Canadian communities; the ability of Canadian communities and businesses to attract and retain talent; creating and maintaining good jobs and contributing to the quality of lives of Canadians. These are key attributes that help make Canada such a desirable country in which to live and do business. Export of Canadian orchestras’ work – through international touring and digital dissemination of recordings and live streaming – projects a modern image of Canada, highlights the talent of artists from across the country, supports innovative approaches and leverages the creativity of technological progress and contributes to Canada’s cultural diplomacy.

Accordingly, while we see government investment in orchestras as important, we are equally interested in policies that favour attractive, sustainable, participatory communities, and the growth and sustainability of the charitable sector. The four measures that we propose this year will be good for orchestras; and they’ll contribute to the cultural and economic fabric of our communities, too.

Recommendation #1: Collective responses to the climate emergency

This year, the Committee is specifically seeking recommendations pertaining to the climate emergency and the transition to a low carbon economy. OC and our members know that climate change is a profound threat to our economy, our communities and our future, and we are pleased to address this topic in our brief.

Canadian orchestras are increasingly engaged in carbon reduction efforts through:

  • Stewardship (operation or tenancy) of performing, rehearsal and office space, often in re-purposed or heritage buildings;
  • Operating practices that prioritize energy-use and waste reduction, and strategic use of digital materials in place of paper;
  • Encouragement to audience members to consider transportation alternatives;
  • Careful planning of tours, to minimize carbon footprint;
  • Artistic programming that helps to draw public attention to environmental issues.  (The Earth Day Network has compiled a list of orchestral works inspired by environmental issues, including Canadian composer Vincent Ho’s Arctic Symphony, composed for the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra)

As important as these measures are, they reflect hyper-local and isolated responses to a global concern. For Canadian orchestras to fully engage in this work – with other performing arts partners in both the for-profit and not-for-profit sectors – they require access to the same policy frameworks, research, knowledge-sharing, and supports as their counterparts in the Small and Medium Enterprise (SME) and Municipalities, Universities, School Boards and Hospitals (MUSH) sectors. Environmental sustainability and the transition to a low carbon economy must be a movement and not simply an action: and it starts with research and education, and culminates in collective and informed action.

Orchestras Canada looks for inspiration to the UK, where bespoke research on the carbon footprint of the performing arts sector has shed light on the greenhouse gas emissions associated with music venues, touring, and audience travel, among other contributors. This solid base of facts has empowered funders, member-driven organizations and orchestras to take meaningful, collective steps toward a lasting change. The UK orchestral sector has developed a Green Charter; arts organizations have identified and measured their main environmental impacts (energy, water, waste, travel); the sector has started to create a demand for goods with strong environmental credentials and commit to sustainable procurement; touring groups have included a “green rider” in performance contracts, made marked efforts to “travel green” (including using public transportation where possible, including on tour), and have worked in collaboration with their venues and with public transit agencies to make it easier for audience members to travel to concerts by transit, bicycle, or electric car.

Canadian orchestras are keen to play our part, and we will work in collaboration with peer organizations in the live music industry to share best practices and, where relevant, engage in dialogue with the Government of Canada. Our efforts will be immeasurably aided if charities and not-for-profits have the same access to federal programs supporting research and fact-based carbon reduction education and projects as their SME and MUSH-sector counterparts.

Recommendation #2: Support for the arts through the Canada Council for the Arts

In Budget 2016, the Government of Canada made a five-year commitment to doubling funding for the arts through the Canada Council for the Arts, taking the Council’s annual parliamentary appropriation from $181 million in 2015-16 to $361 million by 2020-21. We thank the Government of Canada for this investment, and we encourage the Government of Canada to honour this commitment in full, and include the final installment of $35 million in Budget 2020-21.

Canada Council funding made up just 5.9% of total orchestras’ revenues in 2017-18, a proportion that had been declining over the previous five years. With the new infusion of Canada Council funds, we see that this trend is starting to shift. Increased core funding from the Council will permit better planning, more efficient use of resources, and greater resiliency. This, in turn, will enable greater reach, stronger investment in human potential and robust responses to the diverse and changing nature of Canadian communities. Artists and arts organizations in communities across the country have only just started to benefit from this enhanced investment, and they are using it to create new work, new markets, and new prosperity.

Recommendation #3: Increased investment in matching funding for endowments

As the next step in recent updates to the guidelines for the Endowment Incentives Component of the Department of Canadian Heritage’s Canada Cultural Investment Fund, we encourage the Government of Canada to increase the budget of the Component by an additional $6.5 million per year.

Orchestras continue to seek ways to stabilize and diversify their revenues, and endowment funds (funds contributed for long-term impact, invested in perpetuity, and producing an annual payout to support a charity’s mission) are an increasingly important tool for them. OC began collecting information on endowed funds held by or managed on behalf of by Canadian orchestras in 2005-06; since then, orchestras’ endowment holdings have grown from just over $74 million to almost $260 million. The annual payout from these funds is in the order of $12.3 million, almost as much as the total contribution of the Canada Council to Canadian orchestras. The proceeds of endowment funds are critical to securing orchestras’ artistic and community programs.

Since 2001, the Department of Canadian Heritage has supported the growth of arts endowments through a component of the Canada Cultural Investment Fund. Arts organizations can apply annually to get gifts to endowments matched by up to 100% through the Endowment Incentives program, and many orchestras both large and small have taken part. The program has been extremely successful: applications to the program are growing in number, and in recent years it is increasingly limited in the match it can offer. An additional $6.5 million annual investment in the Endowment Incentives program would address the growth in demand on the program. These enhancements would also enable arts organizations of all sizes to continue to build endowment funds by encouraging donors to think long-term.

This is an investment in the future: smart tax policy and progressive program design can provide incentives for increased giving by Canadians, and Canadian orchestras are highly motivated to pursue private sector giving. As stated earlier, in 2017-18, a remarkable 38.8% of Canadian orchestras’ revenue came from charitable, corporate, and special event fundraising. According to a recent analysis by the Canada Council for the Arts, Canadian orchestras saw a 34.4% growth in private sector giving between 2010-11 and 2016-17. If this recommendation is implemented, arts and culture organizations of all sizes will grow their endowment funds, thereby diversifying revenue streams. The result? Arts organizations that are even more artistically vibrant, responsive to community concerns, and adaptable in a transitioning economy, too.

Recommendation #4: Increased investment in internships and youth training

Our sector is continually called upon to anticipate changes in our communities, and develop strategies to adapt our current business models. We know that investing in workforce training and opportunities for emerging management, administrative, and artistic talent is critical to the continued viability of orchestras. Yet continuing financial pressures have resulted in a restructuring of the administrative workforce at Canadian orchestras: a recent Canada Council study of 47 of Canada’s largest orchestras reveals that there’s been an 11.4% decline in the number of full-time, full-year positions at Canadian orchestras between 2010-11 and 2016-17, while seasonal and short-term contract positions have gone from 29% to 50% of the workforce during the same time period. These changes reflect orchestras’ keen interest in making their operations ever more efficient; however, they may – quite inadvertently – close off necessary opportunities for meaningful, reciprocal inter-generational knowledge transfer and thoughtful succession planning.

Canadian orchestras continue to highlight the critical importance of a well-trained, up-to-date and diverse workforce. Working for a Canadian arts organization is often seen as a labour of love, not necessarily a viable career. This, despite the overall cultural sector contribution of $53.1 billion to our country’s GDP. This is particularly the case for young Canadians, seeking to start their career in the current precarious job market. At present, there are few ways to gain a foothold in the cultural sector. In recent years, the Young Canada Works/ Cultural Human Resources Council funding program has had a budget of $226,000 to partially support only 20 paid placements in arts administration per year. Given the urgent need for succession planning, mentorship and knowledge transfer, we need to do better.

Accordingly, we urge the Government of Canada to expand the Young Canada Works program in the area of arts and cultural administration. By increasing the investment in this program by $500,000 per year (from its current base of $226,000), young and emerging arts and cultural workers will gain valuable experience with arts organizations and the organizations themselves can skill up.


Orchestras Canada thanks the Standing Committee on Finance for the opportunity to contribute to the 2020 pre-budget consultations. We would be pleased to discuss our recommendations with you further.

Thank you, Micheline McKay, and welcome Éric Dubeau!

A message from our Executive Director, Katherine Carleton

Micheline McKaySince 2013, Orchestras Canada has been privileged to work with Micheline McKay as our government relations consultant. Micheline has served as trusted advisor, analyst and reliable source of information and feedback to the OC staff, board and Advocacy Committee. Her good sense, high ethical standards, discretion, hard work, and political insights have inspired us all. On a personal note, she’s the best and most patient co-writer I’ve ever worked with, handling my relentless editing and wild spins on things with great aplomb. I also recall with great admiration the role she played in our Orchestras on the Hill day in early 2018: the passionate tributes that Minister of Canadian Heritage and the chairs and vice chairs of the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage paid to orchestras that day came about because of Micheline’s tact and effective organization.

In the fall of 2018, Micheline let us know that she was closing her government relations practice to focus on other things. We bade her a fond farewell in early March, and thanked her on behalf of the entire OC community. She has done exceptional work with us over the last five and a half years and we are grateful.

Éric DubeauStarting April 1, we’ll be welcoming Éric Dubeau as OC’s new government relations advisor. Éric, based just outside Montreal, has many years of experience as an arts advocate, political staffer on Parliament Hill, policy wonk, association leader, granting officer, arts consultant, and award-winning singer-songwriter. His unique skills and collaborative, informed approach make him an ideal successor to Micheline, and we can’t wait to get started!

Our thoughts on the Federal Budget 2019

Map of CanadaThe federal budget, announced on March 19, is the last before this fall’s general election. The budget document included acknowledgment of the importance of the cultural sector, stating:

Across the country, Canada’s artists and their supporters bring people together, to appreciate and celebrate the diversity and creativity that Canadians are known for the world over. Our cultural industries are also an important source of jobs—employing more than 650,000 Canadians—and are a key contributor to our economy, worth nearly $54 billion each year.

To continue advancing the cultural sector, Budget 2019 announced:

$20 million over two years, starting in 2019–20, to the Canada Music Fund.
The Canada Music Fund (CMF) helps the Canadian music industry meet new challenges. A wide range of musicians and entrepreneurs who create, produce and market original and diverse Canadian music are eligible to apply. The CMF is the primary tool implementing the three major objectives of the Canadian Sound Recording Policy, From Creators to Audience, which are: to enhance access to a diverse range of Canadian music choices through existing and emerging media; to increase the opportunities available for Canadian music artists and entrepreneurs to make a significant and lasting contribution to Canadian cultural expression; and to ensure that Canadian music artists and entrepreneurs have the skills, know-how and tools to succeed in a global and digital environment.)

$16 million over two years, starting in 2019–20, to the Canada Arts Presentation Fund.
The Canada Arts Presentation Fund (CAPF) provides financial assistance to organizations that professionally present arts festivals or performing arts series (arts presenters) and organizations that offer support to arts presenters. Through the CAPF, Canadians have access to a variety of professional artistic experiences in their communities. Each year, the CAPF supports approximately 600 professional arts festivals and performing arts series, as well as other activities related to art presentation, in more than 250 cities or communities across Canada. The CAPF has two main components – Programming and Development. The CAPF Programming component has two streams: Professional Arts Festivals and Performing Arts Series Presenters; and Presenter Support Organizations.)

$24 million over two years, starting in 2019–20, to the Building Communities Through Arts and Heritage Program, the Celebration Program, and the Commemoration Program
The Building Communities Through Arts and Heritage program was created to help you celebrate your community – both its past and its present. This program increases opportunities for local artists, artisans, heritage performers or specialists to be involved in their community through festivals, events and projects. It also allows local groups to commemorate their local history and heritage.

Celebrate Canada provides funding for activities organized on National Indigenous Peoples Day (June 21); Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day (June 24); Canadian Multiculturalism Day (June 27); and Canada Day (July 1).

The Commemorate Canada program provides funding to initiatives that commemorate and celebrate historical figures, places, events and accomplishments of national significance. The program favours commemorations and celebrations marking 25th, 50th, 75th, 100th anniversaries and subsequent anniversaries in increments of 25 years.

In addition, support of $1 million is being provided over two years to Canadian Heritage’s efforts to integrate Gender-based Analysis plus (GBA+) in program design.

More broadly—but still of potential value in the arts and culture sector—the budget includes provision for a doubling of work placements for youth through the Canada Summer Jobs program in 2019–20, and new funding to modernize the Youth Employment Strategy.

Budget 2019 continues measures already announced in previous budgets, including staged funding increases to the Canada Council for the Arts, which will double the Council’s parliamentary appropriation (from a 2016 base) by 2021.

What this means for orchestras

The budget’s positive references to the social and economic impact of the arts represent good news for the arts and culture sector. Further, the continued, sustained increase to the Canada Council for the Arts was Orchestras Canada’s number one priority, as put forward in our 2019 pre-budget submission. This looks to have been achieved. Each of the other program increases that we’ve cited may – in very different ways – offer opportunities for Canadian orchestras, and Orchestras Canada will be keeping you apprised of what we learn in the coming weeks.

Next steps
  • Orchestras Canada will review the detailed spending estimates when they’re made available, to better understand the fine details of the budget’s impact.
  • We will reach out to partner umbrella organizations to learn more about the potential impact of these new investments on orchestras.
  • We will continue to press for enhanced investment in the Endowment Incentives program.
  • We will monitor changes to the Youth Employment Strategy, with a focus on enhanced opportunities for the arts sector.
  • And, of course, we’ll share what we’re learning with you.

Arts Day on Parliament Hill

Arts Day on Parliament Hill 2018 image

On October 2, the Canadian Arts Coalition organized a highly successful Arts Day on Parliament Hill, where arts advocates from across the country came together to meet with Members of Parliament and to promote the arts. OC’s Executive Director Katherine Carleton was one of more than 100 advocates who took part.

The participants in this event were put into teams, and each team met with MPs, Senators, staff and key officials over the course of the day. Katherine, along with colleagues (Cathryn Gregor, Canada’s National Ballet School; and Steven Smits, Volcano Theatre/Peggy Baker Dance Company) had the opportunity to meet with four MPs or staff: Wayne Easter (Malpeque, PEI), Larry Miller (Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound, ON), Ali Ehsassi (Willowdale, ON) and Anthony Rota (Nipissing Timiskaming, ON)

The Canadian Arts Coalition prepared participants for their meetings through a training webinar, as well as a series of downloadable materials in English and in French, including a meeting script and documents to leave behind, customizable for each MP.

“MPs are keen to know about the impact that federal investment in the arts has in their ridings,” Katherine says. “By and large, they are very aware of the artists and arts organizations in their ridings, but the connection between federal policy and those wonderful individuals and organizations is not always so clear.”

Arts Day on the Hill is an opportunity for beginners and experienced arts advocates alike. “It’s for anyone who might benefit from thoughtful federal arts policy and funding,” Katherine says. The Coalition removes a lot of the stress surrounding these meetings by setting them up for you, and providing sound research, statistics, and infographics. They also pair up people of differing levels of advocacy experience so that you can also learn from the team who go into the meeting with you.

While there is a lot of value in the wide scope of the arts messaging that the Coalition prepared, there is also much value in advocacy work that is specifically related to orchestras. “I tended to speak to the positions that specifically addressed orchestras’ needs, while my colleagues addressed “asks” that more directly affected their sectors,” Katherine explains. “Still, the feedback that we received during meetings – and the discussions we started – will make it easier to return with more orchestra-specific messages.”

We asked Katherine how the orchestral community might participate in this advocacy work on its own behalf.

“Orchestras Canada’s advocacy committee is planning an Orchestras in the Ridings Week in January that we’d like all our members to take part in. We’re preparing orchestra-specific messages that we’d like you to discuss with your MP, and we’ll provide a training session, downloadable templates and leave-behind materials to help get you prepare. The Advocacy Committee will be testing these materials with their own MPs this November, and committee members and the OC team are there to support you along the way.”

Last year, OC ran its own Orchestras Day in Ottawa, and our intrepid teams met with over 20 MPs and Senators.  We’d like to triple that number this year, and with your help, we’ll make it happen!

Advocacy Update: August 2018

As summer draws to a close, we are writing to update you on OC’s recent advocacy work with the federal government. In July, we surveyed members to affirm the sector’s main federal public policy priorities. Not surprisingly, ensuring that the Government of Canada follows through on its full commitment to increased funding to the Canada Council for the Arts topped the list for respondents. Other high priorities? Sustained and increased funding to the Endowment Incentives component of the Canada Cultural Investment Fund and better training opportunities for emerging arts professionals.

These priorities formed the basis of Orchestra Canada’s pre-budget recommendations to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance. The annual pre-budget process provides organizations like ours the opportunity to put forward its main policy priorities to the federal government. They also form the basis of our year-round advocacy activity. Orchestras Canada has consistently participated in this process, on behalf of its members, for over ten years.

Specifically, Orchestras Canada recommended that the federal government:

1. Ensure that the five-year $180 million investment for the Canada Council for the Arts announced in Budget 2016 be sustained and fully realized in Canada’s long-term fiscal plan.
2. Update the guidelines for, and enhance the budget of, the Endowment Incentives component of the Canada Cultural Investment Fund, to help arts and culture organizations raise private sector contributions and develop stable, long-term revenues through the growth of endowment funds.
3. Increase the investment in the arts administration and arts practice component of the Young Canada Works program by $500,000 per year, to expand the number of funded positions, help emerging cultural workers gain valuable training and early work experience, and enable strong succession planning in arts organizations.

Several of our recommendations are shared by other organizations in our sector, including and a consortium of large arts organizations – including several orchestras – focused on securing support to the Endowment Incentives program.

What next?

Orchestras Canada staff, together with the Advocacy Committee, will be working this fall to meet with MPs and their staff in key ridings to share our recommendations and increase awareness of the impact of orchestras in our towns and cities.

Over the course of the fall, we will also be preparing for an Orchestras in the Ridings Week, tentatively scheduled for January 2019, during which we’ll be encouraging all our members to meet with their MPs in January. We’ll be in touch with more details as soon as possible.

Canadian Arts Coalition Update

The Canadian Arts Coalition, a collaborative non-partisan movement spearheaded by a group of national arts service and membership organizations – of which Orchestras Canada is a member – is preparing for Arts Day on the Hill, 2 October 2018. If you’re interested in participating, you can find out more, and register on their website.

Advocating on behalf of its broad membership base, the Canadian Arts Coalition put forward these two recommendations in its pre-budget brief:

  • to increase the funding to the Canada Arts Presentation Fund for performing arts presenters and festivals by $30 million in order to create synergies with other federal investments and to enable Canadian productions to be competitive both on the domestic market and on the world stage.
  • to recognize the professional status of Canadian artists by implementing fair taxation in order to establish a more coherent and predictable support and fiscal ecosystem.

The full brief can be found at

Orchestras Canada makes recommendations to the Federal Standing Committee on Finance

In early August, Orchestras Canada submitted a brief to the federal Standing Committee on Finance as part of the committee’s annual pre-budget consultation process.

Informed by a member consultation, our discussions with advocacy partners, our sense of the current political climate, and discussions with OC’s Advocacy Committee, OC made four recommendations to the Committee this year:

Recommendation 1: Ensure that the five-year $180 million investment for the Canada Council for the Arts announced in Budget 2016 is sustained and fully realized in Canada’s long-term fiscal plan.

Recommendation 2: Acknowledge the fundamental importance of digital capacity in the arts by ensuring there are comprehensive, integrated, accessible, and forward-thinking federal programs and policies in place.

Recommendation 3: Enhance the Endowment Incentives program (part of the Department of Canadian Heritage’s Canada Cultural Investment Fund), to help arts and culture organizations develop stable, long-term revenues through the growth of endowment funds.

Recommendation 4: Help arts and culture organizations provide full-time, career-oriented work opportunities to recent graduates of post-secondary institutions by expanding the Young Canada Works program.

You can find the entire brief HERE.

We urge Canadian orchestras to read the brief, and share it with their Members of Parliament, as an attachment to an email, as a hard copy inclusion in a letter on orchestra letterhead, or through discussion in a face-to-face meeting in your riding. Whether your MP is an opposition backbencher, or a member of the federal Cabinet, we’d like them to be aware that federal policy and investment decisions can have significant local ramifications.