Overview of the 2015 Federal Budget

April 22, 2015 – The federal government tabled its 2015 budget yesterday. It is a balanced budget, the first since 2007. Here's a brief outlook at the budget from the perspective of the arts.

Finance minister Joe Oliver, presenting the budget in the House of CommonsArts-related announcement are grouped under the title "Celebrating our Heritage". The budget plan states: "The Government is continuing to make investments which will ensure that Canadians have opportunities to celebrate and commemorate Canada’s heritage and values."

The budget illustrates this commitment by listing examples of past investements, including the $110.5 million renewal of the National Arts Centre and a renewed five year committment to Harbourfront Centre.

The main announcement in the budget pertains to the Canada 150 initiative:

“Economic Action Plan 2015 proposes to provide $210 million over four years, starting in 2015 –16, to support activities, events and celebrations across Canada. Funding will be used to support local community events such as festivals and concerts, enhanced Canada Day celebrations in the National Capital Region and other major Canadian cities, and other national initiatives, such as Rendez-vous naval 2017, that will unite Canadians from coast to coast to coast.”

It is not known, at this point, whether or not this is new money, and if any of it will be funneled through the Canada Arts Presentation Fund. Even if it involves new money, the language used in the budget suggests that the funds would be delivered through more than one program. We will post additional information as it becomes available.

The budget did not include any investments in response to the recommendations of the Canadian Arts Coalition. The Coalition's proposed $35M increased to the Canada Council for the Arts represents less than 3% of the tax cut granted to small businesses : a case can be made that artists are small businesses too.

Finally, although this isn't a budgetary measure per se, the budget also proposes to "amend the Copyright Act so that the term of protection of performances and sound recordings is extended from 50 years to 70 years following the date of the release of the sound recordings." This is a sensitive change and the reaction by Music Canada, CIMA and other music industry stakeholders has been very positive.

Other announcements of note

Beyond the heritage announcements, other measures are noteworthy for the arts sector.

The most interesting announcement for live arts organizations will likely be the Canada 150 Community Infrastructure Program. It will be a new, dedicated infrastructure fund to support the renovation, expansion and improvement of existing community infrastructure in all regions of the country. The budget articulates: "These new investments, which will be cost-shared with municipalities, community organizations and not-for-profit entities, will support projects that celebrate our shared heritage, create jobs and improve the quality of life of Canadians from coast to coast to coast." This measure is not costed and details will only be revealed in the coming months. However, arts organizations who have infrastructure needs ought to shape up their plans and talk to their municipality now.

The budget also includes a few announcements for the charitable sector. The budget will exempt individual and corporate donors from tax when private shares or real estate are sold and the proceeds are donated to charity within 30 days. This recommendation had been supported by the Performing Arts Alliance during the during the Finance Committee’s 2012 hearings on charitable giving. Our main recommendation, a stretch-tax credit which is meant to expand the donor base, was however not included in the budget.

Two Employment Insurance measures will also have an impact on arts organizations' human resources costs. The Small Business Job Credit – which reduces Employment Insurance premiums payable by employers, including charities and nonprofits, whose premiums are $15,000 a year or less – will continue through 2015 and 2016. This lowers the employer premium from $1.88 to $1.60 for every $100 in insurable earnings. Moreover, in 2017, Employment Insurance premiums will be lowered for all employers, to $1.49 for every $100 in insurable earnings.



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