Canada cuts $6 bil in arts funds

The Canadian government has announced a massive $ C8 billion ($ 6.24 billion) budget reduction over two years that will result in cuts to film and TV funder Telefilm Canada, the National Film Board of Canada and virtually every other institution that falls under the jurisdiction of the federal Department of Communications (DOC).

Few details were available late yesterday about which sectors would be hardest hit.

However, sources say Telefilm Canada–the lifeblood of Canada’s film and TV industry–could be facing a cut of $ C12.5 million ($ 9.75 million) from its $ C 145 million ($ C113.1 million) annual appropriation or its $ C172.5 million ($ 134.55 million) budget.

Telefilm representatives could not confirm the figure, saying even government employees don’t yet know the official numbers.

Confusion arose because details weren’t outlined in the televised speech by federal finance minister Don Mazankowski, who announced yesterday that “operating budgets of all government departments will be reduced by 5% over the next two years, grants and subsidies will be cut by 10% over the next two years, while salaries for public servants will be frozen.”

How that will affect the DOC is unclear because much DOC money falls into both categories of operating budget and grant.

The DOC has a $ C660 million ($ 514.8 million) budget. However, it also oversees “portfolios” (such as Telefilm Canada, the NFB and the Canadian Broadcasting Corp.) for a grand total of $ C2.812 billion ($ 2.19 billion).

A DOC spokesman could not confirm which parts of those budgets are considered operating budgets (subject to an immediate 2% cut) and which parts are grants, subject to a 5%-10% chop, “but everybody is biting the bullet, that’s for sure.”

A National Film Board representative confirmed that it would face a cut in its $ C90 million ($ 70.2 million) budget but said even NFB officials don’t yet know the extent of the damage.

Officials at the Canadian Broadcasting Corp.–which receives $ C1.48 billion ($ 1.15 billion) annually–did not return calls.

A second speech last night, by Gilles Loiselle, president of the Treasury Board of Canada and Minister of State (finance), offered no other details.

It is expected that toppers of Telefilm (Pierre DesRoches), the NFB (Joan Pennefather), the CBC (Gerard Veilleux) and many other reps who report to the DOC will be meeting federal communications minister Perrin Beatty in Ottawa today to find out the extent of the cut that takes effect April 1.

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