The government of Canada has been closely involved with the arts, primarily the performing and visual arts and crafts, since the establishment of the arm’s length but fully government-funded Canada Council in 1957 pursuant to the publication six years earlier of the Report of the Royal Commission on the Arts and Letters (Massey-Lévesque). The emphasis of federal policy in the arts has always been on the contribution of financial support to not-for-profit arts organisations and individual artists. The private or commercial side of the performing arts, such as commercial theatre, pop music, clubs and amateur participation, rarely receive federal art policy and programme support.
In 2004, virtually all operating revenues of for-profit arts companies came from earned revenues (57% ticket sales, 40% merchandising, royalties and rentals) and only 2% from government funding and 1% from private donations. The not-for-profit arts companies‘ relative dependence on government subsidies and donations is evident from their revenue sources are as follows: ticket sales 42%, merchandising, royalties and rentals 8%, governments 29% and private donations 21%. Together, overall revenue from live performances accounted for 49% of total revenues for not-for-profit performing arts companies in 2004, unchanged since 2001. Total revenues surpassed CAD 1.2 billion in 2004, up 25% since 2001. Theatre accounts for 28% of total revenues and comprises the largest segment of the not-for-profit arts sector, attracting over half of total arts attendance. Not-for-profit music was the second largest segment (primarily orchestras) with 25% of total performing arts revenues.
Owing to the recent inclusion of for-profit companies in the Statistics Canada survey of the performing arts, data trend lines go back to 2001 only. Just less than 1 000 for-profit and 500 not-for-profit companies were surveyed in 2004. All disciplines of not-for-profit performing arts companies registered deficits in 2004 owing to expenditure increases. Before-tax profit margins were negative at -1.2% in 2004 for not-for-profit companies. However, this deficit shows some reduction since 2001.
Beyond the quintessential concern over funding and deficit financing, other issues debated in the arts community include: the socio-economic condition of artists, especially the self-employed, the nature of the employer-employee relationship, tax incentives for charitable donations, community arts activities, arts appreciation programmes, arts training programmes, cultural facilities infrastructure improvements, maintaining audience growth and development, domestic and foreign touring within and outside Canada, public arts, and arts participation, including volunteers and amateur arts creation activities.