Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservative government in Ontario recently unveiled its first provincial budget and it is drastically reducing the size of the Ontario Music Fund. Among the wide array of cutbacks announced in the budget is the plan to slash the Ontario Music Fund from $15 million annually to $7 million.
The Ontario Music Fund, which is administered by Ontario Creates, is designed to work with the province’s music organizations in expanding their economic and cultural footprint within Canada and around the world. In the budget, the Ford government says it will work with Ontario Creates to modernize the Ontario Music Fund “to focus on activities that bring the biggest return to the province, and refocus its investments into emerging talent to create opportunities to achieve success.”
Stuart Johnston, the president of the Canadian Independent Music Association (CIMA) and Music Ontario, tells Canadian Musician that Ontario Creates and the Ontario Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport will be conducting joint consultations with the music industry in the weeks and months to come to “gleam from us ideas on how that $7 million is to be best invested into the music industry” to maximize investments.
“Obviously the industry is disappointed that the fund has been reduced and there is more than enough evidence to show that it’s a very wise investment. There are very high returns on that investment, both within the industry and to the broader economy of Ontario,” Johnston tells Canadian Musician. “We’re confident that we have a very good case to make in terms of how those dollars should and could be leveraged. So, we’re looking forward to working with the government and to providing our expertise and our knowledge and to work with them to help shape the modernized version of this fund.”
Johnston says he can’t speculate on what programs and investments will be most affected by the budget cut. “Obviously $7 million is a different investment than a $15 million investment, but we’re going to have to wait to see what it really means,” he adds.
The industry had no warning that the Ontario Music Fund was being cut by more than half. Given the tone and priorities of the Ford government, Johnston says, “None of us would’ve been surprised had the fund been reduced. I think we were all taken aback by the amount that it was reduced.”