A group of Ottawa-Gatineau festivals and events call on the Government of Canada to create a better business environment

FAMEA group of festivals and events in the Ottawa-Gatineau region—led by the RBC Bluesfest, the Montebello Rockfest, the TD Ottawa Jazz Festival, the Gatineau Hot Air Balloon Festival, and supported by the Ottawa Festival Network—is calling on the federal government to create a better business environment for them by implementing a plan submitted by Festivals and Major Events Canada (FAME) and the Regroupement des événements majeurs internationaux (RÉMI).

This proposal for a better business environment for festivals and major events rests on three pillars that will help Canada compete in a growing international market. The plan proposes to “keep them safe,” “support their growth,” and “focus on creation.” It presents the challenges they face in each of these areas and proposes actions to be taken.

With respect to safety—and since growing costs now represent a significant financial burden for festivals and events—it is proposed they be given access to an existing program that funds security infrastructure projects for at-risk communities.

To increase international competitiveness, solve problems of inequity in the industry, and foster continuing growth, the group is requesting a program specific to festivals and events whose ability to generate tourism and economic activity has been proven or is promising. Such programs exist in Québec and British Columbia and have existed at the federal government level in the past.

Finally, Canadian Heritage budgets have been unchanged for 10 years, demand has grown by 30% over the last five years, and public servants themselves say they have run out of resources. According to stakeholders, there is a need to reinvest in the Programming Support component of the Professional Arts Festivals and Performing Arts Series Presenters program, and a need to increase the budget for the Building Communities through Arts and Heritage – Local Festivals program (Local Festivals component).

On behalf of the group, the executive director of RBC Bluesfest, Mark Monahan, argues that “an additional investment by the Canadian government would certainly result in even greater economic impact and tourism benefits, and provide a substantial return. So, there is no reason to wait.”

Sean Wilson, president of the Ottawa Festival Network, an organization representing 100 festivals, fairs and events in the National Capital Region, asserts the importance of a renewed Canada Arts Presentation Fund (CAPF) investment, now.  “The vitality of our local festival industry is internationally recognized but is in jeopardy without this investment. Ottawa’s industry alone creates more than 4,100 jobs annually and millions of dollars in economic impact, making its leveraging power undeniable. The CAPF fund is critical to sustainability and will ensure continuing positive impact at the community level, allowing festivals and events to successfully compete within an increasingly competitive global cultural event industry.”

The CEO of FAME, Martin Roy, notes that, as part of pre-budget consultations, the association has presented a brief that includes the same requests as those made in the Plan. “Small and big events are equally concerned with growth, safety, and recognition of their contribution to cultural vitality. We are proposing a win-win partnership,” he says.

Through FAME and RÉMI, festivals and events are engaging with the relevant federal departments; namely Tourism, Canadian Heritage, Public Safety and Economic Development. In Québec they are seeking the support of ministers in the region, including Marc Miller and David Lametti. In total, there are no fewer than 46 festivals and events in Canada that are calling for the implementation of the “Plan for a Better Business Environment for All Festivals and Events.”