One of the reasons I ran for the Senate was to help advance the interests of Alberta's and Canada's arts sector, because I believe the arts play a critical role in both building vibrant and creative communities and in furthering our economic prosperity.
According to the Annual Survey of Albertans on Culture, almost all Albertans attend or participate in arts events and believe that having a wide variety of cultural activities makes Alberta a better place to live. Some 50,000 volunteers contribute a combined 1.8 million hours of their time every year in support of arts organizations.
It is important to remember that the arts also make economic sense. Some folks have a misperception of the arts as a sector that takes in government funding without giving back. But that's simply not the reality. For the $8 billion in government funding the cultural sector receives each year, it contributes $84.6 billion to Canada's GDP and $25 billion in tax revenues. Furthermore, the arts are a 'job-intensive' sector that creates 22 full-time jobs for every $1 million in expenditures. Across Canada, 650,000 people are employed in the cultural industry.
The indirect economic contributions of the arts are just as valuable. A thriving arts sector is necessary to maintain Canada's competitiveness in attracting top talent from around the world. The quality of a community's cultural infrastructure has a direct impact on its quality of life, which must be a fundamental element of any successful labour attraction and retention strategy. University of Toronto urban planning and economics thinker Richard Florida concludes that creative workers will be the leading force of growth in the economy in the next decade, and ensuring these workers choose to live and work in Canada is critical to realizing the benefits of the innovation and regional economic growth they can produce.
I am a passionate advocate for the arts and creativity in Canada. I have served as a governor of the Banff Centre, Canada's internationally renowned arts incubator, as Chair of the Michaëlle Jean Foundation, which equips disadvantaged youth with the tools to ignite change in their communities through the arts, and as a leader in the effort to bring the National Portrait Gallery to Calgary. These various experiences have taught me the value and importance of the arts, and how to best advance this cause with both business and governments.
Practical and effective policy to promote the arts requires that we bring all stakeholders to the table. We must develop a national framework for the arts sector in order to realize the potential for creativity, innovation, and community-building that the arts embody.