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Canada Ford government slashes Ontario Music Fund by more than half, prompting concerns in arts community

Ontario Finance Minister Vic Fedeli, right, is congratulated by Premier Doug Ford after presenting the 2019 budget at the legislature in Toronto earlier in April.

Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press

Ontario is cutting a music grant program by more than half as it looks to modernize it.

The day after the Progressive Conservative government tabled its first budget earlier this month, officials told the Canadian Independent Music Association that the Ontario Music Fund would be reduced from $15-million to $7-million.

The association’s president said he had expected the fund would receive less money, given the government’s aim of tackling the deficit.

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“I wasn’t surprised that the fund was going to receive a cut,” Stuart Johnston said. “I was surprised by the depth of the cut. I think that took everybody by surprise.”

The Tories said in the budget that they will be reviewing the program.

“The government 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,” a spokesman for Minister of Tourism, Culture and Sport, Michael Tibollo, said in a statement.

“We will continue to work closely with our stakeholders in the culture sector, so we can continue to deliver on our promise to respect taxpayer dollars, and ensure that we are providing value for money in Ontario’s culture sector.”

The government noted that several large acts and companies have received money through the fund. Sony Music, Universal Music and Warner Music shared $1.75-million in 2017-18.

Mr. Johnston, who represents the independent music community, said the investments the fund makes in small business are sound.

“[The funds] are leveraged by the music industry to create the intellectual property, music, that is then commercialized both here in Canada and around the world,” he said. “So, there is a large return on investment based on those investments from the Ontario Music Fund.”

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NDP culture critic Jill Andrew said the cuts to the fund will make it harder for homegrown talent to flourish.

“[Premier] Doug Ford has hit another bad note on the culture file, this time ripping away opportunities from everyone from aspiring artists to the domestic music companies that nurture their budding talent,” she said in a statement.

“This showcases just how out of touch the Ford Conservatives are with how important it is to support the local cultural sectors that contribute so much to our economy.”

Jazz singer Matt Dusk said the funding has allowed him to expand his work and it helps create jobs.

“It enables us to not only hire Ontario employees, but also enables us to go to places within the province and the country where we get to go perform in certain halls or to create local events that then spin off into festivals,” he said. “It’s a real, kind of, trickle-down effect.”

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