The Liberals have an idea for bringing down Ontario's unemployment rate: put people to work as musicians.
The government is pledging to create a $45-million fund that would dole out grants to bands, studios and record labels in an effort to crank up the volume on the province's recording industry.
Finance Minister Charles Sousa and Culture Minister Michael Chan took the stage at Lee's Palace, a Toronto indie rock bar, to announce the three-year program Wednesday morning. Before a capacity crowd of twenty-something musicians who jostled for space in the pit, Mr. Sousa touted the money as a way to create jobs in the province's creative industries.
"The ripple effect of this investment, of these grants, is going to enable us to attract more productions, more talent here in Ontario," he said. "It's going to make us an even more dynamic and vibrant province. Folks, I'm so proud of the work that you're doing."
The money will be contained in Thursday's budget, the first of Premier Kathleen Wynne's minority administration. She has been working hard to win support from the left-wing New Democrats to allow it to pass, incorporating NDP demands such as a 15 per cent cut to auto insurance rates and a cash injection for home care into the fiscal plan.
Wednesday's announcement was also likely to reach out to part of the NDP's base, targeting young, hip voters in downtown Toronto.
It certainly went over well with the crowd at Lee's Palace. Following a performance by pop-punk trio Courage My Love, the assembled cheered and whooped loudly as Mr. Sousa and Mr. Chan spoke.
"Music is a vast employer of young people, it is a vehicle for investment in the province, a digitally cutting-edge industry and one of Ontario's global competitive advantages," Music Canada president Graham Henderson said before he and Triumph drummer Gil Moore presented the ministers with gold records.
"Did we ever think we'd see a day like this? I'm speechless," Mr. Moore said. "Today, you guys are number one on our charts."
Provided the budget passes, the government will consult with industry on the ruled around the fund with the goal of starting to dole out money by the fall, Mr. Chan said.