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A movie theatre owned by Famous Players, a subsidiary of Cineplex Entertainment, remains closed in Toronto on April 6, 2021.

CHRIS HELGREN/Reuters

The federal budget boosts funding for arts and culture to help rebuild a sector that has seen more than 35 per cent of its jobs disappear since the pandemic began.

Employment in the arts, entertainment and recreation industries in Canada has fallen more than in any other sector in the past year, according to Statistics Canada’s Labour Force Survey. The budget earmarks $300-million over two years to Canadian Heritage to create a recovery fund to combat that drop in employment and support the recovery of those industries.

The new funding is in addition to the $181.5-million that the government announced for live events and the arts in last November’s Fall Economic Statement.

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“The arts and culture sector was one of the first shut down, and remains completely shut down,” said Celia Smith, chief executive officer of Luminato Festival Toronto, an annual arts and performance festival. “We’ve never really gotten a break through any of it.”

The budget also allocates specific funding for arts and cultural festivals across the country, most of which have been hard-hit by pandemic restrictions. There’s an investment of $200-million through regional development agencies for major Canadian festivals, and an additional $200-million through Canadian Heritage for local festivals and cultural events, including outdoor theatre.

Personal finance columnist Rob Carrick outlines the federal budget’s plans for discounted child care, money for seniors and extending the interest-free period for student loans. But the budget is light on details on how Ottawa will pay for pandemic recovery measures and what it will do to cool the housing market.

Ms. Smith said it was “tremendous” to see this investment in festivals and live performance. “My hope is that it happens sooner rather than later – so people can get planning,” she said. “So as soon as we’re able to get back out again, there is work for people.”

The budget also earmarks $70-million over three years to support musicians and music venues, as well as investments in TV and film, including $60-million over three years to the Canada Media Fund aimed at improving diversity in the industry. There’s also nearly $40-million over two years to support the Canadian book industry, the majority of which is geared toward helping bookstores boost and develop online sales.

These investments in art and culture are particularly essential, said Ms. Smith, because these industries produce content that have helped Canadians cope with the pandemic. “As we try to maintain our spirits through this prolonged trauma, what are we turning to? Film, books, online theatre, music,” she said. “I think arts and culture will be the thing that draws us back out again.”

The 2021 federal budget will continue economic support for businesses and individuals through the summer with a roadmap to wind them down later in the year as more Canadians are vaccinated against COVID-19.

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