Speech in Province House on new Arts Council

Speech in Province House on new Arts Council

Hello my friends -

I thought each of you, who are my friends, and who I believe care about the future of Arts and Culture, may appreciate the speech I made in the House yesterday regarding the new legislation we just introduced for the re-establishment of an Arts Council in Nova Scotia.

As I said at the start of my speech, It's a great day for Arts and Culture in Nova Scotia!

Since many of you shared your experiences with me of the time when the NS Arts Council was disbanded in 2002. I want you to know I thought of you when I was making this speech yesterday in the House of Assembly in Halifax: so this one's for you and for all artists - as well as those who simply care about the Arts. I thought I would share this moment in time with you! And thank you all for your friendship - Lenore

Fri, Dec 2, 2011
Province House, Halifax

(MLA Truro-Bible Hill):

Madam Speaker, today is a great day for arts and culture in Nova Scotia. I am really pleased that our NDP Government is introducing legislation in this House of Assembly to enable the establishment of a new provincial arts council named Arts Nova Scotia, and to formalize the structure and mandate
of a new advisory council called the Creative Nova Scotia Leadership Council - both important commitments in our government's five-point arts plan, which was announced earlier this year, and something which I've been championing both within and without government ever since I came into office in June 2009.

In fact, as ministerial assistant to Tourism, Culture and Heritage for my first two years in government, I personally worked very hard to help convince many people that this was, in fact, the right thing to do and the right thing to do at this particular point in our province's history. So suffice it to say I'm extremely pleased by this announcement today as are many, many artists right across this province.

I believe that it shows our NDP Government is listening, Madam Speaker, and that we recognize the important role that arts and culture play in making Nova Scotia communities vibrant. After all, as I've always said, Nova Scotia is blessed with a natural resource that is clean, green, sustainable, and
constantly renewable, and that is the talent and creativity of its people.

Legislation which we introduced December 1st will establish Arts Nova Scotia and formalize the structure and the mandate of the Creative Nova Scotia Leadership Council. Now, I have to say that the previous Progressive Conservative Government was widely criticized by artists from across this province when in 2002, with Rodney MacDonald as Minister of Tourism, Culture and Heritage, the provincial arts council was disbanded despite strong criticism from the arts and culture community.

I was living in Vancouver at the time, and I heard the furor . . .

MADAM SPEAKER : Order, please. The chatter in the room is getting a little loud. The honourable member for Truro-Bible Hill has the floor.

MS. ZANN : Thank you, Madam Speaker. What a good Speaker you are. It's great
to have a woman Speaker in the Chair.

I have to say that I was living in Vancouver at the time, doing film and television, and I heard the furor from the West Coast. Many of my friends wrote to me; many people were so upset about what was going on in Nova Scotia. Five years later I actually moved home and decided to run for office
because I felt that we really need to get more artists involved in government and in making really important decisions that will affect all people right across the province. In fact, one of my friends is a successful artist - Alan Syliboy of Millbrook. He is a fantastic artist, doing very, very well. He was actually on the former arts council and he shared with me the sad story of the day the arts council was disbanded with no prior warning. They were all told to pack up their belongings and go home, after which the doors were locked.

Since the NDP has formed the government, we have been listening to the voices of the arts and culture sector. We believe that the sector itself is in the best position to make decisions about funding for individual artists, and Arts Nova Scotia will be able to do just that with the legislation that we are putting forward today.

On February 14th we mapped out the government's approach to developing the arts and culture sector in Nova Scotia. The five-point plan that we announced was based on extensive consultations with members of this sector in the Fall of 2010. In May 2011, a transition committee of arts and culture sector members was established to develop the terms of reference and criteria for appointing members to Arts Nova Scotia. They submitted their report earlier this Fall and the report was made public yesterday. So I think it's very fair to say that our government is committed to improving
life for all artists right across the province and that we've showed our commitment to improving government's relationships to the arts and culture sector by listening to their concerns and suggestions. We are acting on the priorities that were identified.

This will definitely help our creative economy grow. The province will continue to move forward with our five-point plan, and this will help shape a positive future for Nova Scotia and for Nova Scotia's numerous talented artists, so that finally they are getting the respect and the government
support they deserve.

I think it's important to note that arts and culture contribute to strong communities by spurring creativity, innovation, jobs, and many, many economic spinoffs. This can't help but make life better for all families. After all, this is exactly what the creative economy is all about. Just as our film and television tax credit changes are showing, our film and TV community is growing. It is doing extremely well. People are so happy to be living here in Nova Scotia that many more people are actually moving here. I had five people contact me just in the last month, Madam Speaker, who are professional artists who are actually moving to Truro because they want to be part of the vibrant community that is growing there.

AN HON. MEMBER: A singer and dancer, right over here.

MS. ZANN : No, actually they're not singer/dancers. They are directors and film-makers, which is very exciting. In fact, in my own constituency of Truro-Bible Hill, my own regional development agency, CoRDA, is already working on a special study on the creative economy and its impact on
Colchester County. So I'm very excited to have the opportunity to work with them on this, Madam Speaker, as soon as the House rises for Christmas.

Arts Nova Scotia will be responsible for $2.4 million in grants that go directly to the artists of Nova Scotia. The transition committee has proposed a model that will minimize operational expenses by having administrative and staff support continue to come from the Department of
Communities, Culture and Heritage, from its existing budget envelope. This will ensure that Arts Nova Scotia is able to focus on its decision making, and that grant funding is not impacted by operational costs.

This will not compromise the independence of their decision-making ability,
Madam Speaker. The key point here is that their decision making will be
independent; having administrative support come from the department does not
affect the independence of this decision making. That's very clearly laid
out in the legislation. The board of Arts Nova Scotia will make its own
policies and be responsible for final decisions related to the funding that
it oversees. This was the recommendation from the transition committee and
we've accepted that and make sure that it is reflected in the legislation.

The report also outlines that programs will be under the control of Arts Nova Scotia - they include grants to individuals; grants to organizations and small groups related to commissioning, production and presentation, and professional development; operating assistance to cultural organizations
related to producers, Nova Scotia Art Bank Purchase Program, and the Portia White Prize.

The transition committee also outlined a set of criteria for the board of Arts Nova Scotia in its report to ensure a broad representation in terms of the sector, gender, geography, and age; they've also recommended a board, between nine and eleven members, and we are accepting that criteria. We'll
follow the advice they've provided and seek input from the sector to appoint the initial board, and we expect that to happen, Madam Speaker, in the near future.

I believe this legislation provides the structure for a strong arts funding body and I look forward to seeing the Arts Nova Scotia board build on the foundation established today. Work has also begun on a cultural strategy by undertaking a review of literature related to the creative economy, and a
subcommittee of sector members has been formed to advise government on the status of the artist legislation to reflect the importance of arts and culture to Nova Scotians. This is very exciting, Madam Speaker.

With the introduction of legislation for Arts Nova Scotia, the government has shown that the arts and culture sector is an intrinsic part of the fabric of this province, which is something that I've always said, Madam Speaker. It's not just the icing on the cake, it's actually the meat and potatoes, or the juice that holds it all together. These pieces of legislation help promote the development of the entire sector, and the status of the artist legislation is expected to be introduced around 2012.

I'm very pleased to have the opportunity to speak to this legislation today, Madam Speaker, and to say thank you personally to our department, to our minister, to my colleague, the member for Lunenburg, and also to our Premier for fulfilling his promise to the artists of Nova Scotia, when he stood on
the steps of this Legislature and said "we are only one election day away from the reinstatement of the arts council."

Madam Speaker, I would like the House and all artists to note that this is a perfect example of our Premier acknowledging his word and following through on an important pledge to an important sector. I am very, very proud to be part of a government which acknowledges the importance of arts and culture in Nova Scotia, and acts upon the desires and wishes of our talented and much-deserving artists.

In conclusion, I'm also glad that as a lifelong professional artist myself, I could play even a small role in bringing this legislation to fruition, and I thank my constituents of Truro-Bible Hill for making sure that I was in a position to do so.

This is one of the main reasons why I ran for office, Madam Speaker, because I believe that all governments need more artists helping to solve the problems and issues of the day. We think outside the box, we work collaboratively, we support each other, and we are used to working on a
shoestring budget and turning straw into gold. With that, I conclude my remarks.