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Ian Arthur, MPP Kingston and the Islands

Government of Ontario

Question Period: Arts and Culture funding for Kingston

Published on November 5, 2020

Mr. Ian Arthur: My question is for the Acting Premier. On Tuesday, Kingston city council passed a motion urging this government to extend the eviction ban for arts venues for six more months.

Entrepreneur Wendy Huot, owner of our beloved independent cinema, the Screening Room, has seen a 75% drop in attendance since the pandemic began and says they are hemorrhaging thousands and thousands of dollars per month. Like many others, this business could not access this province’s commercial rent subsidy.

Arts organizations across Ontario desperately need stability and assurances of support now. If these spaces are forced to close—who are we kidding?—they are not going to open again.

With that in mind, will this government please step up and extend the commercial eviction ban for arts venues for six more months?

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): The parliamentary assistant and member for Willowdale.

Mr. Stan Cho: Thanks to the member opposite for raising this important issue.

The arts industry, like many businesses throughout Ontario, has been facing very difficult times from the onset of this pandemic. That’s why this government put away partisan differences and worked with all levels of government across all party lines to make sure that we provided a coordinated system of support. That’s what this government has done. Our part has been $30 billion in direct relief, and $241 million of that went to the commercial rent relief program, which has aided over 617,000 employees here in Ontario.

Of course, there is a new rent program that the federal government has announced. This will be tenant-led, as we heard at the Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs.

There is more to be done; there’s no question about it. That’s why I look forward, in a few hours, to tabling our next step for a COVID-19 response to make sure that we protect, support and recover here in the province of Ontario.

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): The supplementary question?

Mr. Ian Arthur: Respectfully, to the member opposite, I was asking for an eviction ban to be extended for six months. I do hope that is part of the budget this afternoon, because all the programs in the world won’t matter if these landlords decide to evict these tenants from those locations.

The arts and culture sector makes huge contributions to the economy and the well-being of our communities.

Earlier this summer—with the member opposite—the world-renowned Toronto International Film Festival testified at the Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs and told us how it generates more than $200 million in annual economic activity, creates over 1,000 jobs and reaches approximately 850 million people worldwide.

Arts and culture organizations and individual artists are the soul of our communities. They create spaces of joy and celebration. And with so many struggling with isolation right now, these outlets are especially important in a province where we lack adequate mental health supports.

Will the government provide additional funding for immediate and near-term support in recognition of the increased costs experienced by these businesses and organizations?

Mr. Stan Cho: Thank you to the member for his concern for this very important industry.

TIFF, I think, was missed by all members of this House—as well as the valuable sector itself and the jobs it creates and the economic prosperity it brought to Ontario.

Speaker, we still must protect and support those businesses, and there’s no question about that. Our government outlined that support in $30 billion of direct relief. I want to remind the member that this is a coordinated approach with our federal partners to make sure that we fill the gaps in the relief they provide. That’s why we’ve helped with $300 million in our recent announcement, to help with additional fixed costs, to help with property taxes, to help with other taxes and keep hydro rates low.

There is absolutely more to be done as we move through this second wave. That’s why our budget will be an opportunity to table our next steps to make sure that we protect the hard-working businesses in the arts sector, to make sure that we support those businesses and also look around the corner to make sure that we have a plan for that day of recovery.