In order to support the arts and culture sector in New Brunswick, the Official Opposition is urging the Higgs government to invest in specific funding to help the industry recover from the pandemic.
“Prior to the pandemic, the arts and culture sector contributed $572 million annually to New Brunswick’s GDP. Nationally, the sector suffered a 41% decrease in GDP in one year, making it one of the sectors hardest hit by the pandemic. Yet it received almost no support from the provincial government,” says Isabelle Thériault, Official Opposition critic for Tourism, Heritage and Culture. “The arts and culture were already underfunded before the pandemic, but the last two years have been disastrous.”
According to ArtsLink NB, the Association acadienne des artistes professionnel.le.s du Nouveau-Brunswick (AAAPNB) and Mawi’Art: Wabanaki Artist Collective, the arts, entertainment and recreation sector has seen a 29% loss of jobs due to the pandemic between October 2019 and October 2021.
“A disturbing number of artists and cultural workers have been forced to put their careers on hold, or even quit altogether, just to find a way to make ends meet. The sector is on the verge of collapse. If the Higgs government does not act now, the consequences will be disastrous, not only for those who are leaving the trade, but for the industry and New Brunswick as a whole.
“The arts and culture industry contributes more to our economy than forestry, fisheries, residential construction or mining. But it is also, and above all, a vehicle for identity building, outreach, knowledge dissemination and development of our society. We have also seen during the successive lockdowns how important the consumption and creation of art are for the mental health of many people. I don’t understand that in the current context, such an important sector is so neglected by the provincial government,” says Thériault.
“Throughout the pandemic, people turned to entertainment and virtual performances to cope with the realities of Covid-19. The artists were there for the people, even though many of these performances were unpaid. The province has a responsibility to support the revival of the sector through investment. And let’s be clear, a couple of hundred thousand dollars is not going to revive a half-billion dollars industry. We need a real plan, with real investments”, concludes Thériault.