COVID-19 Updates: Protecting Albertans from the Omicron variant.
Budget 2021 focuses on protecting lives and livelihoods. Every provincial budget requires making hard decisions about how to invest hard-earned taxpayer’s dollars where they will create the greatest return to Albertans. Government must be committed to fiscal responsibility, and combined with the demands of dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, it has made those decisions even more important.
We have reached a critical point where we must pursue alternative funding models that will complement continuing government support. Our use of donation matching programs begins to demonstrate a new approach to investing taxpayer dollars to support our sectors for generations to come. We will work hand-in-hand with organizations to leverage Albertans' hard-earned tax dollars to enable them to do their important work. We are blessed that even under these difficult circumstances, these partnerships will continue to thrive and grow. This crisis has taught us that there is great opportunity to forge ahead with new partnerships and for working together in creative ways to leverage our province’s hard-earned and limited financial resources.
Full budget details can be found on alberta.ca. The numbers there show where this budget’s dollars are going. However, those numbers only tell part of the budget story. I want you know how our budget decisions were arrived at and why. Doing that will not make this budget any easier to live with, but it will show that the decisions we made were careful, considerate and compassionate.
Budget 2021 focuses on protecting lives and livelihoods. That focus is reflected in the budget for Culture, Multiculturalism and the Status of Women. Ensuring non-profit and voluntary sector organizations were able to survive in these challenging times was a priority.
Non-profit and voluntary organizations are the bedrock upon which our communities are built. They provide critical support and services to Albertans across the province. They also support 280,000 employees and generate more than $5.5 billion in GDP through their paid workforce and community programming. The demand for the services and supports they provide have increased while their revenues have decrease. That is why we are investing $64.4 million in the Community Grants Program, an increase of $9.2 million from Budget 2020.
One of the most important decisions we had to make was how best to support the arts. Alberta gets the short end of the stick when it comes to receiving arts funding from the federal government. We receive less per capita than any other province.
The visual and applied arts and live-performance industries contribute approximately $1.3 billion in GDP annually, and sustains nearly 20,000 jobs in Alberta. A thriving arts and cultural scene makes Alberta an attractive place to live, invest and do business. The $26.7 million allocated in Budget 2021 shows we clearly understand how important the arts are to the quality of life in Alberta and the role the arts will play in our economic recovery.
Film and television are a growing part of Alberta’s economy and that is why we continue our investment in them. Alberta’s cultural industries contribute about $1.1 billion in GDP, and create 12,450 jobs for Albertans. The overall budget for cultural industries is $26.5 million, which includes $19.8 million to the Alberta Media Fund. Under Budget 2021, we are upholding our previous commitments under the former Screen-based Production Grant, and Alberta Media Fund grants for the screen-based sector are back to business as usual, supporting our economic recovery.
Nearly 95% of Albertans believe our province’s historical resources are important to our quality of life. By being financially responsible, we are keeping our heritage alive and accessible for all Albertans to enjoy now and in the future. Budget 2021 invests $48.4 million in heritage. We have maintained the budget for both Heritage Preservation Partnership Programs and support for Provincial Heritage Organizations.
To be the kind of society we want to be, all Albertans, regardless of their race, origin, gender and sexuality must feel welcome, safe and valued. They must also be able to fully participate and contribute to the province’s future. To support these goals, we are investing $4.1 million in status of women and multiculturalism.
Alberta women continue to face challenges based on race, sexual orientation, socio-economic standing and other factors. This funding will be directed toward finding ways to eliminate barriers for women and people of all genders, race, sexuality and faiths to enable them to succeed in the workforce. Investing in multiculturalism will help grow a more diverse and inclusive workforce. This culture shift must happen and will lead to increased revenue, greater innovation, more community engagement, and ultimately, a stronger Alberta.
The Francophone Secretariat budget remains at $1.4 million. The secretariat is a vital link between government and Alberta’s rapidly growing and increasingly diverse French-speaking communities. This funding supports the implementation of the French Policy and multi-year action plan across government departments. The French Policy Action Plan contains approximately 100 initiatives for improving access to services in French in areas such as early childhood, health and employment.
We continue to invest strategically in sport, physical activity and recreation opportunities that enrich the lives of all Albertans. This year’s commitment of $20 million will support sport, recreation and physical activity programs. We recognize that the sport, physical activity and recreation sector is struggling because of lost revenue due to public health measures. We are working with our partners on how to increase the capacity of sport, physical activity and recreation organizations in light of COVID-19 and the province’s economic challenges.
This is just a brief overview of the budget for Culture Multiculturalism and the Status of Women. I encourage you to read the entire document. I also encourage you to look at our Business Plan on the ministry website. The plan will give you information about our priorities during the next 4 years.
Finally, to all of you who have engaged in our multiple roundtables, discussions, and engagements, thank you.
To our frontline workers, from health care and education to retail and transportation, thank you for keeping us safe and providing essential services to our families.
To those who have lost loved ones throughout this pandemic, we want you to know that we send our love and deepest condolences to all of you. We are seeing the light at the end of this long tunnel, and I look forward to everything we will accomplish together.
Leela Aheer served as Minister of Culture, Multiculturalism and Status of Women from April 30, 2019 to July 7, 2021.