The Ontario government wants the province’s thriving cultural and tourism industries to receive greater recognition for their impact on the economy.
In a speech to the Economic Club on Thursday, recently minted Heritage, Sport, Tourism, and Culture Industries Minister Lisa MacLeod touted “a powerhouse that fuels a spectacular double bottom line.”
“Both the financial bottom line in this province as well as the equally important bottom line of our cultural fabric and identity,” said MacLeod.
“Together — and this number still amazes me — our heritage, sport, tourism and culture industries achieve a combined economic imprint of an estimated $71 billion,” the minister said.
“Let’s put this in context — $71 billion is bigger than the entire (gross domestic product) of Manitoba, $71 billion is bigger than Ontario’s mining, forestry and agriculture sectors put together,” she said.
“All of this generates more than $12 billion for all levels of government, supporting our schools, hospitals and key infrastructure.”
MacLeod pointed out her new department invests $1.4 billion annually in programs and agencies like Ontario Creates, Destination Ontario, Ontario Trillium Foundation, the Ontario Heritage Trust, and the Ontario Arts Council “to support a suite of industries.”
The minister also underscored the government’s support for the Art Gallery of Ontario, the Royal Ontario Museum, the McMichael Gallery, the Ontario Science Centre, Science North and the Royal Botanical Gardens, among other institutions.
Praising those who work in the sector, she said it is important that artists and others “are finally being recognized by government for putting pay cheques in people’s hands.”
“When you inspire and create, you create jobs.”
In a bid to boldly go where no one in Premier Doug Ford’s 16-month-old government has gone before, MacLeod praised the Motion Picture Association of Canada for the more 30 major film and TV productions ongoing right now.
“Later today they’ll be releasing an economic report showing that Star Trek: Discovery spent more than $257 million in Ontario and employed over 4,000 Ontarians in just the first two seasons of the production,” the minister said.
MacLeod moved to allay fears in some quarters that the government would slash the tax breaks that promote the arts in its bid to rein in a deficit that was $7.4 billion last year.
“We are continuing to support initiatives like Celebrate Ontario, the Ontario Music Fund, and our suite of five cultural media tax credits, which include three film and TV tax credits to create homegrown success stories, while at the same time attracting investments from abroad,” she said.
The minister underscored the government’s hopes for redeveloping Ontario Place, which this week was placed on a list of world heritage sites that are at risk.
“I think we can all agree that, for decades, Ontario Place was a crown jewel of this province. People from across Ontario, across Canada and across the world came here to enjoy the unique experience,” she said.
“Ontario Place deserves better because the people of Ontario deserve better than to have so much of this unique location shuttered and off-limits.”
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To that end, the goal is “to build a world class family attraction at Ontario Place.”
“We are going to get the rebuild of Ontario Place right. We are going to listen to Ontarians. We are going to ensure the future reflects our present and our aspirations.”
The government is currently reviewing recent bids for the redevelopment of the waterfront park. The proposals have not yet been made public.
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