Here at PACT we work hard to be the leading advocate for theatre in Canada and provide a united voice for Canadian theatre companies.
We believe that theatre makes an essential contribution to Canadian life and that the experience of theatre should be readily accessible to Canadians. PACT works to influence government policy to advance these beliefs.
We have created this toolkit for use in your own federal advocacy efforts and believe these strategies and actions can be adapted for your provincial and municipal advocacy efforts.
If you have any questions or need further information, please do not hesitate to contact Sara Meurling at the PACT office.
As we all know, Canadian theatre is vibrant and making important contributions for Canadians and the communities we call home. We know our work has a positive impact and we need our stories to be heard. While you will have your own stories and experiences to relate, below are the messages we recommend you share with MPs and other key public decision-makers. We also encourage you to echo the key findings from research that PACT and others have undertaken, with your own stories.
Key Messages for Government Officials
- 8 out of 10 Canadians believe that live theatre makes communities vibrant places to live and more attractive to visitors
- Two-thirds of Canadians understand that theatre attracts business to their communities
- In 2014, attendance at theatre performances in Canada reached almost 6 million
- Canadians who attend a cultural performance or the arts are 34% more likely to do a favour for their neighbours
2017 Pre-Budget Submission
PACT put forward the following recommendations in our submission to the federal Standing Committee on Finance.
PACT and its members fully support the Government of Canada’s pledge to double the funding committed to the Canada Council for the Arts. This is a longstanding request of Canada’s arts sector and we sincerely thank the Government of Canada for acting on it.
(Include a message specific to your company about how funding from the Canada Council or Canadian Heritage supported activity benefits your company)
Increased investment in the Canada Council will lead to more theatre and artistic activity, supporting jobs and leveraging economic growth; culture is an important sector but one that can do more for all Canadians with this added investment.
- SUPPORTING FACT: Canada’s cultural GDP stands at 3% of our economy. Simon Brault of the Canada Council says Art is Big Business!
International Market Development
PACT supports the Government of Canada’s plans to restore $25 million in funding to develop Canada’s international market access for the cultural sector. We encourage the extension of this investment for an additional two years (to 2019) to support the healthy growth of Canada’s presence on the world stage.
We look forward to working with government to develop programs that will result in strengthened international opportunity, greater trade opportunities and an enhanced Canadian reputation on the world stage.
- SUPPORTING FACT – 87% of Canadians believe that the arts and culture help us express and define what it means to be Canadian.
Infrastructure – Cultural Spaces
PACT joins with others to recommend a sustained increased investment in cultural infrastructure, particularly Cultural Spaces Canada. This means sustaining investment in that matching program at a level of $84 million a year.
This would allow theatres and other cultural facilities to address issues of accessibility, new technology and necessary upgrades.
- SUPPORTING FACT – Cultural spaces create a symbolic sense of place. More than eight in ten Canadians feel that they foster a sense of community pride and contribute to quality of life in their community.
Tips on Connecting With Your MP
…this works well for MLAs, MPPs and local councillors too!
MPs want to be connected to the people and organizations, like your theatre, that make their ridings interesting and fun places to live and to visit. The arts are not only entertainment in their ridings – they are key financial contributors. Remember, the artists you engage, your staff and your audiences are important stakeholders for them.
Staying in touch with your MP doesn’t have to be time-consuming, but somebody does need to be on top of it. Decide who will be responsible for government relations on an ongoing basis and make it a regular item at staff meetings.
The Personal Connection – Meetings & Invitations
- Send invitations for appropriate events: openings, festivals, fundraisers, etc.
- Invite MPs, senior government staff, and their spouses/partners to pre-performance or opening dinners and receptions. Ensure that a board member, or senior staff member, is assigned to the MP to ensure they meet the artists and other key players.
- Make it a point for your Artistic Director, Executive Director and Board Chair to meet with your MP about once a year. Maybe it’s after you’ve launched the next season or around your AGM.
- Thank MPs, politicians and government staff at every opportunity for their support of arts, culture, and heritage, in general, and your theatre’s work, in particular.
- Give MPs an opportunity to address your audience at appropriate times. This might be just two minutes at the opening of your season, at your AGM or during a pre/post-performance donor event. Help script them, and be clear in your timing expectations/restrictions.
- Put your MP and all elected representatives in the municipal, provincial, and federal governments on mailing lists.
- Drop into their constituency office with a stack of season brochures. Send posters and other publicity items (shows, fundraisers, schools, festivals) to politicians and government officials, if appropriate. These materials serve as a constant reminder of your organization and of the arts.
- Offer backstage tours of your facility to MPs and other government officials.
- When you get important grant news, like Canada Council, organize board members to write letters of thanks to MPs and tell them what it will mean to your programming and for your audiences. Use business or personal letterhead, when available.
Of course, advocacy for arts and culture and your theatre in particular can be vital, but please do pay attention to the difference between advocacy and political activity.
Advocacy and Public Awareness
Advocacy or public awareness efforts “aim to give useful knowledge to the public to enable them to make decisions about the work a charity does or an issue related to that work.” For instance, a theatre may make a newsletter, press release, donation brochure or publication outlining the benefit and impact of its work, available to the public, public officials and elected representatives.
This is “presumed to be … a charitable activity as long as the activity is connected and subordinate to the charity’s purpose [ and ] … the activity should be based on a position that is well-reasoned.”
A charity that devotes substantially all (considered by the Canada Revenue Agency to be more than 90%) of its resources to charitable activities may carry on political activities within the allowable limits. Specifically, charities, including theatres operating as registered charities, may:
- “explicitly communicate a call to political action” to retain, oppose or change any law, policy or action of any level of government.
- “explicitly communicate to the public that the law, policy, or decision of any level of government in Canada or a foreign country should be retained, opposed, or changed.”
Examples: As the Chair of your Board, you may communicate to your audience and community to encourage them to ask government and all elected representatives to implement the proposed Charitable Stretch Tax Credit. As the theatre’s Artistic Director, you may call on the audience to urge governments to increase funding for arts education so all students may see a theatre production for free each year.
Charities must report political activities on their T3010, Registered Charity Information Return. Careful, consistent record keeping is required year over year. Details on how to measure and report political activity are provided on the CRA website, referenced in additional resources.
A charity (including theatres who are charities) may make representations (invited or not) to elected representatives or public officials that are:
- connected to the charity’s charitable purposes (connected means related to and supporting a charitable purpose, and a reasonable way to achieve that purpose);
- subordinate to the charity’s charitable purposes (subordinate means subservient to a charity’s charitable purpose, or a minor focus of the charity).
These activities are considered charitable, and are not considered political.
Example: Acting on your theatre’s behalf, members of your board may meet with your MP to discuss and propose a solution to a specific facilities problem facing your theatre. Acting on your theatre’s behalf, your GM may write a letter outlining a specific issue and asking for advice and guidance.
Partisan, Prohibited Activity
“A partisan political activity is any activity that provides direct or indirect support or opposition to any political party at any time, whether during an election period or not, or to a candidate for public office.”
Charitable organizations, including theatres operating as charities, may not:
- Publicly endorse a candidate either in person or through communications vehicles like Twitter or Facebook;
- Allow a candidate or political party to use a charity’s equipment, facilities, volunteer time, or other resources;
- Give money or non-cash gifts to a candidate or political party, either directly or indirectly.
In early 2014 PACT commissioned a survey from Nanos Research on Canadians’ thoughts on theatre in our country. The research focused on the value and role of theatres in creating vibrant communities across Canada. After surveying 1000 Canadians we learned:
- 8 of 10 Canadians believe that live theatre is important to making communities vibrant places to live
- 80% of Canadians agree theatres are important for attracting visitors to communities
- Two thirds of Canadians agree that theatre helps to attract businesses in Canadian communities
This data was originally presented at the 2014 PACT conference in Fredericton, NB. PACT Members can log in to find a link to the complete data at the bottom of this page.
The information above are from the results of a national random telephone survey of 1000 Canadians that PACT commissioned from Nanos Research. The survey was conducted between March 6 and 12, 2014. The margin of error for a random sample of 1,000 respondents is 3.1 percentage points, plus or minus, 19 times out of 20.