Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on
Social Affairs, Science and Technology
Issue No. 34 - Evidence - December 13, 2017
OTTAWA, Wednesday, December 13, 2017
The Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology, to which was referred Bill S-234, An Act to amend the Parliament of Canada Act (Parliamentary Artist Laureate), and Bill C-311, An Act to amend the Holidays Act (Remembrance Day), met this day at 4:16 p.m. to give consideration to the bills.
Senator Art Eggleton (Chair) in the chair.
The Chair: Welcome to the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology.
I’m Art Eggleton, senator from Toronto, and I would like the members of the committee who are here, more to come, to introduce themselves, starting on my left.
Senator Petitclerc: Chantal Petitclerc from Quebec.
Senator Poirier: Rose-May Poirier from New Brunswick.
Senator Seidman: Judith Seidman, Montreal, Quebec.
The Chair: We’re here to talk about two bills today in two segments. We anticipate we’ll be interrupted for a vote in the Senate. We’re waiting for those bells to start and some indication of when that vote will be held. Let’s see how far we can get into those two components of our meeting.
The first component is Bill S-234, An Act to amend the Parliament of Canada Act (Parliamentary Artist Laureate), the subject matter being a parliamentary artist laureate. This bill was originally sponsored by former Senator Willie Moore, who is with us today, and is currently sponsored by Senator Patricia Bovey, so we have two colleagues sitting opposite us at the table. I also welcome Joanne Larocque-Poirier, Chief of Staff and Corporate Secretary of the Canada Council for the Arts. We’ll start with Senator Bovey, who is the current sponsor of the bill and then we’ll hear from our other two witnesses as well.
Hon. Patricia Bovey, sponsor of the bill, as an individual: Thank you, Mr. Chair, and thank you, colleagues and senators. It’s a real thrill for me to be here today to talk about Bill S-234, the visual artist laureate bill. As you know, this bill was originally introduced by our former colleague the Honourable Willie Moore, in the same spirit as that of Parliament’s Poet Laureate, and I have to say it was a real honour for me when he said, “I’m leaving; you take this over.” You’re all aware of my support for the truly significant role that artists play through every dimension of Canadian society, and you’re not surprised that I support this bill wholeheartedly.
A visual artist laureate on the Hill will, I believe, bring to the Canadian public the perspective of Parliament, the importance of our democracy today and the issues and work of parliamentarians. The artist laureate will do that using the international language of visual arts in ways that will communicate to all, lifelong Canadians, indigenous peoples and non-indigenous peoples, immigrants and refugees regardless of their mother tongues.
The visual artist laureate would be a two-year creative posting, like the poet laureate, honouring a visual artist of national distinction. The position will serve as an arts ambassador and creator of art works related to Parliament Hill and the issues parliamentarians are discussing.
An honorarium and materials budget will be paid, and I hope that at the end of the term we would be able to present a solo exhibition of the work completed and/or circulate the work, at least digitally, to give it wide clearance.
Many states, some Canadian cities, including Toronto and Victoria, and some countries have visual artist laureates. For instance, the U.K.’s recent Children’s Laureate, Chris Riddell, incorporated the power of the visual into his work, doing daily online illustrations. He said, “I want to show how much fun you can have drawing.” I have personally witnessed the huge uptake of his work.
In Canada, while there has never been a parliamentary visual artist laureate, there are precedents. Indigenous artist Christi Belcourt, whose work is on the Hill, received the 2014 Ontario Arts Council Aboriginal Arts Award Laureate.
Last year, Geoffrey James, an internationally highly esteemed Canadian artist became the City of Toronto’s first photography laureate. As the city’s ambassador for the visual and photographic arts, he is to champion, promote and attract people to photography and the visual arts, attend public events, engage in discussions of contemporary issues and create a unique legacy project.
That would essentially be the same for Parliament’s visual artist laureate, working in any visual discipline or medium, painting, printmaking, sculpture, drawing, video, film, installation, textile, photography, and the list goes on.
Bill S-234 amends the Poet Laureate Act. The appointment would be made through a competitive process. Created as an officer of the Library of Parliament, like the Parliamentary Budget Officer and all other parliamentary officers, the selection would be made by the Speakers from a list of three names provided by a committee chaired by the parliamentary librarian. That committee, in my view, should be comprised of Canada’s Commissioner of Official Languages, the CEO of the Canada Council for the Arts, the CEO of the National Gallery of Canada and the Chair of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts.
Serving the Speakers, the visual artist laureate would produce artistic creations or cause them to be produced and promote the arts in Canada through Parliament. On request, they would produce work for the use of Parliament or for ceremonies of state. They could also sponsor artistic events, give advice on Parliament’s collection of art and undertake related duties at the request of either Speaker.
The benefits would be real, portraying and communicating the work of Parliament and national issues to Canadians in a universal language that is widely recognized as the lever of social and cultural change. Artists’ work mirrors society. Artists reflect on multiple issues, just as we do in the Senate. They challenge, nudge, question and present social issues, often bringing issues to the fore long before society recognizes them. Thus, a visual artist laureate will assist the Senate in greater understanding of various societal aspects.
The visual arts are a language our children and youth understand. I contend that by presenting what happens in the two chambers of Parliament in visual form, the engagement of youth will increase, so too will their understanding of civil society and our democratic and bicameral system. I am convinced this role will help bridge the current knowledge gap.
I also believe the work of a visual artist laureate will be inspiring to all, opening new doors for many, including new Canadians and citizens of all regions of our country.
Creating this position will demonstrate Parliament’s leadership in underlining the importance of the arts and the significant contributions they make to Canada’s overall economy. We as parliamentarians obviously have a strong societal responsibility, so too do artists.
I therefore look forward to bringing Parliament and artists together in a concrete meaningful way through the visual artist laureate. As Poet Laureate George Elliott Clarke wrote me:
The more we value literacy in the arts and culture, the more we invest in greater comfort and convenience, opportunity and enlightenment, and a society that has no throwaway persons, but only a citizenry considered priceless and invaluable, for all are capable of dream.
In conclusion, I think passing this bill for a parliamentary visual artist laureate would be a truly fitting and wonderful celebration at the end of our one hundred and fiftieth anniversary year. Let Canada’s artists be an active part of the debates and discussions on Parliament Hill for, and of, Canadians. Thank you.
The Chair: Thank you very much, and now a retired former colleague, but I still call him Senator Moore, and he’s looking in good shape for a retired senator.
Hon. Wilfred P. Moore, former senator, as an individual: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Colleagues, it’s an honour and pleasure to be among you again and to speak to this bill in support of it and in collaboration with Senator Bovey and her work. You have my comments. I think the clerk has distributed them.
In April 2016, the government of Canada announced a review of Canada’s cultural policies. At that time, it was reported that cultural industries account for more than $47.7 billion — that’s 3 per cent of our GDP — and more than 600,000 jobs. That sector includes all manner of Canadian creativity, such as film making and painting, amongst others that have been listed by Senator Bovey.
At the heart of most of these disciplines is an image, whether a painting, a sculpture, a simple dish or a garment — an image designed and made by creative artists and visual artists.
I expect that most people do not reflect on the resources and work needed and expended by an artist in the creation of works of art that engage our visual sense. That creative process typically involves a studio space rented or purchased, materials, living accommodation, hours of work, including research, preliminary rendering of sketches, studies in paint, for example, and a final work of art. And then, hopefully, once viewed, usually in a gallery, which may charge a commission of 50 per cent of the sale price, the work will be purchased and the artist will net some revenue for his or her creation.
Friends, our visual artists are the ultimate risk takers. They practise their chosen art form on the absolute speculation that somebody will take a fancy to their creations and make a purchase. Of course, a work done on commission is the exception.
These artists create a lasting bond between people. They create a sense of community and encourage a strong sense of engagement rooted in the place where she or he lives and works. One of my favourite statements in recognition of the role and value of artists in our communities was made by the late John F. Kennedy, President of the United States, when he said:
The life of the arts, far from being an interruption, a distraction, in the life of a nation, is very close to the centre of a nation’s purpose, and is a test of the quality of a nation’s civilization.
I urge committee members to meet that test of the quality of Canada’s civility and bestow the proposed recognition upon our visual artists. As you know, we have the position of Canada’s Poet Laureate, which gives deserved recognition to that literary art form. I believe that Canada should give similar recognition to our visual artists, and I, therefore, humbly ask that you support this bill.
I dedicate this submission to my friend Joseph Purcell, late of Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, one of Canada’s leading marine painters, a visual artist who departed this life on November 11 last.
Thank you for your time and consideration.
Joanne Larocque-Poirier, Chief of Staff and Corporate Secretary, Canada Council for the Arts: I’d like to begin by thanking the committee for the opportunity to be here today to discuss Bill S-234, An Act to amend the Parliament of Canada Act (Parliamentary Artist Laureate), and the potential role the Canada Council for the Arts could play in supporting the position.
The Canada Council for the Arts has had a very long history of excellence in supporting the work of artists and arts organizations in all art forms and from every region of the country. It is an arm’s-length Crown corporation created in 1957. Its mandate is to “foster and promote the study and enjoyment of, and the production of works in, the arts.”
The council pursues its mandate through a range of activities. It champions and invests in artistic excellence through grants, prizes, services, and payments to professional Canadian artists and arts organizations. The council also conducts research in the arts and communicates their impact.
The council’s current work is informed by four major commitments in the areas of indigenous arts, digital technology, international profile and increased support to artists and arts organizations. These priorities are set out in its strategic plan for 2016-21 and will be delivered, in large part, through a new streamlined funding model that was launched in April 2017.
The council was thrilled to learn about the proposal to establish a Parliamentary Artist Laureate. The proposed mandate of the artist laureate complements the mandate of the council. As Canada Council for the Arts Director and CEO Simon Brault has said, “Artistic creation is often an expression of the values of our country, including free expression, cultural democracy, and other issues that concern Canadians and our global society.” That is because the arts are the voice of the people.
The Parliamentary Artist Laureate presents a wonderful opportunity to reaffirm the important role that artists play in Canada by promoting a society that is based on principles of openness, inclusion, creativity and diversity.
The council also welcomes the opportunity to play a role in the selection process of the Parliamentary Artist Laureate. The council is well positioned to contribute to this process. As part of its regular activities, the council awards a broad range of prestigious prizes each year to more than 200 Canadian artists and scholars in recognition of their quest for innovation and excellence. This includes the administration of the Governor General’s Awards in Visual and Media Arts. These prizes, like the artist laureate position proposed by Bill S-234, celebrate the tremendous contributions of Canada’s pre-eminent visual and media artists; they also further the Canadian public’s engagement with artists’ work, which offers new perspectives on the world and the issues that are important to us.
As you are aware, the council presently plays a role in the selection process for the Parliamentary Poet Laureate. We have been pleased to participate in this process, and we are proud of the role that past laureates have played in promoting the importance of literature, culture and language in Canadian society. The council is in agreement with the proposed amendments put forth by the Honourable Patricia Bovey for the selection process of the parliamentary artist laureate. The council believe that the committee should include the participation of the council’s CEO rather than of its chair. In recent years, the chair of the council has designated this responsibility to the CEO for the Parliamentary Poet Laureate selection. This is in recognition of the CEO’s extensive knowledge and expertise in the arts sector.
In closing, the council commends this initiative that will further the presence of the arts in the lives of Canadians. The council looks forward to the artist laureate position coming to fruition and to playing a critical role in the selection process. I thank you for your time, and I welcome any questions you might have.
The Chair: Thank you very much. Now, this may be limited in time, but we will start to get into questions. When the bells start, the official opposition has a caucus. Normally, I would say that, if it’s an hour bell, we’d meet for half an hour, as long as we get out of here within 20 minutes before, but if one of the groups is going to leave, maybe we should stop when the bells ring. Hopefully, the three of you can come back, or stay around, as the case may be, so that we can finish this up. Anyway, I will stop talking, and let’s get on to questions very quickly here. Two questions per person, as usual.
Senator Petitclerc: Thank you for your presentations. My first question is for you, Senator Bovey. Feel free to answer in the language of your choice.
I noted, perhaps as others did, that you referred to a “parliamentary visual artist laureate,” whereas the term used initially was “parliamentary artist laureate.” I would like you to elaborate on that clarification, and your reason for including the adjective “visual.” Was the decision to add that clarification made with the Parliamentary Poet Laureate in mind, or was that always something you envisioned?
Senator Bovey: I felt, rather than just an arts laureate, because the word “arts” can be theatre, dance and film. It is a broad catchword. We have poet laureate, which is an element of the literary arts, so it was my feeling that, all the way along, this was meant to be a visual arts laureate so we should specify virtual arts so that we are not creating a confusion, but, within that, specify that any of the media in which a visual artist works — and that may change as time goes on — should be eligible.
Senator Petitclerc: I would like to know how you envision this position being put into practice. Do you see it as being similar to the position of Parliamentary Poet Laureate, in terms of organization, compensation, public commitments and so forth? Do you see the position as distinct and independent from that of the poet laureate? Conversely, do you see the two as working in continuity, or, at least, in harmony with one another?
Senator Bovey: I consider it to be a similar practice, senator. The visual artist laureate won’t be on the Hill all the time, and the poet laureate isn’t on the Hill all the time. They will be back and forth. My thought is that probably most of their work will be done in their studio unless they are sketching on site, observing, interviewing, discussing what their work will be. I don’t know. I hope the successive visual artists laureate would be diverse and stretching and rewarding. Yes, I would expect the person to have an office, have a base here, but I wouldn’t expect them to work like the poet laureate.
Senator Petitclerc: Thank you.
The Chair: Could I clarify a couple of quick things? In your remarks, you referred to an honorarium, so you don’t see this as a full-time position.
Senator Bovey: No. Nor, Mr. Chair, is the poet laureate a full-time position.
The Chair: I thought you said that it excluded photography, but I understand in the definition that arts is drawing, painting, sculpture, print making, design, crafts, photography and filmmaking.
Senator Bovey: It includes that and textile. Geoffrey James — I guess Toronto called him the photo laureate — is there as a visual artist laureate.
Senator Seidman: Thank you very much, Senator Bovey, and welcome back, Senator Moore. Ms. Larocque-Poirier, I appreciated your presentation as well.
My question is similar to Senator Petitclerc’s because I am confused, as the legislation says parliamentary artist laureate, and Senator Bovey, you clearly referred to a visual artist laureate bill in your presentation.
Senator Bovey: When you go to clause-by-clause consideration, we’ve amended it to make sure the bill says “visual artist laureate.”I don’t know whether the amendments have been passed out.
Senator Seidman: Yes, they have, but of course we’re discussing the bill at the moment, not an amended bill, so I’m trying to understand. In fact, your plan is to have an amendment tomorrow when we do a clause-by-clause consideration to change it to “visual artist laureate bill.” Is that correct?
Senator Bovey: Yes.
Senator Seidman: And then Senator Moore, I’m going to ask you, since this was your bill originally and you turned over the chalice to Senator Bovey, so to speak, how you feel about it.
Mr. Moore: I think it’s more accurate. It’s interesting that, in my remarks, I consistently referred to it as a visual artist, and I want you to know that I did that totally unaware of what Senator Bovey was doing. It’s just my sense and my involvement in the arts, and I want to be clear that it’s the visual arts we’re talking about here. I completely agree with the proposed amendment that may come forward tomorrow before the committee.
The Chair: Colleagues, you can see from the white lights flashing that the countdown has started towards a vote in one hour. The vote will be at 5:43. We have enough time to get over there, but considering the fact that the official opposition has to leave — you’re encouraging us to continue to ask questions. I have lots more people with questions. Are you able to come back after the vote? This would be 5:43, so we could get back around six or shortly thereafter. The problem is that they are leaving because they have a caucus. Normally if a particular group, in this case, the official opposition of the Senate, is not present for the discussion, then we normally adjourn at that point.
Senator Omidvar: Even if one of you stays?
The Chair: All three of them are leaving. If we don’t have a whole group here, the official opposition, then I’m going to adjourn the meeting. I will suspend the meeting and we’ll come back after the vote, at approximately 6 o’clock.
(The committee suspended.)
(The committee resumed.)
The Chair: We resume our session on Bill S-234, An Act to amend the Parliament of Canada Act (Parliamentary Artist Laureate). We can see from some of the amendments that the word “visual” is being suggested as an addition.
Before the vote in the Senate, we were asking questions of our witnesses, and we will continue doing exactly that.
Senator Mégie: When I saw the term “visual artist,” I looked up everything that the arts umbrella covers. Does the work of a “visual artist” include literature and performing arts?
Senator Bovey: The reason we put “visual artist” in is because it is the visual arts. The poet laureate is in place, so this is specific to those artists who work in the visual media.
Senator Mégie: Does it include literature?
Senator Bovey: The position created by the bill does not include literature or music. It covers only the visual arts, painting, sculpture, film and photography.
Senator Mégie: Before the proposal to create the position of a parliamentary artist, how were the arts promoted?
Mr. Moore: Well, what do I say? I’ve always been interested in the arts, senator, and a friend of mine, George Elliott Clarke, was the poet laureate, and we got talking about things. My interest is in the visual arts. I’m a volunteer chair of the Lunenburg School of the Arts in Nova Scotia, which I helped found, and I have been working for years as a volunteer with the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design in Halifax, and I decided it’s time. It is a very big part of our economy, it’s a big part of the cultural economy of Canada, and the visual artists are at the core of so many things that we have that we enjoy, so I thought we should be trying to have an office position of a visual artist laureate.
Senator Bovey: If I can add to that briefly, there are artists who have come to the Hill over the decades and done some really interesting work, but not officially on behalf of Parliament. One of the most interesting paintings I’ve seen, which was in a private collection and I have used in exhibitions, was a David Milne from 1914, a portrayal of the interior of the old House of Commons before the 1916 fire. It’s in a private collection. The owner died recently and I’m now trying to track it down.
Parliament Hill has the portraits, and there is a curator for works owned by the Senate and by the House of Commons, but that’s different from this. The concept here is to have a rotating artist, chosen by a very detailed process, to bring to the public in visual form the work of parliamentarians and the issues Parliament is dealing with, either in the House of Commons or the Senate. I’m looking at it as an international language to engage citizens, newcomers to Canada, regardless of what their language is and to try to engage youth in civil society and democratic process.
The Chair: Perhaps a supplementary question to Senator Mégie’s might be in what other jurisdictions is there experience with having an artist laureate, either the provinces or other countries that you can mention?
Senator Bovey: I can tell you the City of Toronto has one now, and Ontario has an indigenous artist laureate. The City of Victoria, for the one hundredth and fiftieth anniversary of Canada, was hiring two visual artist laureates, and that would be the first for them. There are a number of states in the United States that have state visual artist laureates. In England, the children’s laureate includes visual artists and literature and has done an uptake in children’s reading. I can speak to that personally. I have grandchildren over there and, as soon as Riddell started putting these things online, my grandchildren would go online every day and, as a result, started reading. I think there is positive impact. There are a number but there are not a lot.
Senator Munson: Thank you for being here, and welcome back. I have two questions.
The poet laureate seems to work on his or her own, and we’ve seen in the Senate, in the last two years, with a professional communications team using social media, the work of the Senate and the senators have come to the fore. People go online to our website and they know what we’re doing. I know the poet laureate receives an honorarium, as I guess would the artist laureate, and I don’t know how much that would be, but it seems they are by themselves. And yes, they may have an office in which to work but, as part of this bill, can you envision a team that could work with them? If Canadians are to be aware that we have a poet laureate, who writes beautiful things that unify the country or show an expression of the country, there has to be substance behind a bill like this so that person knows there is a team ready to apply these great works.
Mr. Moore: Thinking of the poet laureate, senator, and I mentioned before the immediate past one, George Elliott Clarke, he answered to the two Speakers, and George Elliott Clarke was looking for work. He was available. He thought he would be called upon to do projects. Some of us wrote letters on his behalf and then things started to happen. He very much wanted to be part of the national scene, doing things in his literary art form for the greater good to communicate, to Canadians through his office, through ceremonial and celebratory things. His bosses were the two Speakers. If we’re not doing that, it’s a bit on us to make sure that happens.
Ms. Larocque-Poirier: Also, there are further opportunities for those who participate on the selection committee, like the Canada Council for the Arts and others, to further contribute. I’m talking about opportunities for outreach and obtaining nominations through the selection process, but also in terms of promoting the works of art and promoting the artist through media and many other networks. If the committee was composed of membership from the National Gallery of Canada and the Canada Council for the Arts and the Royal Society of Canada, for example, there would be a network already to give it momentum.
Mr. Moore: Do we still have the art advisory working group within the Senate? I served on that. It’s a subcommittee of Internal Economy. That’s another avenue — a connecting point — that the Senate could have directly.
Senator Munson: With that, I think the poet laureate or the artist laureate should have a travel budget and show his or her face and the picture of Canada through word and art, whether in a school or a service club or whatever the case may be. How much support is on the House of Commons? If this goes through here and passes, which it should, by the way, is there support out there?
Senator Bovey: My sense is the answer is yes. As those of us who live out of town know, we’re in airports a couple of times a week, which becomes an interesting place to catch up with people, and I get asked frequently, “When are we getting the bill?” I can tell you that I had several people volunteering to be the sponsor of the bill when it goes to the other place. With society having come through some tough years, shall I say, there’s a real hunger to engage with this international language of the soul that portrays who we are as a society and how we as a society work. Yes, I think there had a solid appetite for it.
Mr. Moore: To add to that, senator, a member of the House of Commons in my riding is Bernadette Jordan. She just finished being chair of Atlantic caucus. She, like Senator Bovey’s friends in the house, is waiting for this bill. They are waiting to champion it. They are very bullish on it. They think it’s needed.
Senator Omidvar: Thank you and welcome back, senator. I will always think of you as “Free Willie.”
Mr. Moore: Make it happen.
Senator Omidvar: Yes, it should happen eventually. That’s another story.
I don’t have a problem with, or a question specifically about, the bill. I have a question around the whole notion that we need different laureates for different expressions of art. We now have a poet laureate, and then we will have, according to this bill, an artist laureate who is dedicated to the visual arts. There are other expressions, such as dance. I know you have film and photography in here. I wonder, Senator Bovey and, maybe Ms. Larocque-Poirier, if you could explain how far we should go down this road of siloing expressions of art in this way. I’m a little worried about that.
Senator Bovey: I’m not sure, if I may, senator, that we should worry about siloing. I think you find with virtual artists that much of their work is in multimedia and multi-expression, which is why I listed some of the forms they might work in. When Senator Munson asked about the poet laureate and social media, I found myself thinking that I would not be surprised if you had the poet laureate and, perhaps, a visual artist laureate working together on a project at some point. I don’t see it as constructing silos but opening and understanding, opening and expression and opening and engagement.
So if I could go to another project that was very dear to my heart, a number of years ago — 10, to be precise — I started an art gallery in a hospital in Winnipeg, having spent some years researching the impact of art on health, for instance. In that place, as the program got rolling, all the other arts became involved because of the way the visual artists brought it in. It didn’t become a series of silos but an embracing of expression.
Ms. Larocque-Poirier: I don’t have much more to add to what Senator Bovey just said. I echo those comments. The visual arts are already broad in the wealth and breadth of the visual arts in the country. I think that is demonstrated by the number of arts practices that have already been listed as potential for eligibility, from photography to sculpture, painting, drawing, filmmaking, video and fine crafts. It’s pretty broad.
Senator Omidvar: I’m looking at your proposed amendment. It’s not amended yet but it’s been proposed. I have to remember the discussions we had just last week around the appointment of the Chief Statistician. Again, this amendment reminds me of a proposal that I think was ultimately not approved but that sort of had the same view of prescribing the process on selection and appointment as opposed to leaving it up to, I imagine, in this case, the chief librarian. Please forgive me if this question has been asked and answered, but I’m remembering our discussions last week and it’s very much in the same thrust. There seems to be a movement to prescribe this very definitely in legislation and, once it’s in legislation, it’s sort of solid. Can you describe to me your reasons for prescribing this and compare it to the process that was used to select the poet laureate? What was wrong with that process that you are asking for this?
Senator Bovey: Madam senator, it is exactly the same process as for the poet laureate. The only difference is the amendment is because instead of the Librarian and Archivist of Canada being on the jury, I felt it should be the director of the National Gallery of Canada because that’s the discipline that relates to it. Instead of the chair of the Canada Council, we felt it was important to have the CEO because they’re the one who comes from the field. It’s changing a couple of the people to reflect the discipline of the visual arts as opposed to the literary and poetry side. The poet laureate is chaired by the Parliamentary Librarian, and the Official Languages Commissioner is part of that committee, so we just shifted the others.
Senator Omidvar: I’m sorry, but I’m not quite sure I understand. Can you describe, in the amendment, which officials you have added or removed or changed the title of?
Senator Bovey: I took out Librarian and Archivist of Canada and put in the director of the National Gallery of Canada.
Senator Omidvar: Instead of the archivist, you have the director of the national gallery.
The Chair: Let me take this opportunity to clarify something else here. Your amendment, as it is on the table, still says the Chairperson of the Canada Council for the Arts. One possible way around this is to leave it as it is but add the phrase, “or their designates,” because you may have other cases where the person titled here may send somebody else. If you want to change it to that, then I think you’d cover off even more than what you wanted to.
Senator Bovey: I have no problem with that whatsoever.
Senator Raine: Thank you very much. This is a wonderful proposal. I have a couple of questions.
My understanding was that private members’ bills cannot have any money attached, and I do believe that this one talks, at least in your words, about an honorarium and expenses. Would you propose for that to come out of a parliamentary budget or from a foundation of some kind? I am worried that this bill, if it is calling on the treasury for funding, may get disqualified along the way.
Senator Bovey: We had legal advice from the Office of the Law Clerk, and this is set up exactly as the poet laureate is, and I’m going to read:
We took the same approach as in the Parliament of Canada Act provisions for the Poet Laureate. We followed the same approach, which does not provide for his or her remuneration. We followed the same approach and did not include anything about the remuneration of the Parliamentary Visual Artist Laureate . . . .
So the remuneration was in my remarks. The poet laureate gets an honorarium, or operations money, I think, from Parliament.
Senator Greene: Was the poet laureate set up by a private member’s bill of the Senate?
Mr. Moore: Yes. Senator Jerry Grafstein introduced it, championed it for years and finally got it through. This is basically an amendment to that act.
The Chair: It has to ultimately go to the House of Commons in any event. If we got a bill from the House of Commons and we tried to raise the amount of money in it or put money into it that wasn’t there, then you’d have a problem with a Royal Recommendation issue. I guess in this case, for some reason, it is not and it has to go the House of Commons anyway, so they can say yea or nay.
Senator Raine: In other words, it is ambiguous whether treasury money can —
The Chair: She has checked with the law clerk and the law clerk says this is okay. No one has challenged this on second reading on the basis of that. Anybody who wants to check with the law clerk can do that.
Senator Raine: I just remember back when I had a private member’s bill going through —
The Chair: There is no reference to money in here.
Senator Bovey: There’s no reference to money.
Senator Raine: That was just in your remarks?
Senator Bovey: Yes, that was just in my remarks.
The Chair: That is not in here.
Senator Raine: I think in your remarks you said “an honorarium and materials budget would be paid,” but you didn’t say by whom. So that could come from the Canada Council or from a private foundation. That’s more aspirational than . . . .
Senator Bovey: It’s not in the actual amendments. This is totally based on the poet laureate. I think they may have called it “operations” instead of “honorarium.” I used the world “honorarium” in my speech because I didn’t want it to be a salary. We’re not asking for a salary. This is over and above. Out of my sector, “honorarium” is a small remuneration that isn’t a salary.
The Chair: Sonia has a response here.
Sonia Norris, Analyst, Library of Parliament: I believe this became a discussion when the Poet Laureate Act went through, because it wasn’t to be a salaried position. The discussion came because, as I understand it, the Parliament of Canada Act, subsection 76(2) discusses salaries of officers, and the poet laureate and the artist laureate are described as officers of the library. The poet laureate does not get a salary. The way they treat the artist laureate would probably be a point of discussion.
Senator Raine: Thank you.
Senator Omidvar: Honorariums can be as low as $100 or high as whatever. Are you able to share with us what the honorarium of the poet laureate is? What does this really cost us?
Ms. Larocque-Poirier: I have it. It’s a printout from the poet laureate website. It reads: What is the poet laureate’s compensation? The poet receives an annual stipend of $20,000, up to $13,000 in travel expenses annually and a budget for programming, administrative expenses and translation/adaptation of works into Canada’s second official language. So it is a stipend of $20,000 and up to $13,000 in travel expenses, plus administrative support.
The Chair: Administration may not be a full-time person.
Ms. Larocque-Poirier: No, it would not be.
The Chair: If I can say the phrase, it’s not going to break the bank, but it will have to be approved by the government in the House of Commons.
Senator Omidvar: It’s not making anyone wealthy.
The Chair: That’s for sure.
Senator Omidvar: Now that I know it, I would be a little worried that we are further exploiting our artists, as we tend to do, because they are mission-driven and values-based and committed to their art. That’s maybe a matter for another time.
Mr. Moore: That is all the more reason to give them recognition. Everyone of us must be involved now and then in community efforts, fundraisers — all of it goes to the artists. Get them to give us a piece of art, and we’ll sell it off. We’ll give them a tax receipt. A tax receipt? They need income to use that. It’s time. It’s deserved, it’s merited and there is a need.
The Chair: Maybe it would be helpful to the committee if you could describe a typical person who might — it sounds to me as if it is a person who has accomplished something in their career and who is looking at helping the rest of the country to become more informed about visual arts and who is willing to dedicate some time. It’s a prestigious position. Maybe you can describe what type of person this would be.
Mr. Moore: Can I touch on that? With regard to the poet laureate, George Elliott Clarke teaches at U of T. This isn’t his job. He was appointed. It’s a prestigious thing to be named a representative of the country. He takes it seriously, but it is not his job. It’s not where he makes his income. He gets an honorarium. I know it’s not easy for him, because I have been through some exercises with him.
This is not something that will break the Canadian bank or the government’s bank, but it gives some recognition and a little bit of financial support — not much. But that’s not why they do it, and that’s not why a visual artist laureate would do it.
Senator Bovey: I think you will find that the kinds of people who would be interested in this are more senior artists in the second half of their career, not young emerging artists but people with a record behind them — a record of exhibitions and perhaps publications. Artists are really interested in portraying what’s going on around them and in social issues. There is going be a great deal that the artists who are going to apply for this will seriously want to grapple with in terms of how Parliament works, how the House of Commons and the Senate work and what their issues are. You’re going to see that conveyed in whatever media they want to work in. I would hope, as I said, that we’d have a digital exhibition, at least, afterward. I think the position is going to be an arts ambassador. As I said in my remarks, I would hope that whatever work they use could be used for language training for refugees and immigrants coming to Canada. It’s a great way to get a sense of where they are coming to.
I heard Senator Sinclair talking to the museums community earlier this year, saying it’s the arts and museums that have to take the lead on a lot of the reconciliation work, because our museums hold our material pasts. Our artists have the ability to express the concerns visually. You’re going to see that artists will be doing the same thing here. It’s not just paintings of the landscape around Parliament Hill. It’s going to be issues-driven. The kinds of issues we have been considering in the Senate since I’ve been appointed would make for a rich series of work. It will get out to Canadians and be another mouthpiece for the Senate outward, and it will help give us perspectives.
The Chair: This person is working part-time. They presumably have another source of income, and they get an honorarium for this, but you’re asking an awful lot here in terms of the mandate. They’re to promote the arts in Canada; produce or cause to be produced artistic creations; sponsor artistic events; give advice to the Library of Parliament regarding the collection of the library, and acquisitions; and perform such other related duties as requested by the Speaker and Parliamentary Librarian. You’re confident somebody can be found that can do all these things and still have some other career?
Senator Bovey: Absolutely. That’s what they do — and to be able to do it with the cachet of being the visual artist laureate of the Parliament. Artists do this all the time. That’s what they do.
The Chair: All right, thank you. Are there any other questions? There being none, we are finished. I thank you very much for your presentations — all three of you.
Committee, we’ll deal with clause-by-clause consideration tomorrow. We had a second bill we were going to deal with today, but we ran into the difficulty of having to go to the Senate for a vote. We talked to the sponsor of the bill. He prefers not to go tomorrow. He prefers to wait until after the winter break, so we’ll have to reschedule the bill regarding Remembrance Day. Tomorrow, we will deal with clause by clause in public session, and then we’ll go in camera and talk about future studies for which you have an agenda that has already been distributed.
(The committee adjourned.)