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Arts, culture and recreation

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Attending a multicultural festival. Humming a popular song from the radio.Playing pickup hockey at a local rink. Watching a critically acclaimed opera production. For generations, Canadians have regarded arts, culture, recreation and sport as an essential part of our national identity.

Every day, Canadians enjoy cultural and recreational activities as active participants or as audience members. How you choose to participate depends on who you are. While young people are exploring online radio in growing numbers, seniors are spending their time reading, watching television, socializing and participating in volunteer activities. Women are more likely than men to read a book, visit a library or do crafts like pottery. Men prefer to use the Internet or to visit historical sites. Luckily, Canadians have a wide variety of cultural and recreational activities from which to select.

Strong growth in the creative and performing arts

Chart: Average household spending on selected recreation activitiesCreative and performing artists have contributed greatly to the Canadian economic and cultural landscape. In 2000/2001, Canadian book publishers launched 15,800 new titles and reprinted 12,100 existing titles, an increase of more than 47% since 1996/1997. Both English and French children's books experienced strong growth in sales and number of titles, as did trade books. In music, jazz and blues recording artists were in high demand, with sales soaring 45% from 1998 to 2000, whereas sales fell for almost all other styles of music. And the almost 600 professional not-for-profit performing companies in Canada attracted 14.8 million people to 45,635 performances in 2002/2003. Theatre performances accounted for 80% of live shows.

Golf, hockey, baseball and swimming were the four most popular adult sporting activities in 1998, although fewer Canadians participated in sport in 1998 than in 1992. Since sport participation tends to decline with age, the effects of the aging Canadian population may be felt in this area for years to come.

Volunteer organizations could be the beneficiaries of this demographic shift. In 2000, culture and recreation non-profit organizations used volunteer effort more than any other non-profit organizations, equivalent to 273 million hours or 139,500 full-time jobs.

Movie theatre attendance ended a decade-long growth trend with a 4.6% decrease in 2003/2004, with 118.2 million tickets sold. The rise of the multiplex has steadily shifted theatre attendance away from small and medium-sized theatres to large theatres. By 2003/2004, large theatres represented 89% of theatre attendance, compared with only 67% in 1991/1992.

The number of hours Canadians spent watching television was relatively stable from 1999 to 2003, hovering at around 21.7 hours a week. Prior to those years, however, weekly television viewing decreased from 23.5 hours in 1988 to 22.3 hours 10 years later.

A major economic contribution

Chart: Market share of attendance, by size of movie theatreWith 64% of households regularly using the Internet in 2003, Canadians are exploring new forms of virtual arts and leisure. Online gaming and Internet radio listening are increasingly being enjoyed by significant numbers of Canadians. Consumers are also turning to the Internet to access traditional cultural items. Reading materials such as books, magazines and newspapers were the most popular online purchases in 2003.

In 2001, 611,000 Canadians worked in culture-related jobs, representing 4.1% of the work force. At an average annual growth rate of 3.4% from 1996 to 2001, the culture sector outpaced the overall employment growth of 2.3%. Jobs in written media, the film industry and broadcasting accounted for more than half of all culture positions.

Self-employment is commonplace in the arts and culture professions, with one in four culture workers running their own business. Employer subcontracting and downsizing may be part of the reason for more part-time work, but the nature of culture work may attract those who thrive in a more independent, flexible and self-directed work environment.

Government support for arts and culture

Chart: Culture expenditures by federal, provincial/territorial and municipal governmentsGross domestic product (GDP) from culture activities amounted to $39.9 billion in 2002, an increase of 37% from 1996. The contribution of the culture sector to the Canadian economy amounted to 3.8% of GDP in 2002, the same share reported in 1996.

Government has encouraged arts and culture programs nationwide by providing funding and support for everything from ballet companies to broadcasters. Together, the three levels of government spent $7.3 billion on culture in 2003/2004 or $243 for every person in Canada. The federal government accounted for 45% of total spending, the provinces and territories 29% and municipalities 26%.

The federal government concentrates its cultural spending on industries such as broadcasting, publishing, and film and sound recording. In 2003/2004, the federal government spent $1.6 million on broadcasting, $386.2 million on the film and video industry, and $162.1 million on book and periodical publishing. It also supports the arts through special programs like those funded by the Canada Council for the Arts. Provincial and territorial funds are largely directed toward libraries, the performing arts and heritage institutions. Municipalities spend most of their dollars supporting libraries.

During the 1990s, arts and culture funding declined, partly due to federal and provincial government cutbacks. Since 1998, all three levels of government have increased their support. By 2002/2003, culture spending by government was rising at the fastest rate in a decade.