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Executive summary

In 2003, culture industries contributed an estimated $43.2 billion to the Canadian economy, accounting for approximately 3.8% of GDP1. All provinces reported growth in culture output from 1996 to 2003, with overall growth at the national level averaging 48.4%. Alberta reported the largest percentage increase, followed by Quebec and Ontario, with increases of 73.6%, 53.0% and 47.0%, respectively.

The culture sector contributed under 4% to the total GDP in all the provinces except Ontario and Quebec, where it accounted for 4.2% and 4.1%, respectively.

Ontario largest producer of culture output, Alberta has strongest growth

In 2003, Ontario accounted for the largest share of culture output (46%), followed by Quebec (23%) and British Columbia (12%). Ontario generated approximately $20 billion in culture output, followed by Quebec with $10 billion and British Columbia with $5 billion. Together, these three provinces accounted for over 80% of the total culture output for all provinces.

The culture sector in these three provinces also showed healthy growth in output, ranging from 43.1% to 53.0%, on average, from 1996 to 2003. Alberta experienced the fastest growth in culture output (73.6%) over the period. Most provinces retained their shares of culture output between 1996 and 2003 with some exceptions. Quebec and Alberta increased their shares whereas all other provinces showed a slight decline.

Significantly, for Ontario and Quebec, the shares of the provinces’ culture output were higher than the provinces’ shares of total Canadian GDP. For instance, in 2003, Ontario accounted for 46% of total culture output for all provinces, compared to 42% of total Canadian GDP.

Alberta, Quebec and Prince Edward Island experienced above-average growth

Alberta, Quebec and Prince Edward Island were the only provinces to experience growth in culture output higher than the national average between 1996 and 2003.

In 2003, growth in culture output surpassed total provincial GDP growth in Quebec, Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island. Noteworthy is culture output growth in Prince Edward Island, which was stronger than its overall provincial output. Culture output in Prince Edward Island increased by 8% compared to its overall GDP growth of 5.4%. All remaining provinces saw their culture output grow less than provincial GDP. The gap was greatest in Newfoundland and Labrador, where provincial GDP grew 10% compared to 7% in culture output during the period. This discrepancy is due, in large part, to the strength of the oil production sector and its effect on provincial GDP.

Culture sector accounted for 3.8% of GDP

Culture accounted for 3.8% of total GDP in 2003. The culture sector contributed less than 4% to the total GDP of every province except Ontario and Quebec, where it accounted for 4.2% and 4.1%, respectively. Culture was least significant to the economy of New Brunswick, where it generated 2.1% of the province’s GDP over the same period.

Ontario net importer, Quebec net exporter of culture goods

In terms of trade in culture goods, Ontario had the highest level of international trade activity.2 In 2003, the province imported $3 billion in total culture goods (about three-quarters of all Canadian imports of culture goods). At the same time, its exports amounted to almost $1.3 billion. Quebec was the second largest source and destination for culture trade in Canada, accounting for 10% of imports and 30% of exports. Ontario was a net importer whereas Quebec was a net exporter of culture goods. Quebec exported more culture goods ($738 million) than it imported ($398 million) in 2003.

All regions of Canada reported growth in exports and imports in culture goods trade between 1996 and 2003. The Atlantic provinces recorded the largest increase in the levels of culture imports, whereas the fastest growth in exports occurred in the Prairies (168%) over the same period.

In 2003, Written media (publishing) sub-sector accounted for 36% of exports of all culture goods and 70% of the total goods imports. Film followed with a 9% share of imports and a 2.8% share of exports.3

Federal per-capita spending lowest in west

In 2003, the three levels of government spent approximately $7.4 billion on culture activities. The federal government contributed $3.2 billion, followed by provincial governments at $2.2 billion and municipalities at just over $2 billion.

All three levels of government spent more on culture in 2003 than in the previous year, although the rate of federal spending slowed over the same period.4 Federal spending in the film and video industry, book publishing and the performing arts actually decreased.

Between 1996 and 2003, the largest increase in federal spending occurred in Sound recording and music publishing, more than doubling over this period. On the other hand, Libraries was the only sub-sector to experience a decline in federal spending (-2%). In comparison, between 1998 and 2003, overall provincial spending on Film recorded the largest increase (58%), while the smallest increase occurred in Sound recording and music publishing (2%).

Expenditures on culture were the largest in Ontario and Quebec, where the sector received 39% and 31%, respectively, of the combined spending from all three levels of government in 2003.

Quebec was the largest recipient of federal culture spending on a per-capita basis. In 2003, spending in Quebec amounted to $153 per person, followed by Prince Edward Island at $131 and Nova Scotia at $125.

The largest percentage increases in per-capita federal culture spending occurred in Nova Scotia (36%), Prince Edward Island (32%) and Quebec (31%) over the period 1996 to 2003. Federal spending was relatively lower in the Western provinces and the Prairies compared to Central Canada and the Atlantic. Alberta was the only province in Canada to experience a decline in federal culture spending (-9%) on a per-capita basis between 1996 and 2003.

With the exception of British Columbia, provincial per-capita culture spending rose over the period 1996 to 2003. Per-capita provincial spending on culture activities in Quebec was the highest in Canada. In 2003, the Quebec provincial government spent $97 per person, a 21% increase from $80 in 1996. Manitoba followed with $96 and Saskatchewan with $88 in provincial per-capita culture spending in 2003. The provincial governments in Quebec, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Labrador, and New Brunswick reported per-capita culture spending higher than the Canadian average. Ontario spent the least on culture activities on a per-capita basis in 2003 ($51).

In this report, spending in British Columbia appears to be one of the lowest in Canada and below the Canadian average, with an expenditure of approximately $243 million in 2003. The reason for these levels, however, is that British Columbia invests in the Film industry primarily through a tax credit system for film, animation, publishing and television, rather than through grants or donations. Unfortunately, data on tax credits are not included in the existing Statistics Canada Survey of Government Expenditures on Culture. Other provinces may rely on grants orcontributions, which are measured by this Survey. Until the Survey of Government Expenditures on Culture can be revised to take into account the growth of tax creditsystems, data will be underestimated for provinces such as British Columbia.

In British Columbia, municipalities spent $75 on a per-capita basis, the highest in Canada in 2003. Saskatchewan and Ontario followed with per capita spending of approximately $73 and $72, respectively. British Columbia, however, was the only province in Canada where per-capita municipal spending fell between 1996 and 2003 (-2%).

Ontario employed more culture workers than any other province in Canada

Similar to culture output, Ontario had the greatest share (41%) of culture employment in Canada followed by Quebec (27%) and British Columbia (13%) over the period. Together, these three provinces averaged 81% of all culture employment in Canada in 2003.

Quebec was the only province to increase its share of total culture employment in Canada. It accounted for 27% of culture employment in 2003 compared to 24% in 1996. British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick all reported slight declines in employment shares over this period.

Culture’s share of total employment was most significant in Quebec (4.6%), followed by Ontario (4.1%) and British Columbia (3.8%), and least significant in Newfoundland and Labrador (2.9%), Saskatchewan (3.0%) and Prince Edward Island (2.9%)

The largest gains in culture employment between 1996 and 2003 occurred in Quebec (35%), followed by Ontario (16%) and Alberta (16%).

Majority of culture employees worked in the private sector

In 2003, a majority of culture workers in Canada were employed in the private sector – Newfoundland and Labrador had the highest proportion of private sector culture jobs (81%), while British Columbia had the lowest (61%). The province of Newfoundland and Labrador reported the largest increase in the share of private sector culture employment (from 74% in 1996 to 81% in 2003). Nova Scotia posted the greatest loss in its share of private sector culture jobs (from 77% in 1996 to 70% in 2003), which was somewhat offset by an increase in self-employment in that province’s culture sector.

Largest public sector employment in the Atlantic provinces

The Atlantic provinces had a higher proportion of culture workers in the public sector than other provinces. Prince Edward Island was at the top, with 15% of its culture workers employed in the public sector in 2003. Prince Edward Island also reported the second largest per-capita federal culture spending in Canada. In general, most provinces recorded declines in their shares of public sector employment from 1996 to 2003, with the greatest drop occurring in Newfoundland and Labrador (from 15% to 7%). Nova Scotia and Saskatchewan were the only provinces without dwindling shares of public sector culture employment.

Self-employment in the culture sector increased in almost all provinces in Canada

With the exception of Saskatchewan, all provinces reported a rise in self-employment in the culture sector. Interestingly, the top four provinces in terms of culture employment reported the highest proportions of self-employment compared to other provinces. British Columbia led with 37% of its culture labour force consisting of self-employed workers. Most of the Atlantic provinces – Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick – reported relatively lower proportions of self-employment but higher proportions of public sector employment, as compared to other provinces.

Differing rates of full-time culture employment in the provinces compared to provincial averages

The majority of culture workers in all provinces were employed full-time. However, with the exception of Quebec, Alberta, British Columbia and Ontario, the remaining provinces had relatively lower rates of full-time employment in the culture sector. Full-time culture employment rates rose from 1996 to 2003 in just three of the provinces: Quebec, Newfoundland and Labrador and Alberta. Newfoundland and Labrador experienced the greatest increase in its rate of full-time culture employment, from 78% in 1996 to 83% in 2003, whereas Manitoba reported the largest decline from 81% to 76% during the same period.


1.  The total contribution of culture to GDP shown in this report for the years 1996 to 2003 are revised from data published in the report ”Economic Contribution of Culture in Canada,” in 2004. These differences are based upon revisions in data from the Labour Force Survey and the Input-Output Accounts, which are revised on a regular basis.

2.  Culture goods include original and mass produced goods, which contain culture content as defined by Canadian Framework for Culture Statistics, (Statistics Canada, 2004).

3.  Statistics Canada, The Daily, 17 October 2005, International trade in culture goods, 1996 to 2004.

4. Statistics Canada, The Daily, 31 October 2005, Survey of Government Spending on Culture.


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