Monday, 7 July 2014

THESIS REFLECTION

BY: ROBIN NELSON

Canadian provincial cultural policies are interesting because no one level of government is responsible for “culture.” Instead, a region may be influenced by federal, provincial, and municipal policy. The origins of provincial cultural policies in Canada reflect different funding frameworks, which have subsequently been shaped by distinct regional concerns and priorities (Gattinger and Sainte- Pierre 2008). In addition, past patterns of support for the sector, which differ provincially, help shape its treatment in subsequent budgets. Despite these historical differences in provincial cultural policy development, Canadian cultural policy analysis has primarily been conducted at a federal level (Gattinger and Sainte-Pierre 2008), which is why, I believe, my thesis is important.


Hopewell Rocks, New Brunswick
Hopewell Rocks, New Brunswick
I want to spend this post answering a question that I am sometimes asked when discussing my thesis: Why use NB as my case study?

1) The most obvious answer is that I am from NB, but there are also some academically justifiable reasons.

2) There are three general support structures for the “arts”: i) the French or direct model where the government is the patron, ii) the English or indirect model where the government funds arms length organizations who then support the “arts,” and iii) the American or private model, which involves privatized support. Within Canada, provincial frameworks often represent one of these models but have evolved into more hybrid approaches.

The framework for Government of New Brunswick (GNB) intervention is distinctive. GNB has a tradition of direct involvement in cultural funding, influenced by the province’s position as Canada’s only officially bilingual province. As argued by Gattinger and Sainte-Pierre, “the conception of a culture that is based on biculturalism is an important provincial characteristic” (2008, 175). Within the historical development of the province’s cultural policies, living one’s own culture and speaking one’s own language are understood as rights guaranteed by the government (2008, 175). GNB, therefore, has a history of direct involvement in “culture” due to its role as guarantor.


3) The province has had an articulate and comprehensive cultural policy, Cultural Policy for New Brunswick, since 2002 that purportedly guided government involvement in heritage funding (until the recent release of Creative Futures: A Renewed Cultural Policy for New Brunswick). Additionally, prior to 2002, the province had a less well-known heritage policy, From Partnership to Stewardship. The Canadian government and some of our provincial governments do not have a similarly articulated policy (which doesn’t mean “cultural policies” are not enacted, only that there is no official and comprehensive policy that guides intervention).

4) New programs (the Museum Network, the Exhibits & Activities Grant, and the Museum Collection Inventory Program) were introduced with the implementation of Cultural Policy for New Brunswick, influencing museum public programming.

5) In 2012, the policy began a renewal process, which involved extensive consultation. The public given the opportunity to present their ideas and submit their thoughts in writing. These documents have served as good sources of information in preparation for certain interviews.

6) From 2002 to 2012 NB policy implementation was influenced by several contemporary events, such as two changes in provincial government - meaning three different governments with distinct priorities oversaw the policy during that time - and a provincial as well as global economic downturn. The Heritage Branch, which administers funding to museums, was also housed in four different departments during the period examined. All of these factors may have influence policy outputs and museum programming, which is something I am investigating in my interviews.

What do you think about my selection of NB as my core focus? What pros or cons might I have missed?

2 comments:

  1. Thanks for sharing your research - very interesting to see what people are working on in the program. Despite my vested interest as a fellow New Brunswick buddy, I think this province has some unique dynamics that you have highlighted in your post (ex. bilingualism as a major identity driver and changes in provincial government).

    You say "pros and cons" at the end of your post ... Are you implying that particular shifts in provincial leadership and its historic identity marked as "Canada's only bilingual province" have disrupted the effectiveness of developing a comprehensive policy for the province? I think this is an interesting point due to the new population growth strategy I see in the news.

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  2. I am not certain. Thus far, I think that bilingualism as an identity marker has helped facilitate the development of cultural policy in the province and not disrupt it. As to changes in leadership, my interviews have suggested that having a cultural policy is very important when there are changes because it enables consistency. While different governments have different attitudes toward "arts, culture, and/or heritage," having the policy means that programs continue to exist despite the change in government. However, certain governments may neglect to develop or pay much attention to the policy. I am not sure that really answers your question... because I am looking at 2002 to 2012, I do not know what influence government shifts had before that time in the development of the 2002 (it is not something that is already written about). Thanks for drawing my attention to such a large knowledge gap!

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