Make Dance & Drama retroactively HST exempt. Help Arts Education survive Covid-19 closure.

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Dear Prime Minister Trudeau and Honourable Bill Morneau,

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a catastrophic effect on youth arts programs. With mandatory closures across the country, businesses in youth arts are faced with no income at a critical time of the year, and young students are left without an important outlet for physical activity, social interaction, and arts education.

Increasingly, experts are emphasizing the importance of moving from STEM to STEAM skills for young people, as the need to include the arts and humanities in the development of young minds. At the same time, funding challenges for the provinces mean that arts education is being squeezed out as a result of inequitable funding and a lack of qualified teachers. Private businesses in arts education are an essential part of children’s development.

The new economic reality will mean that all businesses will see a decline in revenue. Many concerned parents will simply be unwilling or financially unable to register their children in youth arts programming at a time when children, families, the communities, and businesses will need it most. We need to ensure that local dance schools and other arts programs are able to reopen their doors when we inevitably flatten the curve of the pandemic.

We all recognize the need for additional support in the form of payroll support, rent and mortgage deferrals, grant programs, insurance coverage, and more. No one program or action by the Government is going to be a panacea for our industry. Our ask is specific to the HST.

While the official opposition is calling for a 6-month rebate on HST collected by small businesses, this alone will not be enough to dance studios and other arts providers across the country. We are asking that two decisions be undertaken with respect to the HST for children’s arts.

When it comes to the arts, not all programs are treated equally. Music lessons are considered educational and are therefore exempt from HST. Prior to harmonization, children’s arts were not subject to PST.

1) We are asking that the Federal government rebate for children’s arts businesses any HST funds paid in 2019.

This will provide an infusion of funds for businesses that have paid during the calendar year or lessen the financial burden for businesses that have yet to complete their filing.

2) We are asking that all children’s arts be classified as educational and exempt from the HST going forward.

This will provide a significant discount in the cost of programming for parents at a time when affordability will be critical. It will help business owners secure enough business to keep their doors open, and it will lessen the burden of accounting for the HST.

We respect and applaud the efforts and undertakings made by this Government as part of the COVID-19 Economic Response Plan. We are asking that you make these changes in support of much-needed children’s programs, those that participate in them, and those that provide them.

Respectfully, 

Lee Newman & Tom Carter