Mr. Gary Schellenberger (Perth—Wellington, CPC)
That the House recognize the Stratford Festival's distinct cultural and economic contributions to Stratford, southwestern Ontario and Canada since its inception in 1953.
Mr. Speaker, I am proud to rise in the House today to ask my colleagues to support my private member's Motion No. 545, that the House recognize the Stratford Festival's distinct cultural and economic contributions to Stratford, southwestern Ontario, and Canada since its inception in 1953.
As a lifelong supporter of the arts in Canada, I have seen first-hand how arts organizations not only enrich our culture but also contribute greatly to the economy of the communities in which they are present. It is with this lifelong support of the arts that I say how very proud I am to represent the riding that is home to the world's renowned Stratford Festival.
The Stratford Festival stages some of the most celebrated theatre productions in the world, and with its distinguished reputation, attracts a wealth of prominent actors, designers, and directors. While it originated as a Shakespeare festival, the modern Stratford Festival spans April to October of each year and presents a wide variety of repertory theatre ranging from Shakespearean tragedies to musicals to contemporary pieces. It truly offers something everyone can enjoy.
However, this theatre does much more than create great plays, as it also reaches out to the community and visitors by offering a wide variety of other opportunities to experience the arts in Canada. These types of activities include musical nights, backstage tours, forum events, educational workshops, and visits to the theatre's archives. These diverse experiences entertain and inform over 400,000 visitors every year.
The Government of Canada has a strong history of supporting the Stratford Festival. On October 1, 1981, Canadian Heritage designated the Stratford Festival archives part of the moveable cultural property program. Since 2007, the festival has received significant federal funding through programs such as the Canada cultural spaces fund, the marquee tourism and events program, and the Canadian arts and heritage sustainability program. Clearly, the Government of Canada believes in supporting the Stratford Festival because it is important, and I am asking the House to recognize that importance.
In addition to making a very significant contribution to Canada's rich culture, the Stratford Festival is also a dynamic economic force. It provides 3,000 people with full-time jobs. It attracts visitors from around the world, and the valuable tourist dollars brought into the region provide strength and prosperity to the retail, dining, and hospitality industries. In total, the Stratford Festival generates approximately $140 million in economic activity each year. The Stratford Festival is a tremendous contributor to the economy of southwestern Ontario.
All of the people involved in the successful execution of the festival each year, since the first performance in 1953, have taken part because of their immense love of the arts. Because of this passion, these people have and continue to be dedicated to presenting quality plays that allow them to share their love of the arts, and, above all else, to entertain all the people who attend the festival each year.
My riding of Perth—Wellington has been enriched by the presence of the Stratford Festival. Over the last decade, Stratford has consistently ranked as one of the cities in Canada with the highest quality of life. It has been ranked recently as one of the most intelligent communities in the world. The recent addition of the University of Waterloo digital media campus in Stratford may not have happened were it not for the presence of this world-class festival.
The fine people of Stratford and our surrounding communities have, over the decades, welcomed people from all over who have come to see the festival and who have decided to come again and again, or even to stay. This has allowed unique communities, cultures, and industries to develop. Neighbourhoods and neighbouring towns have been able to showcase, preserve, and enhance their own heritage and cultural offerings. People who have come to work in Stratford and live in the area have travelled all over the country spreading and strengthening our artistic communities and have exported our own theatrical know-how across the globe to various corners of the world.
The Birmingham Conservatory for Classical Theatre is one example of the Stratford Festival helping to strengthen the artistic community in Canada. The conservatory was started to help teach and prepare talented actors for the rigorous requirements of acting in classical theatre. Each year, selected graduates of the theatre training program are paid and offered contracts with the Stratford Festival following completion of their conservatory work.
Farther from home, the Stratford Festival has involved itself in the Sharing a Dream initiative, an international development project in Suchitoto, El Salvador. Suchitoto is a community and region marked by severe violence over the last several decades and lacking cultural spaces and infrastructure. The goal of the project has been to replicate the conditions that allowed the festival to flourish in Stratford over 60 years ago, helping the citizens of Suchitoto to develop and transform itself into a self-sufficient centre for the arts in Central America.
The Stratford Festival has inspired scores of people to launch their own community festivals, dramatic or otherwise. The festival has helped to teach Canadians everywhere that we can be cultural ambassadors and that we have important things to say. In 1952, when the Stratford Festival founder, Tom Patterson, proposed his idea to create a Shakespearean festival to Stratford City Council, he was given a $125 grant to seek artistic advice. Because of the hard work, dedication, and optimism of countless workers and volunteers, that $125 grant has resulted in a world-renowned cultural festival that creates and supports thousands of local jobs and contributes millions of dollars to the economy.
This motion is in recognition of the contributions, both economic and cultural, that Tom Patterson and each of the countless individuals involved in the Stratford Festival have made to Canada. However, passing this motion would also provide the festival with a very valuable promotional tool. Giving the Stratford Festival such a rare honour would allow festival organizers the opportunity to tell the world that it is of such cultural and economic importance to our country that it has been recognized by the Parliament of Canada.
For these reasons, I ask the House of Commons to officially recognize the Stratford Festival and to give it the special distinction it has long deserved. I strongly encourage all members of this House to support this motion.
Topic: Private Members' Business
Subtopic: Stratford Festival