Should the federal government help music festivals book big name artists?

Osheaga has drawn thousands of people to Montreal for the past decade.
Osheaga has drawn thousands of people to Montreal for the past decade. Susan Moss/Osheaga

Quebec festivals could soon be using federal taxpayer money to attract top artists, if a pair of lobby groups get their way.

The Major International Events Network (RÉMI) and Festivals and Major Events (FAME) are calling on the Trudeau government to give more money to major festivals like Osheaga, the Montreal International Jazz Festival, and Just For Laughs.

“We want our events to join the major league of events,” said Martin Roy, the CEO of REMI and FAME.

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“A lot of people go to Coachella and South by Southwest. We want some of our events to become as attractive as these events.”

Roy noted that some events across the country get funding from regional agencies, and that the Quebec government just increased funding from $15 million to $21 million for its program to help festivals.

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He’s calling on the federal government to create its own dedicated festival fund.

“We bring money to the federal government,” he said. “Every dollar invested in festivals and events brings back $2.50.”

Roy said Canada has spent a lot of money marketing the country as a tourist destination for its 150th birthday, but it now needs to spend money on “the product itself.”

He said festivals need help booking top artists.

“The Canadian dollar going down has an impact on the costs. We pay major international artists, and most of the time it’s in U.S. dollars. That has an impact,” Roy told Global News.

READ MORE: Osheaga 2017: The Weeknd, Muse, Lorde headline festival

A dedicated festivals and events fund would also help promoters implement new technology, giant screens, more advanced social media and sustainable development.

They want $45 million from the government for festivals and events across the country each year, with 25-33 per cent of that going to Quebec events.

Roy said meetings with Federal Tourism Minister Bardish Chagger have been productive.

The Canadian Taxpayers Federation thinks the onus for festival funding should not be on the governments.

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“I wish these organizations would try and get financed through the private sector instead of always coming to the taxpayer for their (legitimate) projects,” Canadian Taxpayers Federation Quebec VP Carl Vallée told Global News. “If a festival isn’t viable financially without taxpayer handouts, should it even take place?”

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But Martin Roy argues that the festivals are huge draws for tourists.

READ MORE: Could this be the year that Canada finally recovers from its 15-year tourism slump?

“We need to get more tourists, we need tourism to be recognized, to be more important. There will be 1.8 billion tourists each year by 2030. We need to get our share of that,” said Roy.

He said Canada is 18th on the list of the top 20 tourist destinations in the world and that’s not good enough.

Roy said festivals suffered after funding was cut under the Harper government, and after tobacco advertising was prohibited in 2003.