My mother used to say of a neighbor who had a shiny car at the door, but almost nothing to eat, that he was a “beggar on horseback.”

This is the case of thousands of our artists who pull the devil by the tail. The pandemic, it goes without saying, hasn’t helped matters. If it has thrown countless numbers of hotel and restaurant workers out of business, it has not spared the entertainment world. Hundreds of artists have left their profession in the hope of earning a living in less precarious environments. It is to avoid other massacres of the kind that Sophie Prégent, the president of the Union of artists, and the heads of all cultural associations urge the government of the CAQ to adopt Bill 35.

This project by Nathalie Roy, Minister of Culture and Communications, intends to “modernize” the status of the artist. It’s a very pretentious word to mean that painters, sculptors, writers, singers, actors and others will be able to have rights that most workers have long enjoyed. But the law still needs to be passed. This is far from certain, the general elections taking place on October 3rd.


The law will amend five existing laws and repeal one. The text to which contributed Liza Frulla and Louise Beaudoin called in reinforcement – ​​they were one and the other Minister of Culture in Quebec – will finally recognize the rights of writers and visual artists. Broadly speaking, painters and writers will enjoy the same protection as performing and television artists when negotiating employment contracts. The professional associations to which they belong will be able, like the UDA and the SARTEC, to sign collective agreements.

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Once the law is passed, all artists will be better protected against psychological harassment and sexual harassment. They will be able to appeal to the Administrative Labor Tribunal like most workers and the law will impose minimum conditions on those who employ them.

The world of the arts has always been deluded. The world of television and cinema even more than any other. The general public believes that the artists we see on screen are rolling in gold and indulging in all their fantasies. If some make a good living on the small screen like Patrice Lécuyer, Guy A. Lepage or Véronique Cloutier, for example, the greatest number barely manage to make ends meet. Hundreds – and not the least – sometimes stay a year or more without landing a single role.


The Union des Artistes has more than 10,000 members in good standing. Of these, at least 3,000 do not earn a single penny in a year. Pandemic or not! The average income of UDA members is $22,000. That’s half the average salary of Quebecers.

SARTEC brings together 1,500 film and television authors and screenwriters. As for the members of the UDA, only a small number of authors – less than a hundred – manage to live honorably from their work. As for the writers, members of their own union, unless they publish each year a novel or a biography which would sell several thousand copies, none manages to live from their pen. They all have to rely on an extra income.

The new law will not so much reduce the number of artists who are beggars on horseback, but it will give them more security and give them some dignity.

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