Cameron Wigmore, Green Party Member: August 2008

August 16, 2008

Is Canadian Culture Important? Harper Says NO

Apparently our PM Stephen Harper, who likely enjoys paint by numbers and took lessons as a child to learn how to play the radio, doesn't recognize the economic and other benefits of investing in the arts.

I'll tell you what's wrong with cutting funding for Arts and Culture.

According to a 2001-02 Statistics Canada report, with an investment of $6.8 billion from three levels of government, the arts and culture sector directly employed 740,000 people and generated $26 billion for the economy.

The arts and culture sector employs as many people as the combined sectors of agriculture, forestry, fishing, mining, oil, gas and utilities.

Green Party: Harper's disrespectful attitude towards cultural expression will damage Canada's reputation

"Slashing funds for cultural activities, both domestic and abroad, is damaging to the fabric of our country and further jeopardizes Canada's international reputation," said Ms. May. "This move appears to be more about extending the government's long tentacles of control into the area of cultural expression, but this move will backfire on Canada. Mr. Harper is slashing the arts in cynical attempt to win votes from a base he mis-reads. Most Canadians want to support a vibrant arts community."

CBC: Cultural groups blast additional federal arts cuts

After mostly silence (save for brief statements from department spokesmen) this week, Heritage Minister Josée Verner defended the Trade Routes and PromArt decisions in an interview with the French arm of Canadian Press on Thursday.

"What's being considered … is to examine how we can create a new program or new avenues that will be more efficient and with a stronger impact for our culture abroad," Verner said.

This quote above is interesting. The Cons Heritage Minister says they are seeking better efficiency, but dismantling a working program to possible recreate it at some point in the future seems fairly inefficient to me. Tories cut five more arts programs

"The opposition seems to be accusing us of having an agenda to see that the arts is funded to a lesser extent on an ideological basis, and I can say that's not the case (because) we are spending more on the arts than the Liberal government," said Kory Teneycke, Prime Minister Stephen Harper's director of communications.

The above quote is typical of the Harper Tories. Defend their actions by saying the Liberals are worse. This redirect won't work this time, because cutting tens of millions of dollars in funding can't be defended by implying that Liberals might cut even more. They aren't the ones in power cutting funding. The Harper Tories are, and no amount of blame-shifting or weak excuses will change this.

National Post: Frustration builds over federal cultural cuts

"These cuts are shocking and short-sighted, and they certainly aren't business friendly," wrote Waddell in a statement. "Support for arts and culture are among the most efficient investments a government can make. "

Investing in the arts stimulates the economy. Let's say an artist receives a grant to tour. They then need to rent vehicles, buy plane tickets, pay for meals eat at restaurants, stay at hotels and so on. Their shows are at venues which employ people. The public gets dressed up, maybe in nice new clothes, and drive their vehicle (or even better use public transit ;) and pay for parking to go out for dinner and a show to see the artist. I could go, and I know I'm missing some steps, but I think you probably get the picture. Ottawa to axe five more arts and culture programs

Canadian Heritage Minister Josée Verner defended the cuts saying the government only wanted to help arts and culture organizations in a more efficient manner and those being axed failed to demonstrate that they were providing sufficient returns for the dollars invested.

"Culture is an essential element of the identity of a nation and in that sense, will always have its unfailing support," she said.

So it's like that. "I'm hurting you because I love you." If this is what the Harper Tories call "unfailing support", I'd hate to see what they call closed-minded, ideologically based pigheadedness.

Defending these actions on the basis that a program "failed to demonstrate that they were providing sufficient returns for the dollars invested" is ludicrous. The government has done no studies to confirm that there were insufficient returns on dollars invested. Due to the supposed failure to demonstrate, the Tories think they then have a right to act without investigating or checking if their assumptions are correct. Shouldn't this action be based on something more substantial? If they actually proved that there were insufficient returns on dollars invested that would mean something, but there's no proof of that. Instead they say there was a failure by the programs to prove their worth. Shouldn't the government have to prove the inefficiency of a program before they axe it? This is sort of a "it's your fault for not proving your worth to us" kind of an angle.

Tories decimating culture funding

Asked to explain the cuts, the Prime Minister's spokesperson, Kory Teneycke, suggested some of the funding choices made by the programs were inappropriate, and said money was going to fringe art groups that in many cases would be at best, unrepresentative, and at worst, offensive.

The government is cutting cultural programs to please its ideological base. The Conservatives still don't understand that in a free and democratic country, artists should be able to create without fear and what they deserve is help from our leaders, not threats.

During the Conservative tenure, arts and culture has seen its importance diminish and be marginalized by cuts or ideological attacks over and over. Funding for cultural infrastructure, like community museums and cultural promotion has suffered, but freedom of creation has also been under attack, as seen with the debate on bill C-10 and censorship.

We are witnessing true Conservative ideology at work here. They are cancelling, one by one, programs that don't fit their mindset and culture is taking the biggest hit. Worst, hundreds of artists, creators and organization are left in the dark as to which programs will be cancelled next.