Cameron Wigmore, Green Party Member: Is Canadian Culture Important? Harper Says NO

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.


Cameron W said...

Here's another great article.

From the Vue (Edmonton)

"...The Tories—not exactly the biggest fans of cultural expression that doesn’t involve loud engines or squeaky clean, white-picket-fence sensibilities—revealed their ideological bias and myopic view of what constitutes culture in an internal party memo which was leaked to the media. It decried federal funding going to such patently offensive miscreants as “a left-wing and anti-globalization think-tank,” “a general radical,” and a band which uses—ladies, kids, cover your ears—a swear word in its name.

Of course, grants were also provided to support a tour of Inuit art, a ballet theatre from Atlantic Canada, a dance troupe from Québec and some 300 other Canadian cultural initiatives.

An anonymous government source stated that the programs were cut because funding “went to groups that would raise the eyebrows of any typical Canadian,” which ignores the fact that a few eyebrows would likely go up about the fact that significant sums of our miserly foreign aid budget goes to help perfectly profitable businesses make more money overseas and contributes to multilateral institutions whose programs have been starving and displacing people in the Global South for decades. Let’s take a closer look at those programs, shall we?..."

Cameron W said...

Meanwhile, Harper has made sure that the arts & culture supporting province of Quebec knows it is loved by the Tories. In an announcement made Saturday, they stated that "...Canadians will have the opportunity to learn about military music, its traditions, and its history at the 10th Quebec City International Festival of Military Bands, thanks to an investment by the Government of Canada..."

This is more proof that the Conservatives are making strategic cuts to programs that supposedly 'upset' their voter base, while maintaining cultural funding for a military cultural event in a province where they are desperately trying to gain support.

Cameron W said...

From the G&M...

"...If the federal government believes the artistic community has a role to play in society and the global economy, it needs to reinvest heavily in Canadian artists and stop using the phrase "culture of innovation" exclusively in the sense of corporate practices.

Actor and director Sarah Polley summed up the mood of the arts community in her testimony to the Senate committee on Bill C-10: "Every Canadian television program and film that I and any of us have ever been involved in has involved some public financing. When you tell artists to use private money, it is essentially telling us to leave the country."

Want a 'culture of innovation'? Fund our artists

Cameron W said...

I have in the past pointed out that all things that stimulate the GDP are not necessarily good. For example, an oil spill employs many people, and economically is seen as "good", but that doesn't take account of the environmental damage, the value of lost ecosystems or the actual impact on the well-being of Canadians. That's why we Greens support adding a Genuine Progress Indicator to our ways of measuring progress.

Genuine Progress Indicator:

True Cost Economics ("A La Adbusters")

GDP: Grossly Distorting Perception

A friend of mine compared government investment in the arts to spending on the war on drugs. Both use taxpayers money, but one clearly contributes to the GPI in a positive way (through economic stimulation and through enjoyment of life [see related links below]) while the other - crime/war on drugs - has a negative impact.

From this link (pdf):

"...The GPI recognizes that, with respect to crime, limitless growth is not good for society. The GPI tells us that the more crime there is and the more money society spends, the less prosperous our province becomes. By recognizing that crime does not contribute to societal well-being..."

While a war on drugs and funding for the arts might have the quality of economic stimulus in common, they are certainly worlds apart in the context of impact on societal well being and overall prosperity.

Arts & Culture are beneficial to our well-being & quality of life, and so investments in the cultural industry not only stimulate the economy, they improve our collective quality of life and well being.


The Importance of Culture To the Well-Being of Societies
John Gordon Culture and Art-related Activities OECD Statistics Directorate Measuring Well-being and Societal Progress OECD/CRELL-JRC Workshop Milan, June 19, 2006

Art is essential for our cultural well-being
Viewpoint (UVic)
The following is excerpted from Dr. Jan Zwicky’s (philosophy) remarks when she accepted her Governor General’s Award for Poetry on Nov. 16.

- - -

Quote from the link above (click and scroll to bottom):

4.30 In the cultural policy literature, we find an approach which assumes that culture and sport have a positive impact on an area or city and that cultural vitality is one aspect of quality of life. This 'cultural vitality' is measured by the opportunities for participating and attending cultural events, the development of new work and the level of economic investment etc. This approach is to be found in the US studies and in the work of the New Zealand government.

4.31 In contrast, some of the UK work has focused on proving that culture and sport have a positive impact and the measurements flow from that. Conceptually at least, cultural planning appears to bring those two approaches closer together by promoting the view that culture is an aspect of planning which sits alongside economic and social issues. Its (so far) limited application in the UK does suggest a need to develop some key qualitative as well as quantitative indicators - including some means of measuring the quality of the intervention.

What the above text tells us is that the quality of life benefits from cultural activities are difficult to quantify. Studies show correlation, but necessarily causation. The benefits of culture to our quality of life are difficult to quantify, so defending public funding for culture shouldn't be based on proven value to well-being, although there is a theoretical possibility of a link between participation in culture and quality of life. The evidence suggests an association between cultural and sports participation and an improved quality of life.

To me this means more studies must be done. It doesn't mean there is definitely NO link/benefit between quality of life and the arts & culture industry, it just means that there MAY BE a link, and it still needs to be studied further.

Below is another related excerpt from this related link:

6.1 The evidence available from both the academic and policy literature leads to the conclusion that there is no definitive set of indicators which can measure the contribution of culture and sport to quality of life and well-being, regardless of how these terms are defined.

6.2 While the evidence suggests an association between cultural and sports participation and an improved quality of life, there is no evidence of a causal relationship between the two.

6.3 There is, however, the theoretical possibility of a link between social connectedness/social inclusion, participation in culture and/or sport and quality of life.

6.6 Underpinning any approach to the development of indicators is the issue of the policy goal: why does the public purse fund sports and cultural activity?; and, to what end? There are two approaches in the policy literature we examined. Both assume a positive link between culture and sport and quality of life and well-being, however defined. One approach sets out to prove this link but, as we have shown, this is not easy territory. The other approach works from the assumption that sport and cultural activity in a community is a signifier of quality of life, and sets about measuring its effectiveness. While the latter may not offer the kind of 'evidence base' which is hoped for, it has the advantage of putting culture and sport in the same category as other public sector commitments and suggests a workable framework for evaluation.

Cameron W said...

Arts funding gets the knife, at no cost to Tories

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

Actors blast PM's 'arts-not-for-regular-folk' stance

From the story:

Some of Canada's most recognizable film and TV stars took aim today at Prime Minister Stephen Harper's assertion that working-class Canadians cannot relate to artists who go to "rich galas" and whine about their government subsidies.

"I like to think I'm an ordinary working person in an extraordinary industry called show business – and I stress, business," said Art Hindle, who has acted in some 60 films...

Jean Proulx said...

Dear Cameron,

I am a member of the Liberal Party of Canada and a supporter of Stéphane Dion. I was very inspired by the classy, substantive campaign that Mr. Dion ran during the election and by his visionary Green Shift policy jointly supported by Elizabeth Manly and the Green Party. Although our party did poorly I feel this was not so much a reflection on Mr. Dion as on a number of other factors (lack of election preparation due to snap election; internal dissension within the LPC, collusion between Stephan Harper and Jack Layton against Dion, lack of cooperation between the centre-left opposition parties,etc.)

Now that the election is over and loyal Liberal volunteers are exhausted and inattentive, certain "un-named senior liberals" aided by a hostile right-wing media are trying to force Mr. Dion out of his leadership position without even giving a chance for ordinary Liberal members to consider whether this is in the interests of our party or Canadian democracy. They present this as a fait accompli. They say that Mr. Dion is isolated and finished politically. What they do not realize though is that Mr. Dion is NOT isolated. Grassroots Liberals were energized and inspired by his campaign, by the Green Shift, by his refusal to play politics as usual. We do not believe that engaging in another self-destructive round of LPC leadership politics will serve our party or the country well. What we need to do now is to serve Canadians by concentrating on our role of official Opposition. We need to think seriously as a party about why we lost this election and how we can better organize ourselves to win the support of Canadian voters next time. We will not let this leadership coup succeed without being heard from.

There has never been a LPC leader who has placed a higher role on environmental policies as Mr. Dion did this past election. Elizabeth May feels he is a man she can work with. Greens can play a role on this debate. We need to hear how Green voters feel about Mr. Dion’s leadership.

Go here to learn more about what we are doing and to join the revolt:

Best regards,

Jean Proulx

Anonymous said...

This is an excellent post. There are other simple things that almost anyone can do to be more green and conserve energy, like installing a ceiling fan or a Programmable Thermostat that can adjust the temperature automatically for times when it is not needed, or cleaning or replacing their Furnace Filter or Humidifier Filters with something like a Honeywell Filter or Aprilaire Humidifier Filters that are more energy efficient. Also, installing Refrigerator Water Filters instead of drinking store bought bottled water, cuts down on waste. Just some ideas that might help the cause.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

I must say that this is an impressive website. I love how your posts tie in with current politics so well. You seem to really love your site. Aside from my medical practice, I have a deep interest for all things related to politics. Keep up the great work and please visit by my blog sometime. The url is