Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Harper Continues to Make Cuts to the Arts in Canada

The intention was never to start this blog off with a political post, but driving through Hamilton this morning, seeing all of the blue conservative signs peppering the lawns of the city, I came to a stark realization that Harper's conservative government is incredibly close to capturing a majority in the upcoming election. Because this blog is supposed to be dedicated to the exploration of different cultureal mediums I will keep my thoughts on the upcoming election directed at how this conservative majority will affect the arts in Canada, and I will avoid other ridiculous platform issues like criminal law or social funding.

At a news conference yesterday, on the campaign trail in Saskatchewan, Harper characterized the arts community in Canada as "government subsidized whiners", and explained that the cuts that he has made to the arts in Canada over the past year, and that will continue if re-elected, are a necessary course of action. As articulate as ever, Harper explained that "I think when ordinary working people come home, turn on the TV and see a gala of a bunch of people, you know, at a rich gala all subsidized by taxpayers claiming their subsidies aren't high enough when they know those subsidies have actually gone up - I'm not sure that's something that resonates with ordinary people." This is a blatant and ignorant attempt at appealing to the historically NDP, or even Liberal, oriented working class in Canada, yet it seems like this strategy might just work. Nearly all of Harper's platform policies are aimed at dividing and conquering the population of Canada by pitting historically connected political groups against each other, and the cut in arts funding is just the latest example. Presumably, this policy and public bashing of the arts sector will work to split and ultimately steal a large number of the working class vote away from parties like the NDP and the Liberal Party who have historically supported and funded the culture/arts sector in Canada.

Although Harper plays these cuts off as only truly affecting the cultural elite, those in the 'ivory towers' and the 'gala crowd', the truth is these cuts are going to drastically effect the entire sector and the existence of many of Canada's great cultural touchstones will be threatened. Just one example of the effects that these cuts have had on the arts can be seen in the independent music scene in Canada. PromArt, a government program established to help independent musicians, and other traveling acts such as symphonies or ballets, with the escalating costs of touring and promoting was recently cut entirely by the Harper government. Although the program was only costing the government 4.7 million annually and producing some impressive results, the Harper government claims that "The funding choices made [by PromArt] were inappropriate...because they were ideological in some cases, or the money was going to fringe arts groups that, in many cases, would be at best, unrepresentative, and at worst, offensive." Therefore, many so-called 'fringe' groups in Canada are now unable to get their art out there to a wider audience. It looks like cuts to the arts like this will only continue to occur, as a CBC report claims that Trade Routes, a government program used to promote cultural exports abroad, will be cut soon as well. Clearly, if we want the arts in Canada to continue to flourish we need to really re-consider our support of the Harper government. Change needs to be made, but if we are all to apathetic or distracted by the glamorous American elections to get off our asses and vote, the change will never come and arts in Canada will slowly die. Just something to think about.

Lastly, I know I promised to keep my musing to only the arts, but can anyone else believe the amount of conservative media propaganda about the rising violence in Toronto on TV and in the press right now, which just so happens to conveniently coincide with Harper's new hard stance on crime? TALK ABOUT FEAR MONGERING.

Oh and when the hell did artists in Canada become something other than 'ordinary' people?

1 comment:

Black said...

Now that was a great first post...