Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Globe Readers Respond to Prime Minister Harper’s Attacks on the Arts

The other day I posted an article by Simon Houpt of the Globe and Mail pertaining to the elimination by the Harper Conservative Government of two important arts programs, PromArt and Trade Routes, both tasked with promoting Canadian culture and perspectives abroad. These cuts have elicited some spirited responses from Globe readers, a sampling of which I am posting below. While such reactions are unlikely to alter the course of this government, which seems to have a deep suspicion of things it cannot understand or of people who promote ideas not in line with its ideology, it is good to know that the Canadian people are voicing their strong exceptions to such reactionary moves.

The world needs more Canada

Vancouver -- I'm reminded of a quote by Winston Churchill in response to a request to cut arts funding during the Second World War: "If we cut funding for the arts and culture, then what are we fighting for?"

Faculty of Law, McGill University
Dismantling the infrastructure that supported the export of Canadian ideas and talent around the world must be Stephen Harper's way to "stand up for Canada."

executive director, Canadian Actors' Equity Association
August 13, 2008
Toronto -- Given the censorship elements of Bill C-10 (involving the denial of tax credits to film and television productions), followed by almost zero recognition of the Canadian arts and culture sector in the 2008-09 federal budget, it is hard to interpret the PromArt and Trade Routes cuts as anything but the latest move in an ideological attack on the arts (Ottawa Axes Second Arts Subsidy In Two Weeks - Aug. 11).

Quotes attributed to Kory Teneycke, the Prime Minister's press secretary ("the [funding] choices made were inappropriate ... inappropriate because they were ideological in some cases, with highly ideological individuals exposing their agendas or [money going to] wealthy celebrities or fringe arts groups that in many cases would be at best, unrepresentative, and at worst, offensive"), confirm a deliberate attempt on the part of the government to constrain artistic endeavours that don't match political dogma.

No matter how the Tories try to justify it, failing to continue funding $4.7-million for PromArt and another $9-million for Trade Routes is unlikely to effect a significant change to Canada's balance sheet. But such cuts will ensure that homegrown opera, dance and theatre are denied a place on the world stage

August 13, 2008
North Saanich, B.C. -- For nine years (1987-96), I was the Canadian consulate's political, economic and public affairs officer for Ohio, Kentucky and West Virginia. From the time our Cincinnati office opened to the day the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade closed it in 1996, we used Canadian artists to promote Canada's political and economic mission.

There was no "art for art's sake." We were able to make important connections with Midwest business people and politicians who had no idea that Canada was their largest trading partner. Our profile was (and still is) so low in the United States that it takes a village of Canadian artists to raise up our political and trade representatives.

president, Ontario College of Art & Design
August 13, 2008
Toronto -- Ottawa's decision to cancel two successful cultural programs demonstrates a troubling lack of recognition of the vital role played by the arts in Canada's economy and in its international presence. Recent research by the Conference Board of Canada shows the strong impact of cultural programs on the economies of developed nations. At a time when Canadian culture is being recognized on the world stage for its variety of creative expressions, including critical and experimental voices, Ottawa should be investing more, not less, in programs that increase our country's cultural profile and its competitiveness in business, trade, tourism and immigration.

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