Sunday, August 31

Troy's Scribbles: The Truth and Reconciliation Commission is a joke

An important read that points out how bogus Harper's apology was and continues to be.

Troy's Scribbles: The Truth and Reconciliation Commission is a joke

Wednesday, August 20

More bloodletting at Canadian Heritage

Canada’s New Government is not only shifty but liars to boot. Department of Canadian Heritage denied that they were cutting critical programs and made the bogus claim that they were actually investing more than the previous Liberal government.

Exhibit A: From the Globe and Mail’s August 18, 2008 report,
Culture hung out to dry:

Late last week, the federal Minister of Heritage, Josée Verner, was dispatched to swear up and down that the government has no intention of cutting the cultural sector out of its budget, and that decisions to eliminate grant programs were based on a value-for-money assessment of their performance.

The minister's assurances were entirely unconvincing. The federal government has proposed no replacement for any of the programs it has ended, leaving Canada's cultural organizations out to dry.

Exhibit B: From the Globe and Mail’s August 20, 2008 report, Tories slashing $44.8-million in arts spending:

The most expensive of five new cuts approved in February was the $11.7-million Canadian Memory Fund, which gives federal agencies money to digitize collections and mount them online. Also chopped were the $3.8-million Web portal; the $560,000 Canadian Cultural Observatory; the $5.64-million research and development component of Canadian Culture Online; and the $2.1-million Northern Distribution Program, which distributes the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network signal to 96 Northern communities.

Funding to the Book Publishing Industry Development Program and the Canada Magazine Fund will also drop by $1-million and $500,000 respectively.

So Josée Verner had no idea about these other programs being cut or substantially downsized? Give me a break! I met with the Founder and Executive Director of a small film festival earlier today. With a limited budget, few staff and lots of volunteers, they have managed to not only program children’s films from Canada and around the world but conduct professional development workshops and a unique outreach program that teaches rural kids how to make short films. She’s very nervous about these cuts and just as furious about hearing retrogrades across the country championing the end of government funding to arts and culture. Many people in this industry work for barely living wages and apply innovative business approaches to getting their projects off the ground. Working in the arts in still very much a labour of love.

Part 3 – Diverting funds from arts to election campaigning

I would definitely like to see where the so-called increases in Canadian Heritage’s budget come from. This department houses many programs beyond arts and culture so it would be pretty easy for them to conduct a shell game.

Lots of spending has been diverted to sports with the Beijing and upcoming Vancouver Olympics. I'm sure that is not just limited to developing talent, and include culture and trade initiatives like setting up and recruiting participants for the Canada pavilion in Beijing. I also imagine the price tag for helping promote and launch the 2010 winter games is pretty hefty.

My thoughts then drift to Winnipeg. When the federal government commits to investing in the building of new sports stadiums, as is the case with David Asper's proposed new facility for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, what purse of funds do those multi-million dollars come from? And speaking of new facilities in Winnipeg, the federal government has also pledged money for the building of the Canadian Human Rights Museum and passed legislation to enable the creation of a new crown corporation. That includes funding all its operations. That expense certainly falls under the purview of Canadian Heritage and is probably quite the hefty price tag.

In addition to the 400th Anniversary Quebec City celebrations, didn't Harper also announce funding for an upcoming event in Newfoundland? I'm sure there are many similar and smaller events (like the Halifax UFO event) that are accessing funds, including the Calgary Stampede. These examples are starting to sound like an electioneering slush fund to me.

Under Multiculturalism and Official Languages there are all sorts of projects receiving funding, including inter-faith outreach programs and minority language community outreach programs (the latter includes $60,000 to the English Speaking Catholic Council). There are also "Celebrate Canada" Committees in every province that get funding for Canada Day activities etc.

When I first pondered these so-called increases to arts and culture, I thought of the Postal Assistance Program for magazines and other magazine and book publishing programs. Thought maybe they were safe but I guess not since both the Book Publishing Industry Development Program and the Canada Magazine Fund will have their budgets substantially reduced according to today’s Globe and Mail article.

Last week, the PM’s new communications director aka spokesthingy, Kory Teneycke, bragged about budget increases to certain arts and culture crown holdings. The increases to the Canada Council, NAC and CBC are interesting given Harper's not-so-secret desire to privatize many of Canada's crown corporations and agencies. Harper also gave VIA Rail a significant cash infusion not so long ago. Sometimes you have to tart things up before a successful sale can proceed -- call it curb appeal if you will.

h/t: Impolitical for highlighting today’s newest cuts.

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Tuesday, August 19

I just joined the Kick Ass Blogger Club

deBeauxOs, one of the Kick Ass Bloggers at Birth Pangs has added me to the Mamma Dawg’s awesome list. As the blogging kidz like to say, wOOt!

Now for my turn at naming more worthy blogging members for the Kick Ass Blogger Club, here is my list in no particular order:

Peace, order and good government, eh? – a thoughtful, well researched and politically astute group blog (with honourary mention of my dear pal skdadl).

Challenging the Commonplace – Chrystal and Daphne are tireless in attacking issues that face women struggling with poverty and discrimination.

Michael Geist’s Blog – the good professor has done great work in raising awareness of the odious Bill C-61 Canadian DMCA as well as other copyright and privacy issues.

Politics’ n’ Poetry – our kick ass gal pal Berlynn (aka Nuclear Girl) has an explosive site dedicated to watching all things nuclear.

Hope and Onions – Goddamnit Kitty has been busy and we miss her but maybe this honour will lure her back. Nothing like a puss in boots to kick up a blogging storm, right?

Further instructions from Mamma Dawg:


* Choose 5 bloggers that you feel are "Kick Ass Bloggers"

* Let 'em know in your post or via email, twitter or blog comments that they've received an award

* Share the love and link back to both the person who awarded you and back to

* Hop on back to the Kick Ass Blogger Club HQ to sign Mr. Linky then pass it on!

Monday, August 18

Canada’s New Government’s Approach to Participaction

The latest round of cuts to arts funding programs administered by the Department of Canadian Heritage did not even merit a press release, let alone public consultations with stakeholders. I guess various arts organizations are now clearly on their toes, watching for what might be in store for them next. And speaking of stretching from the tip of your toes to your head, perhaps the intent of these cuts is to actually get bums out of seats because chances are good that we’ll be seeing orchestras, dance companies, theatres, and film festivals folding thanks to cuts to the Stabilization Program and Capacity Building initiatives. Further down the road, the odds are that we won’t have developed talented writers, directors and producers who can spin a good Canadian tale into movie magic. And you better not count on watching any retrospective presentations of past works either without the A/V Trust.

Part Two – A/V Trust, Independent Film and Video Fund, National Training Program, Capacity Building and Stabilization Program

From the August 15, 2008 Globe and Mail Article
Ottawa to axe five more programs:

The Stabilization Projects, to be shut down in April, were established in seven cities from Victoria to Charlottetown to provide financial and administrative support to arts organizations. Capacity Building is a companion program to provide similar assistance to organizations with no access to a Stabilization Project. Capacity Building has given aid to 347 arts and 214 heritage organizations since 2002, but will be cut in 2010.

The department also plans to end its annual contributions of $300,000 to the A-V Presentation Trust, $1.5-million to the Canadian Independent Film and Video Fund and $2.5-million to the National Training Program in the Film and Video Sector.

Just a point of clarification, the Canadian Independent Film and Video Fund is a different program than the National Training Program in Film and Video. I should also add that the G&M got the title wrong on the A/V Trust, which is a program in support of “preservation” (not presentation) of our audio-visual archival heritage. (Why can’t the corporate media reinstate fact checkers?)

The A/V Trust has restored archived Canadian films, TV and radio productions, and sound recording works. The restored works are presented in public forums and usually accompanied by material and guest speakers to give historical context of their significance.

As for the NTP program, the 2.5 million is spread across four long-standing film training institutions whose alumni include highly successful film and television writers, directors and producers. Federal support has allowed these institutions to provide top-notch training with little cost to potential talent in Canada. Here are the four:

Canadian Film Centre (CFC), (Toronto)

Canadian Screen Training Centre (CSTC), (Ottawa)

National Screen Institute - Canada (NSI), (Winnipeg)

Institut national de l’image et du son (INIS), (Montréal)

I’ve only attended parties at the first, trained with the second, worked for the third and wish I had strong enough French language skills to have attended the fourth. Makes me wonder whether the Harpercons will also cut funding to the National Theatre School as well.

A thorough and positive program evaluation was conducted by the Department in 2003. I don’t know how Canadian Heritage Minister Josée Verner could claim that these four training institutions failed to demonstrate that they were providing sufficient returns for the dollars invested. In fact, in preparing Annual Reports for the National Screen Institute, I remember our alumni survey results indicating that over 80% of their program graduates were working professionally in the industry in their chosen fields.

The Arts Stabilization Program was designed to encourage and reward fiscal management, basically an attempt to appease those voters who felt that arts organizations were fiscally irresponsible and not to be trusted with taxpayer funding. Ditto for the Capacity Building initiative that encouraged a more commercial outlook (or “more bums in seats” as we used to say). Arts organizations had to focus on administration and marketing to get federal support as opposed to creative and innovative programming. These changes to the traditional approach to arts funding were introduced in the late 1990s as a method for restoring earlier Liberal funding cuts in a fiscally responsible way.

These are not arts welfare handouts as the Harpercons like to imply. If anything, it’s amazing that any thinking out of the box gets accomplished with the constraints imposed by the current programs about to be axed. These cuts do not bode well for the Canada Council for the Arts. Add to that the recent appointment of investment banker Joseph Rotman as the Chair.

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Sunday, August 17

Margaret Atwood should add "psychic" to her CV

In April 2007, Margaret Atwood summed up the Harper government's attitude to arts and culture quite succinctly, the Tories are out to "squash the arts into the dust", and in the past week we have seen this merry band of half wits cut more than a handful of arts programs. As with the Bill C-10 debacle, Artists call plan to vet films 'censorship', the program cuts came as a complete surprise to the arts community. These latest cuts were announced either quietly on a Friday afternoon during the summer recess or by departmental phone calls to stakeholders. These dramatic changes to Canada's cultural landscape did not merit consultations, public notification or Parliamentary debate – at least not in the eyes of Canada's New Government.

Many progressive Canadian bloggers have already raised attention to these cuts and I have commented whenever possible to clarify some misunderstandings or under-reporting of facts by the media. I did so from a position of having worked in the Department of Canadian Heritage from the introduction of the Film and Video Tax Credit to the launch of the Arts Stabilization and Capacity Building Programs. Since leaving government, I have also worked as an arts consultant where I became well versed with such programs as the National Training Program in Film and Video, Trade Routes and PromArt. Despite all the reactionary commentary from op-ed pieces to reader feedback on such news sites as CBC and Globe and Mail, the programs that Harper has targeted are market-driven.

Part 1 - PromArt and Trade Routes

This DFAIT Program, PromArt funding for artists to travel abroad, was designed to promote cultural goods for an export market. They have programs for every other market sector. Why should authors, filmmakers, theatre producers, musicians, etc not benefit from exporting their talents? We subsidize exporters in every other area so why leave arts and culture out of the equation? Their share of the pie is pitiful compared to the supports given to other industries but still people focus on the value of artistic representation.

Arts and culture as an export has the added bonus of helping bolster Canada's tourism business. Seems to me that such a program has more bang for its buck than helping a widget maker or skate designer make it to the next international trade fair.

As for Trade Routes, the notice for the cancellation of this program can be found here. I was still working at Canadian Heritage when this program was launched. Unlike PromArt that subsidized travel costs to individuals and groups attending international events and markets, Trade Routes was designed to create projects that would increase exports for specific cultural sectors. In other words, rather than waiting to be recognized and invited to participate in overseas events, arts and cultural groups were given the opportunity to prepare for and launch themselves into export markets. I worked on a Trade Routes sponsored project that brought Canadian Aboriginal producers together with Maori and Aborigine counterparts, as well as Australian and New Zealand broadcasters and distributors, to forge co-productions and mutually beneficial exposure to each other's markets.

I should add that Trade Routes was part of an umbrella initiative called Team Canada Inc. that crossed all industry sectors for the purpose of increasing Canadian exports. This included a number of PM led trade missions abroad that attracted many participants from a variety of business sectors. Why is Harper only targeting artists?

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