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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At 10:36 p.m., Anonymous deBeauxOs said...

"Why is Harper only targeting artists?"

Because that's the target within his sights right now. Harper found that he could slash with impunity programs in support of women, in support of minorities and charter rights and now he has moved on to artists.

Harper is a petty, mean-hearted, spiteful man. He is wreaking vengeance upon those who dared to criticize the censorship provision that slipped into Bill C-10.

At 11:13 a.m., Blogger Beijing York said...

Harper is a petty, mean-hearted, spiteful man.

That's him in a nutshell deBeauxOs. But I think Harper under-estimates the power of creative industries, and despite having a pretty useless corporate media, artists know how to wield the pen.


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