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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At 8:15 a.m., Anonymous Anonymous said...

Brilliant, incisive stuff, Beijing. It's so overwhelming the mass of cuts hailing down on the arts by these bastards in office. It's almost as if the sheer audacity and severity of the cuts is sputtering any defence to them--a shock & awe campaign from a different playbook.

At 2:36 p.m., Blogger Beijing York said...

shock and awe campaign - that's what it seems to be Blind Man.

The arts community has become pretty astute at defending itself, even if many groups are cash strapped, and by going after cultural industries (film and television producers, book and magazine publishers, new media), they have well financed association and lobby groups onside in decrying Harper's move.

I am only lending moral support and clarification of widely-held misconceptions on this front. However, if the economy gets worse, it will be hard to see any government reinstate this crucial funding. And that really worries me.

At the department, we had one Deputy Minister who said something like this (respecting increases to certain arts programming budgets):

Who are you gonna support, the sick guy requesting a new kidney or a [blank] artist asking for a grant?

And that unfortunately is often the public perception despite years of arts administrators, associations and industry lobby groups trying to convince Canadians of the incredible economic and social benefits of the arts.

At 10:14 p.m., Anonymous Anonymous said...

I totally hate the way they play the truth shell game. It makes me totally livid. And my MP is one of the most annoying of the bunch when it comes to repeating the party line, regardless of how ludicrous it is.

Thanks for your two recent posts on my blog. (I meant to swing by after your first one, but got sidetracked.)


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