Conservatives keep grinding their axe against the arts
Let’s face the music (cue Brian Adams’ Cuts Like a Knife and mash in Darth Vader’s theme song from Star Wars): We haven’t yet felt the full brunt of the Conservatives’ machete job to the arts in this country.
Canada’s arts sector now fears the Conservatives will kill up to $50-million in cultural funding. Since taking power in 2006, the Tories have already eliminated over $34-million from cultural and Heritage granting programs. The cuts are a severe blow to the Canadian "cultural economy" too, which generates $40-billion annually, says a statement from the Visual Arts Alliance. The VAA was just one of many arts and cultural groups to voice their dismay over cuts (surf to Hour’s website for their choice words about the Tory cuts).
Last week, in almost Stalinist form, the Conservatives announced the cancellation of the $4.7-million PromArt program and the $9-million Trade Routes program, both of which promote the export of Canadian arts and culture products abroad, because they deemed grants have been given to offensive recipients.
The Conservatives cited the inclusion of "a general radical," "a left-wing and anti-globalization think-tank" and (grannies, plug those ears) experimental electro-rock band Holy Fuck. (Former Gemini Award nominees, Holy Fuck used a mere 0.1 per cent of the overall fund, made most of their notoriety by promoting their work on the web, and, as far as ideology goes, they’re an instrumental band.)
Last Friday, fresh slashes were announced, making clear it wasn’t just a healthy Conservative distain for the use of expletives now running arts policy in Canada. Three programs benefiting the film, television and music industries will also end as of next March: the $300,000 Audio-Visual Preservation Trust of Canada, for programs archiving important sound video and film recordings; $2.5-million to the National Training Program in the Film and Video Sector; and $1.5-million to the Canadian Independent Film and Video Fund (CIFVF). Two additional programs that provide administrative support to arts organizations will also be axed, as will two New Media Research funds.
"It seems like the Conservative government is just trying to score points with its core constituents," says Frederic Bohbot, an independent documentary producer with Bunbury Films in Montreal and a board member of Doc Quebec. Doc Quebec will join several other film organizations across the country to launch a campaign to fight the cuts: "Hopefully the fact that cultural funding is seen as vital to many Quebecers… will scare the Conservatives who will need [Quebec] votes in the forthcoming elections."
The obliteration of the CIFVF in particular, an essential fund for media used as an educational tool, worries filmmakers. "Its total budget of $1.6-million is a drop in the bucket, but for indie filmmakers and producers it will make or break us. My first film Once a Nazi… was made with CIFVF dollars. TV is scared of it for posing too many questions… but teachers have loved it, which shows that the CIFVF was able to see that value in the film," Bohbot explains.
Bohbot also argues CIFVF is not "some flighty arts grant" and is one of the toughest in the business to land. Says Bohbot, "There are countless films that would not have seen the light of day were it not for the CIFVF."
SOUNDING OFF ON THE ARTS CUTS
"Abolishing this program is the equivalent of killing the entire culture market abroad."
- Alain Dancyger, head of the Les Grand Ballets Canadiens, in reference to PromArt
"Cancelling the cultural diplomacy budgets for ideological and moral reasons is probably the littlest, meanest, most ridiculous and most representative decision Canada’s New Government has made."
- Todd Babiak, The Edmonton Journal
"The wholesale elimination of PromArt and Trade Routes is neither selective nor judicious. And while it constitutes the federal government’s latest offensive in its apparent war on culture, it also displays breathtaking ignorance of a subject the Tories, above all others, should know by heart: commerce."
- Alec Bruce, The Times & Transcript
"Culture is not an expense, it’s an investment – in human potential, the economy and in creativity."
- MP Denis Coderre, Liberal Party’s Heritage Critic
"If Canadian artists produce world-class art, then it will be noticed on the world stage – with or without government assistance. Moreover, the Tories are not telling artists to stop producing their movies, paintings, alternative rock or books. Rather, they are simply telling them to stop financing their international junkets from the wallets of overburdened taxpayers. Except for those on their way to boring conferences in Finland, or cocktails with Cuba’s Communist junta, Canadians will no doubt heartily approve."
- National Post editorial
"This is really going to erode the ability of artists to do their work on the international stage."
- Claire Hopkinson, executive director, Toronto Arts Council