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Saturday, August 30, 2008

The Decline of Canadian Society

It has been said, by better men than I, that a society that does not value art does not have any value. Canada’s societal value has come into question this week, after the federal Conservative minority government passed funding cuts to Canada’s arts programs.

Once upon a time, the Conservative Party of Canada’s platform was about encouraging economic growth through measures designed to promote business. Granted, such measures were usually to the detriment of worker’s rights and the environment, but for the most part they generally kept their hands off things like the arts and social programmes.

Those halcyon days of yore are long gone, it seems. This funding cut represents just the latest attack on Canadian culture to be launched from Harper’s New Canadian Government. Several months back, the Conservatives passed legislation that limits or removes funding for films found to be “indecent” or “against public morals”; there’s next to no arts funding in the 2008-2009 Federal budget; likewise, the Harper Conservatives have cut funding to museums and even to Hockey Canada, one of the most quintessentially Canadian of institutions.

The Harper Conservatives continue to attempt to justify these cultural attacks either as fiscal responsibility or as in the interest of the public trust, but the evidence speaks for itself: the Harper Conservatives are anti-intellectual, plainly dumbing down Canada’s rich cultural heritage.

These funding cuts are hitting the music industry particularly hard: The East Coast music scene in Canada depends heavily on public funding, as do the Montreal Pop festival and programmes like PromArt, Trade Routes, and the Audiovisual Conservation Trust.

When we consider the calibre of artists Canada has produced over the years, the number of Canadian success stories in all level of arts, from authors, playwrights, filmmakers, painters, sculptors, to actors and especially musicians, it is unconscionable for the Canadian government to slash funding to our cultural programs. It is a move wholly based on the Harper government’s own anti-intellectualism and ignorance.

What is particularly appalling about these funding cuts is how vital and yet how fragile our arts programmes in Canada are. For certain festivals, such as the Montreal Jazz festival, there is private funding. But the private sector in Canada doesn’t have the wherewithal to produce and aggressively promote new works. Less money for the arts means fewer artists receive funding, which means fewer new artists can emerge. The more private money that funds the arts, the less of a gamble the people ponying up the cash will be willing to make, which translates to less Canadian innovation. Less Canadian innovation means more market share will be given over to American artists, which means the Canadian talent pool shrinks even further.

The music industry in particular relies heavily on public funds, and these cuts to our cultural programs are nothing less than a betrayal of Canada’s heritage. Denial of these funds is denying the chance for the next Simple Plan, the next Barenaked Ladies, the next Avril Lavigne, to emerge. Denial of these funds denies new musicians the chance to shine, and reduces our chief musical export to the world to Celine Dion and Canadian Idol.

It appears that the Harper Conservative's idea of culture is running fiction commercials about how wonderful Stephen Harper is--and having people boast about how they'll be voting for him. Point of fact is that in Canada, we do not vote to elect the Prime Minister, we vote to elect our Member of Parliament. The political party with the most votes then forms the government. The only people who would vote for Stephen Harper are the poor saps who have him as their MP. Of course, the Harper Conservatives have a long history of assuming the people are stupid enough to believe everything they say...despite all evidence to the contrary.

Canada is less of a nation because of the arrogance of the Harper Conservatives. And our society has that much less value because of it. In violation of his own law against snap elections, Harper is determined to go to the polls. These funding cuts are just one more reason that sane Canadians should do everything they can to make sure that the Harper government gets booted out, and send the son of a bitch and his redneck jamboree packing back to Alberta.