Harper's arts cuts slammed across Canada

Anger is mounting across the country among politicians and arts advocates over the federal government’s axing of $45 million in arts and culture funding. In recent weeks, the PromArts, Trade Routes, and Capacity Building programs, as well as the Stabilization Projects and various film and television funds, have been cut.

On August 27, 2,500 people gathered in Montreal in protest, and a spokesperson for the Alliance for Arts and Culture said similar action is planned for Vancouver. “We are working with a number of organizations about doing some sort of public event,” director of communications Peter Boychuk told the Straight. “It will be probably the first couple weeks in September.”

Speaking at an August 28 news conference held at Vancouver’s Diane Farris Gallery, Elizabeth May, leader of the Green Party of Canada, called the cuts “an attack on democracy, as vibrant democracies have a creative, open expression through the arts”.

She added: “The totality of his [Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s] cuts comes in at about $50 million, but he hasn’t cut the $1.3 billion that goes to subsidize the tar sands.”¦I think it’s a fair question to ask Mr. Harper what has he got against artists. Maybe they were mean to him in high school.”

George Laverock, program director for Festival Vancouver, said the lack of support for arts at the federal level will hamper his event’s international relationships.

“We rely quite a lot on other countries helping with the travel expenses of their artists to come and perform here, and it’s a bad situation when Canada can’t reciprocate and help our artists to get to other markets and to introduce their talents in other countries,” he said.

“Often when I speak to festival directors and so on in other countries they say”¦”˜What can you do on your end to get some Canadians coming here?’ It’s kind of embarrassing for us to say, ”˜Well, I don’t know if there’s going to be any money from the Canadian government to send anybody.’ ”

While federal arts and culture funding has been cut, May noted the federal government has pledged $24.5 million to Olympic torch relays and $48 million to the Road to Excellence program, which supports Summer Olympics athletes.

May said, “Canadians as a community have a lot of shared interests in a lot of different things, and you don’t have to make choices that you only fund the Olympics by massive cuts to the arts.”

The Straight requested an interview with James Moore, the secretary of state for the 2010 Olympics, but was told he was unavailable. A requested interview with Josée Verner, minister of Canadian heritage, was not granted by press time.



jamie griffiths

Aug 31, 2009 at 4:37pm

This is more than a redistribution (theft) of funding. Harper intends this to destroy his enemies... 'artists'... those of us with questioning minds who do not interpret the arts to mean walking to the video store to buy a new video game to wile away a few hours on mindless violent and sexist commercial entertainment. Artists are the thinkers and thought provokers of culture. A culture without artists is like a fish without a bicycle... meaningless.

Michael H Anderson

Sep 26, 2011 at 10:26am

"Artists" really does need to be in quotes here. Funding bullshit off the backs of the working poor, you mean. We voted, we won, you lost, get fucked.

Joe Sheph

Apr 9, 2012 at 11:49am

Canadians are ragging on the Feds, but with more jobs created than lost, and the CBC taking the only major hit, is the criticism warranted? And if we weren't subsidizing the sands, then wouldn't it make sense to put some cash into the military and education system (i.e. have future generations know what it is to be a Canadian in a safe country) rather than populate the swank neighbourhoods within our urban areas with art from a sliver minority, appreciated only by the intelligensia and the elite, paid for by working men and women too hard-pressed to enjoy the sweat of their brow?

Joseph Orr

Dec 11, 2013 at 1:54pm

Jamie Griffiths, I agree with most of your point, but your closing figure of a speech 'a fish without a bicycle, meaningless,' makes very little sense to me. Perhaps a fish with a bicycle would have been a better choice.

Regardless, though the cuts to arts programs are terrible. While the subsidizing of tarsands are fairly integral to our economy as a whole, slight cuts can be taken from things like, oh I don't know, government? The amount they spend on themselves is ridiculous. The initial meaning of the word 'Minister' is 'servant.' But they seem to be serving themselves moreso than they are serving us. Cut down the government pensions to something more similar that of something slightly above that of your typical working man, not what it is now.