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.