Heritage minister: Arts will be part of economic stimulus package

Can Canadians expect a boost for arts and culture in a Conservative economic stimulus package? When Heritage Minister James Moore, MP for Port Moody-Coquitlam-Port Coquitlam, was asked that question, he answered: “Absolutely. There of course will be important spending measures in the budget as we go forward, as we deal with the short-term economic realities,” he went on. “But long-term, of course, there are almost 700,000 people who are directly impacted by arts and culture. This is not a want, but a need.”

Moore also vehemently dismissed allegations from Friends of Canadian Broadcasting that the Conservatives want to cut $200 million from the CBC’s parliamentary grant.

“It’s ridiculous,” he said. “The CBC is receiving more money than ever before under our Conservative government, period. I have a great relationship with them, with their chairman, with their president”¦.We have a strong and solid relationship and are going to continue that.”

According to number crunching by the CBC’s Ira Basen, that statement is mostly correct. The government parliamentary appropriation act in 2006 gave the CBC $1.11 billion; in 2007 it received $1.04 billion; and in 2008 it received $1.12 billion. Adjusted for inflation, those numbers are $1.17 billion for 2006, $1.08 billion for 2007, and $1.12 billion for 2008.

Moore also defended the government’s decisions to axe the PromArt and Trade Routes granting programs last August, and not extend $27.1-million in Canadian Arts and Heritage Sustainability Program’s Stabilization Projects and Capacity Building program.

“Trade Routes was a $7 million program,” he said. “It cost $5 million in administration to administer $2 million of program benefits. That is a cost-to-benefit ratio worse than what we’ve seen in the gun registry”¦.Other programs were sunsetted programs, and they had met all of their goals and they went away and there was no issue with them whatsoever. The money wasn’t cut, it was then reinvested into other arts and culture programming.”

Moore also bragged that the government had increased the Canada Council for the Arts’s budget by 20 percent. In July 20, 2007, then-Heritage Minister Bev Oda announced that the Canada Council for the Arts would receive a permanent increase of $30 million annually in funding, bringing its total annual budget to $181 million.

However that still falls short of the  Liberals'  election pledge to increase the council's budget to $360 million.