Al Jazeera English TV’s Avi Lewis is the latest PromArt recipient to crawl out from under the PMO’s Panderbus and explain himself: he got some money to promote a Canadian independent film in Australia and New Zealand, and helped get it a distribution deal. “It was a no-brainer,” he writes in the Toronto Star. “The proceeds of the sale went straight to the National Film Board, defraying the public money that had helped to make the film in the first place.”
A communist, clearly. But Lewis is quite right about the government’s motive in axing PromArt, which is to single out a few left-wing types “to obscure what it is really doing.” And he may also be right that what it’s “really doing” is “mounting a fundamental attack on arts funding in Canada.” I, on the other hand, suspect what the government is “really doing” is nothing more complicated than throwing a few foxes to the braying hounds that it thinks make up its base, so that they can chase them around some blog comment threads for a few days, barking and drooling contentedly. But in either case, with all due respect to Lewis, there’s nothing remotely “Machiavellian” going on here. Indeed, the clumsiness of it all is why I find it so depressingly hilarious that Gwynne Dyer and Tal Bachman turned out to have been on government business—Conservative government business, in Dyer’s case—when PromArt picked up their tabs. It suggests that among all its other failings, the PMO can’t even pander very well.