104

A million here, a million there…


 

…and pretty soon you’re talking real money.


 

A million here, a million there…

  1. They’re cutting the *digitization* programs for federal museums and agencies? This, while earmarking $100 million for a human rights museum in Winnipeg that even its own supporters acknowledge will be largely dependent on “virtual” visitors? That’s — wow, it turns out I actually *can* still be shocked.

  2. Kady’s a communist.
    I do wish this latest article from a Globe reporter who’s been doing the best work in the country on this story had given me a better idea about whether the $45 million cut was annual and recurring, cumulative over x years, whether it represented cuts against formerly-projected growth, or whatever. If anyone can nail that down, even privately in an email to me, I’d appreciate it.

  3. With these latest cuts do they still insist they’re spending more than the Liberals on arts funding, using whatever contrived statistical trickery they used to get those numbers? And it’s kind of funny they keep insisting “we spend more on arts than them” at the same time they revel in cutting these unworthy programs for the loony left.

    And was that the “B” word from Kory? Them’s fightin’ words.

  4. BCer, I had the same reaction when I read that quote for Kory. Clearly, the PMO still doesn’t understand why people would make such a fuss over cuts in arts and culture.

    Talk about being tone deaf…

  5. That will teach those namby-panby arts & crafters to appear before Senate hearings and diss their lords and masters.

  6. What the government gives, it can take away. The Canada Council got $50 million in one time funding in 2006 budget and now we see a similar amount being cut.

    BCer Is the ‘B’ word you object to blood or boondoggle. If it is boondoggle, I think it’s an appropriate word. I had never heard of culture.ca till just now and had a look at their website. It makes me curious what they spent $3.8 million on exactly because it’s a fairly basic site.

    It seems like the government is cutting a lot website and digitizing funds. Digitizing items in museums to display online is a complete waste of time. People feel awe at things in museums when they are standing before them, not when looking at them online.

  7. The Canadian Cultural Observatory? Who dreams up these programs?

  8. Do you know what the second best part of cutting arts funding?

    Seeing how cranky Kady and Paul get over it.

    It’s kind of cute, actually.

    Go put on some obscure jazz, whine some more, and completely disconnect yourself from Canadians outside the Beaches and the Glebe worry about.

  9. boondoggle = something the government has spent money on that jwl has never head of

  10. ‘Go put on some obscure jazz, whine some more, and completely disconnect yourself from Canadians outside the Beaches and the Glebe worry about.”

    See what I mean? Completely tone deaf…

  11. Isn’t the digitization project vital for ensuring that “Canadians outside the Beaches and the Glebe” can access culture as well. Or perhaps “Canadians outside the Beaches and the Glebe” only care about nascar and American Idol. Ah, stereotypes…

  12. The government is doing what all governments should do (but do not), which is to review programs and eliminate the ones that are no longer valued – rather than grow, grow, grow the government.

    I sure hope these millions-here-and-there add up.

    JWL: I have to agree, I’ve never made much use of, or even heard of, culture.ca, and frankly, the whole concept of a web portal for culture seems strange to me. Not to mention 99.9% of attempts, public or private, to establish portals that actually generate traffic end in abject failure.

  13. “Or perhaps “Canadians outside the Beaches and the Glebe” only care about nascar and American Idol. Ah, stereotypes…”

    You forgot the part about them only drinking Tim Horton’s coffee.

  14. “They’re cutting the *digitization* programs for federal museums and agencies?

    Um, yeah. Because now, digitization is pretty common practice and would be part of the base operating budgets for federal museums and agencies. So why would the government keep setting aside millions to pay for a process that these organizations are doing as a matter of course? Kady, do you think that the Human Rights Museum would really have been relying on a separate program to fund its e-activities, rather than making them standard practice under its own budget?

  15. Another good day to be a canadian. Even better watching Kady and Wells get upset.

  16. Does Table A3.4 of the Federal Budget belp answer your questions? It shows $26.9M in savings at Canadian Heritage through the Strategic Reviews, but more than $40M in reinvestments. The Budget says the Government is ditching “digitization no longer required” and investing in support for Summer Olympics athletes (How’s our medal count doing?).

    The next table shows the savings at National Museums, as well as reinvestments. Neither table shows a lot of details though, so I guess those are coming out now.

    http://www.budget.gc.ca/2008/plan/ann3-eng.asp

  17. It’s not about whether funding culture is important. It is!

    It’s just that government has better things to spend it on. Like I don’t know, programs Canadians actually use.

    Just because it feels nice to fund something, doesn’t mean it should be a priority of the public purse.

  18. Thanks Style.

    Another great example of journalists crying foul before finding out the facts. But it’s a lot easier just saying the Conservatives hate the arts and like ruining the blah blah blah creative fabric of our country.

    But it fits the narrative, right?

    It’s a lot easier to write the story that way.

  19. Just spent my first visit to culture.ca, gotta make sure I get something from it before the waste of money is over.

    Anyway, according to them, it seems that it was discontinued on April 1. Interesting how nobody in the media noticed until now.

    I guess this kind of story really does require investigative journalism.

  20. That brings up an interesting point, sf: Other than the ongoing (and, as such, non-public) strategic review process, can anyone find an audit or internal review of any of the above programs that suggests they were “clearly not meeting their objectives”? I’ve gone through the list of available reports, and I can’t find anything to back up that claim. Can you?

  21. Good to see Kady doing journalism after the fact.

  22. If really all it is is digitizing museums and running websites that may or may not get any actually decent page views then I don’t see it as much of a problem.

    However $44 million is a lot of money and listed in that article are a lot of note worthy funds. One that stuck out for me was the Canadian Magazine Fund. Which has actually supported Maclean’s Magazine and a lot of other Canadian mags close to our hearts.

    Also I’m curious if they’re cutting all the programs outright? or if the number listed is simply a cut to the amount of funding they’re giving these programs/funds.

  23. Hey JK, ‘Where all you live’ already used that talking point. Move down the list.

  24. Style – Yeah, from the looks of the 2008-09 Part III for Canadian Heritage, that comparison to the money being spent on the Canadian Museum for Human Rights is actually pretty apt, since it’s now the only “key initiative” under “Preservation of Canadian Heritage”. I’m going to stop hijacking poor Wells’ comment thread soon, and post a summary of what else turns up (and doesn’t turn up) in the fine print.

  25. Kady – the joke about these programs is that their objectives are entirely unmeasurable, so you can call them any way you like.

  26. “Also I’m curious if they’re cutting all the programs outright? or if the number listed is simply a cut to the amount of funding they’re giving these programs/funds.”

    Jonathan, I think the issue is whether the said programs can survive such a cut in funding.

  27. Where, was that an answer to my question? Does that mean no, you *can’t* point me to an audit or review of these programs that backs up the claim that they weren’t meeting their objectives? Because I’m still hunting – and I have to say that, according to the Part IIIs for 2007-08, then-minister Bev Oda seemed more than okay with the way things were going at her department — including some of the programs that have now been deemed cutworthy.

    That doesn’t even get into her stated commitment towards supporting Canadian cultural exports, including working closely with Foreign Affairs on the Trade Routes program. Remind me, whatever happened there?

  28. Digitization is part of the base operation of fed agencies?

    Does the National Archives know that?

  29. How is the comparison to the Human Rights Museum “apt”? You’re complaining about the loss of a digitization program that the Human Rights Museum would never use — unless you seriously think that it and all other museums would establish their yearly operating budgets without any funds set aside in them to digitize their own material, and would be relying entirely on (relatively) tiny separate program to do it for them.

  30. By B word I meant boondoggle, although the blood quote was fun too. The Conservatives should do well to remember the story of The Boy Who Cried Boondoggle though. I remember there was a time when they were in opposition where everything was a boondoggle. Like the “Billion Dollar HRDC Boondoggle” that, when the numbers were in, turned out to be three or four zeros less that was lacking some paperwork. Looks like Kory wants to bring the B word back. Beware though baring false boondoggle, lest know one believe you when a boondoggle it truly is.

    Anyway, you’re not a big arts fan? Neither am I. But just because I’m not a fan of something doesn’t mean I don’t think the government should support it. My personal tastes don’t, and should, dictate government policy.

    We aren’t big art people. I also don’t go to church, and yet government subsidizes organized religion to the tune of many, many billions of dollars by making it tax exempt. Is that a boondoggle? Should the tax-exempt status of churches be ended because I haven’t been to mass since my Mom got tired of dragging me?

  31. Digitization is part of the base operation of fed agencies?

    Websites like this onedon’t just pop up out of nowhere. Looks they’re doing plenty of digitizing at the national archives.

  32. Yes, the government should not be doing any favours for religion.

    But comparing arts to religion is a little tricky, don’t you think?

    The money is about priorities. There are better things to spend money on than sending UCC-alum Avi Lewis to Australia to promote HIS movie.

    These huge and little known programs are just ripe for waste and mismanagement.

  33. No, they are NOT doing plenty of digitization at the archives, not by comparison to most comparable national institutions in the rest of the industrialized world.

    In fact, our archives is run by a bunch of technophobic luddites and copyright nazis who, if they had there way, would smash machines.

  34. Anon – Yes, they are – and they’ve received considerable support from the Canadian Memory Fund to do so.

    Other Anon, or possibly the same Anon (can y’all at least adopt some sort of numbering system?): It seems that the Canadian Museum of Human Rights is now the only “key initiative” for the department, as far as the preservation of Canadian heritage. That’s the same mantle under which the Memory Fund used to operate, so there is a comparison to be made.

  35. BCer My def of a boondoggle is a government program where a lot of money is spent and few people benefit.

    I don’t think churches are a boondoggle, I am not religious either, because lots of people go to church, churches do lots of community activities and letting them keep their money is not the same as government spending.

    I like some art but not much of it. I think government getting involved in funding it has produced way more art than we need, and most of it crap, which is a typical subsidy effect. If artists were forced to earn a living from what they produced our art scene would be smaller but better.

  36. “These huge and little known programs are just ripe for waste and mismanagement.”

    That may be true, but where’s the proof there *is* or *was* any waste and/or mismanagement? It’s not enough to say it *might* be happening.

  37. “I like some art but not much of it. I think government getting involved in funding it has produced way more art than we need, and most of it crap, which is a typical subsidy effect. If artists were forced to earn a living from what they produced our art scene would be smaller but better.”

    Dear God… And jwl is dead serious too!

  38. ” ‘These huge and little known programs are just ripe for waste and mismanagement.’

    That may be true, but where’s the proof there *is* or *was* any waste and/or mismanagement? It’s not enough to say it *might* be happening.”

    And, uh, if they’re being mismanaged, wouldn’t the government be the one DOING the mismanagement and couldn’t they…stop? If they thought the Navy was being mismanaged (or could hypothetically be ‘ripe’ for mismanagement) would they just cut ‘er loose?

  39. You’re comparing funding the Navy to giving artists funding?

    Aren’t lefties cute?

  40. No, I think it’s ‘cute’ that you can use mismanagement (or even better, hypothetical mismanagement) as an excuse to cut something when YOU are the manager.

  41. jwl, I’m curious about this comment:

    I think government getting involved in funding it has produced way more art than we need

    Just how much art do we need exactly? And how would you measure it?

    Anyway, if you want to take a market-based approach, consider this. Church attendance is dropping, hurting revenue (collections). If it weren’t for the massive government subsidy that is tax exempt status, they’d be in even more serious trouble.

    Is government subsidization of religion interfering with natural market forces? Has that subsidization given us more churces than we need? If it weren’t for the government crutch, would churches be forced to respond to market forces, perhaps rationalize their operations, spice up dull sermons, target the youth demo?

    If churches were forced to earn a living from what they collected maybe our church scene would be smaller but better.

  42. Government is inefficient as a rule.

    There is lots of waste in the military. However, the military is an essential service, unlike giving Avi Lewis money.

    The purpose the military serves is measurable. The purpose of giving money to programs that very few Canadians will ever use is not measurable.

    If you truly are passionate about funding obscure artists, then go out and pay for it yourself. It’s not fair that you expect taxpayers to foot the bill.

  43. “Is government subsidization of religion interfering with natural market forces? Has that subsidization given us more churces than we need? If it weren’t for the government crutch, would churches be forced to respond to market forces, perhaps rationalize their operations, spice up dull sermons, target the youth demo?

    If churches were forced to earn a living from what they collected maybe our church scene would be smaller but better.”

    Now you’re talking.

    Congratulations jwl! We’ve turned one of them away from the dark side!

  44. Brother D, I’m curious. Where do you stand on the money that the government has pledged to the Canadian Human Rights Museum? Given that its own consultations have shown that few Canadians plan to visit it – at least, not the bricks-and-mortar building itself in Winnipeg, isn’t this a perfect example of a program “that very few Canadians will ever use”?

  45. Meanwhile other departments (DND) are returning money because they can’t spend it fast enough.

  46. Also, if this is really a review of all programs to get rid of ones not achieving their goals, how is it that they are picking on the arts programs. No ideological slant?

  47. I think the Conservatives should reject any public funding for the Parliamentary Conservative research office.

    Then, although we would have less Parliamentary artists creating Parliamentary flyers telling Canadians how to vote (helpful ballot with pictures!) and who to fear and loathe (helpful reminder: “junkies”), imagine the quality of said flyers that would go out!

    They could also reject any public funding for the Conservative Party itself. We’re talking about principle here!

  48. The fact that the Archives have received support from the Canadian Memory Fund in the past doesn’t mean they would need to continue to rely on it. I doesn’t mean they don’t have their own resources to digitize going forward.

    If you’re saying that because the Human Rights Museum is the only key initiative in the country to preserve Canada’s heritage because it’s the only one categorized as such by the Ministry of Heritage, then I wonder why so many people bother to visit, say, the War Museum or the Museum of Civilization. No heritage to be seen there, I presume.

  49. TinTin,

    Sure, let’s reject public funding for all the parties and rely only on the individual donations to fund them.

    Put that policy into effect, and within a month the CPC will be the only political party in Canada.

  50. People here are complaining about “programs very few Canadians will use” as though the digitization programs weren’t specifically focused on making collections like those of the National Library and Archives more accessible to a larger number of Canadians. You’d think that of all programs, funds set up to take our historical documents out of the hands of elites who can travel to see the collections in person in Ottawa and make them accessible to all Canadians would be the types of programs the Conservatives would like.

    The Conservative argument seems to be “Ignorance is bliss, and most Canadians are ignorant, therefore we should cut any programs which only serve to interfere with the bliss of the Canadian people”.

    However, I kinda agree, a little, that this is just what good fiscal managers have to do. Unfortunately, these are just the types of cuts that need to be made when you take the country from massive surpluses into deficit. Which, of course, is why the Tories have run us into deficit. So they could cut programs. It’s ideologically consistent, but is it smart (politically)? We’ll see.

    The Tories will claim that they need make all kinds of cuts, because the government doesn’t have enough money, but someone’s bound to ask why suddenly the government doesn’t have enough money anymore.

    Managing the government into fiscal difficulties so you can slash and burn government spending only works politically, I think, if the nation likes the slashing and the burning, and you’re open about the fact that the reductions in the government’s coffers are INTENTIONAL and not, you know, woeful and incompetent mismanagement of the nation’s finances. I’m not sure the voters (beyond the 20-30% who are die-hard conservatives) are on side on either score.

  51. john g if only it were that easy :)

    BCer I would prefer if churches, and many other industries, were more open to market forces. I think we would have a church revival if they were forced to sink/swim on their own. Look at the U.S. thousands of churches, big/medium/little, that meet needs of their congregation. What’s not to like?

    Tintin Conservative party is not going to reject public finances if all other parties continue to collect but I don’t see why taxpayer should be funding political parties in the first place. Their supporters will send funds or the party goes out of business.

  52. LKO,
    A worthless program is a worthless program, whether we are in surplus or deficit. People may be ignorant but they are not stupid, and it is all their money that is being spent.

    And “accessibility” is an entirely plastic word in this context. Should we supply people with a computer and hookup as well so they can read these archives? It never ends.

  53. Kady,
    Will more Canadians be visiting the human rights museum than seeing the movie Teens F*cking?

    It’s just about value for tax dollars. I’m not against funding cultural programs, I just want to make sure it’s actually used by Canadians.

    As much as I don’t think the human rights museum will overtake Niagara Falls as a tourist destination, there is a value in promoting human rights and Canadian history. I don’t think that can be said for a litany of programs where the money seemingly drops in a black hole and is never heard from again.

    It’s about value and priorities, promoting human rights awareness and Canadian history is frankly just more important.

  54. OK Bill, I guess we just disagree about whether preserving our heritage and culture is worthless. You can question where I’d draw the line, but I can question where you’d draw it too. If it’s all about daily “usage” we could probably just shut down the National Archives and the National Library of Canada all together. Sound good?

    More importantly, as Kady says, how about the government show the EVIDENCE that these programs aren’t worthwhile. Surely that’s not too much to ask. Frankly, I’m not even 100% certain what the government’s talking points are. Half the rhetoric seems to be “these programs are wasteful and unsuccessful so we’re cancelling them” and the other half seems to be “these programs were so successful that they’ve fulfilled their mandates to the fullest and are no longer needed”. Which is it?

  55. Bill: Yes, we should provide internet access to everyone. And we do, through public libraries and rural networking subsidies. (In the same way we subsidised rural telephone service, back in the day…)

    jwl: The US has basically the same tax breaks for Churches that we do, so what’s your point (11:58 am)?

  56. Anyone else miss the big story here? The Conservatives are actually being… conservative… with public money.

    Wow. And maybe their next budget will actually be conservative too, rather than trying to out-spend all previous budgets in Canadian history. But I probably shouldn’t get my hopes up.

  57. Brother D,

    On the Canadian Museum of Human Rights, I’m torn. On the one hand, seems like a good project. On the other hand, it seems as though it’s in Winnipeg for mostly political reasons (a combination of “Let’s spend pre-election funding in Winnipeg” and “Let’s stick the Human Rights Museum where no one will ever see it”).

    Would it be mean of me to suggest that Winnipeg basically IS that “black hole” you mention? (ouch).

    As for promoting Canadian history, I totally agree. Which is why I always thought the digitization work was so important, in that it simultaneously preserves historical documents while making them more accessible. It’s a win-win isn’t it?

    Finally, I don’t believe there’s any such film as “Teens F*cking”. If you’re gonna attack something, at least get the name of the thing you’re attacking right!

  58. My deep apologies. The film was called Young People F*cking. I’m so sorry. I should have fact checked that one.

  59. Mike514, they’re being conservative all right, but it is only painted up to look fiscally conservative. Why just review arts funding? Why not a larger program review? Why not show us the analysis they did?

  60. Anyone remember when governments used the federal budget to launch spending cuts or announcements? Good times, good times.

  61. Brother D,

    I’d also point out, while we’re on the fact-checking meme, that I don’t believe YPF received funding from ANY of the funds or programs that this post is actually about.

    Not that it’s not an excellent straw man to bring up a film with a provocative title that people who haven’t seen it think is pornographic; but dude’s CLEARLY made of straw.

  62. This is what happens when you let a bunch of hillbillies take over government. We now have a bunch of troglodytes deciding what constitutes art and what value to assign to it.

    I don’t recognize my country anymore…

  63. ‘I don’t recognize my country anymore…’

    Boudica Welcome to the club. I have been thinking this since Trudeau became PM.

  64. The post is still about arts funding. How is YPF not fall under that subject?

  65. The archives barely has the money to keep the doors open. (They were going to close to the public altogether outside banker’s hours last year, until the outcry.)

    And they won’t let anyone else help them digitize their collections.

    Idiots.

  66. The post is still about arts funding. How is YPF not fall under that subject?

    The post is about cuts to certain specific arts funding programs being made by the Conservatives. The Conservatives insist art funding isn’t bad per se, and they argue they’re spending more on it than the Liberals did. They just insist these specific programs are wasteful/immoral/whatever. And YPF was funded by a program the Conservatives continue to support, not one they’re cutting. Therefore, it doesn’t make sense to use YPF as an example to support the program cuts, when it wasn’t funded by one of the programs being cut.

    Unless it really is about ideology, and not waste and efficiency. In which case, they should stop bragging about how much they spend on arts and just cut all programs, on principal.

  67. JP-4 or Jet A-1 for the new C-17’s – they drink a lot of it.

    $$$$ gotta come from somewhere!!!!!

  68. Best point goes to (envelope handed to and opened by Wayne) Mike 514 : That’s right folks = Stop The Presses the Evil Meanie Harper has finally done it and has been caught red-handed and can no longer avoid the latest scandal he is ***Gasp*** a Conservative and the only thing worse than that is a Conservative budget as and get this folks as this is completely unacceptable these Conservatives actually think the governments money belongs to … I shudder to think even say this out loud but TAXPAYERS … These Conservatives seem to have no understanding of the long, rich and proud Liberal history of treating the public purse as if it were their own and god forbid the public get engaged with the issue as the Liberlas know much better what is good for the Canadian people than *** Gasp *** (Liberal looks over shoulder and whispers) the voter.

  69. Kady O’M:
    No, I am not aware of a government report detailing how or why the programs did nto meet their objectives.
    Perhaps I am cynical, but I suspect there were never any objectives laid out to begin with, when the programs were created.

    Regarding the Human Rights museum, I am not in favour of that either.

  70. It’s clear the conserva-fanbois haven’t got their latest talking points yet. Hence the plaintive cries of Avi Lewis and YPF which were last week’s cuts/targets of groupthinkin’ hatred.

  71. Ya Andy, we conservatives are boiling over with rage… hold on, it seems to me it’s the Liberals who are doing all the whining and crying and making a mountain out of a molehill here, not the conservatives.

  72. It never fails to amaze me how intense and numerous (but largely civil) the comments are when I write about these cuts to arts funding. Go back and read the original post: it’s 13 words long, including headline. You folks didn’t need any help from me to have a very passionate debate, which I’m quite sure will keep going for some time.

    I think that’s because this business of government support for the arts gets very close to an unresolvable division in our society: a cleavage that makes politics, quite simply, politics. The mutual incomprehension is almost total. Neither side can quite believe the other is even serious.

    Boudica illustrates this best, perhaps, when she calls critics of government arts funding “tone deaf” before calling them “hillbillies.” Where All You Live is a similarly prime example on the other side, inviting me to go back to the Beaches (I’m from Sarnia) and listen to obscure jazz (is there another kind?).

    It’s obvious where my sympathies lie in this debate (yay, Beaches!) but what’s really striking is that each side believes it has the monopoly, not just on truth or reason, but on *simple good faith.* Frankly I find all this talk of knuckle-dragging, mouth-breathing Neanderthals who don’t understand my local museum’s right to a taxpayer-funded digital scanner appalling. I want everyone to hold hands and sing Kumbaya or something. But I know they won’t, because I know some issues are more emotionally charged than the relatively limited budgets that attach to them, which is why I continue to think the Conservatives may be smart to press this hot button — as long as they understand that the base they’re rallying doesn’t happen to have me in it.

  73. A mountain out of a molehill?!?

    SF, last time I checked, Quebec was essential to your strategy for electoral gains in the next election, yes? If that is still the case, you may want to pay close attention to the uproar those cuts have created in that region. Arts and Culture is of the utmost importance to Quebecers, especially those with nationalistic tendencies.

    Those cuts are like mana from heaven for the Liberals in Quebec. Keep this up and not only will you lose any chance of gaining more seats, you might have even more trouble keeping the ones you have, starting with Jose Verner’s riding.

  74. Stop The Presses the Evil Meanie Harper has finally done it and has been caught red-handed and can no longer avoid the latest scandal he is ***Gasp*** a Conservative

    Well, as someone not of the Conservative bent, personally, I’d be thrilled if the Conservatives started governing as the type of “conservatives” who slash arts funding and focus on social and cultural issues while driving us into deficits in order to justify the slashing of government programs. While many commenters here will disagree (those being those who are in the 30% of the population who support the Conservatives) I personally believe that up to this point, pretending not to be conservatives is what has kept the Conservatives so popular. Right leaning commentators may believe the whole country’s moved to the right, but I tend to believe the Tories have had the run they’ve had because THEY moved to the left, and suppressed their natural instincts. I still believe that an election wouldn’t really change much right now, we’d still get a Conservative minority, but if the Tories start acting more like “conservatives” and less like Liberals (which, let’s face it, is how they’ve acted in this mandate up to now, Harper’s first mandate was probably less “conservative” than we would have gotten from another Martin minority) then I’d be willing to bet that one more minority mandate is just about all the Conservatives have left in them.

    I’m not sure the mask will come off, but I’d say it’s slipping. Which will be a thrill to 30% of the country, right until the other 70% decides to do something about it.

  75. ROFL – LMAO : us usual Paul your style is impeccable I had to pick my knuckles up from dragging them on the floor to type this. PS: the more obscure the jazz the better! And as soon as I can get out of the office I am off to the beach with my guitar to play Kumbaya (the lost version an ODE to the once great but recently having fallen on hard times Liberal Party of canada)

  76. It is indeed one of those polarizing issues, Paul, where each side believes firmly that they’re in the right. It also speaks well to what each side believes to be the role of government. While it is a hot button though, is pressing it really smart for the Cons? It can galvanize their base, yes. I’m not convinced it needs galvanizing though, unless this is like a please ignoring the fact we’re paving the streets of Quebec with gold kind of thing. The arts hot button won’t gain them any votes. Will it cost then swing voters? That’s more difficult. If anything negative it may feed certain perceptions, but I think those for whom cuts to arts funding would be a negatively inflencing vote factor probably aren’t in the likely pool of Conservative voters to begin with.

    Wayne and Mike, I’d love to give the Conservatives credit for doing the conservative thing. Or at least fiscally conservative, although there does seem to be more than wink-wink to social conservatism here too. But their insisting that they still spend more than the Libs on the arts prevents me from awarding them the fin-con medal on this one.

  77. Paul,
    I am similarly dismayed by the amount of heat and light generated by this. I consider myself a keen support of the arts (yes, even ballet, opera and orchestras) but I do not like government funding of same except in limited circumstances. For this, I am a knuckle-dragging hilly-billy philistine.

    Also – I think the “base” for this is bigger than people think (even in Quebec) , but maybe I just don’t want to be in a minority.

  78. “Frankly I find all this talk of knuckle-dragging, mouth-breathing Neanderthals who don’t understand my local museum’s right to a taxpayer-funded digital scanner appalling.”

    And I make no apologies for it. When a government memo states that they have decided to cut funding to a program for having provided assistance to someone with left-leaning politics or when I read comments that state that government funding produced crap when it comes to art, knuckle-dragging-mouth-breathing-Neanderthals is most certainly what comes to my mind.

    As for questionning their good faith, that wouldn’t apply to me. I don’t question the “good faith” of some. I see sheer ignorance at play. Nothing more.

    Then again, I’m from Quebec where arts and culture is sacro-saint and such thinking is indeed considered barbaric.

  79. which is why I continue to think the Conservatives may be smart to press this hot button — as long as they understand that the base they’re rallying doesn’t happen to have me in it

    See, that’s what I don’t get about this strategy (if one wants to think of it as a “strategy” in terms of politics… it could be simple unadulterated ideology, in which case it makes sense).

    Why would the Tories feel they need to “rally the base”. I mean, sure, the polls show “the base” is pretty much all they have (and that’s absolutely true of the other parties right now too) but where do the Tories think the base is going to go? What sense does rallying the base make if all it does is preserve the status quo (of course, it potentially preserves the status quo I suppose, so there’s that).

    It just seems to me that 70% of the country is to the left of the Conservatives’ “base” and if they ever want to get out of the purgatory of minority government they need to appeal to THOSE people.

    Or at least not poke them with pointy sticks.

    The Liberals moving to the left, while perhaps foolhardy, at least has some sense of logic. There are votes to the Liberals’ left. The Tories moving to the right (or at least being less opaque about the fact that they’re ON the right) makes much less sense to me, politically speaking. Seems to me it just makes the people who vote Tory anyway REALLY happy, and ticks off everyone else. Kinda like giving out free samples at a store only to people who’ve already made a purchase, while refusing to offer them to POTENTIAL customers.

    Perhaps I’m just stuck playing checkers though.

  80. QED.

  81. I could accept it as a values debate, but that’s not what the Conservatives are doing. They are LYING about the reasons for cutting the programs – they aren’t meeting objectives (based on unknown analysis), they will be replaced by awesome new programs (I bet), we love the arts, blahblahblah. Have some balls and just say “We don’t like most art and the art we do like we don’t think should be taxpayer funded.”

  82. Lord Kitchener, you are right unless the CPC is under the impression that most Canadians would agree that those cuts are needed.

  83. I’m from Brampton – our idea of culture is listening to talk radio in the Tim Horton’s drive through…

  84. LKO, why rally the base? Two reasons. Well, maybe three. The maybe-third is that Harper can do no better because he’s a flawed political leader. His potential successors, whenever they get a chance to potentially succeed, will certainly make that argument.

    But the two other reasons are important and, while I’ve written about them many times, I seem to have a hard time getting them across.

    1. Failure to keep the conservative base of Conservatism happy led to the destruction of the Mulroney coalition (and of others before it) and, incidentally, to Stephen Harper’s first decision to enter electoral politics as a candidate. To this day the mere mention of some Mulroney-era cabinet ministers — Mary Collins seems to be one of them, reliably — will get Reform-era conservatives shaking with anger. Lesson: You tend the base before you do *anything* else. Incidentally, this is a huge part of Chrétien’s success compared to Martin. I used to point Francie Ducros to polls saying Martin polled higher among non-Liberals. She’d say, “Chrétien polls higher among Liberals.” That was less true at the end, but Martin’s (virtual) coalition didn’t just fray at the conservative and social-democrat and nationalist edges, where it extended beyond the old Liberal tent; it collapsed in the middle, when people who instinctively think of themselves as Liberals decided this guy had no centre worth supporting. (Not all of them, but enough.)

    2. Majorities are nice, but not without their own problems. Tom Flanagan has written more clear-headedly about this than anyone I’ve read, in his underappreciated book on game theory and Canadian politics. The largest majorities in Canadian electoral history were almost all followed, not only with failure, but with fracture that made them irreparable for a long time. As one Tory-friendly pollster put it to me, and I swear this is a verbatim quote: “Who needs a majority if you can keep your base so horny they’ll never leave you?”

    Needing majorities is a symptom of Liberals, who spent a decade winning majorities and, in many cases, thinking the guy who did it was so mediocre that surely anyone with a Liberal team jersey should expect a majority. Being content with minorities is a symptom of Conservatives, who spent much of that decade as laughing stocks and will take what they can get — and run with it.

  85. LKO Conservatives, and dippers, have history of sitting on their hands and not voting if they don’t like what their party is doing. It does not surprise me at all that government is trying to energize the base now because many of us are thinking of not voting next time. As you mentioned, government policies are looking rather Liberal-lite at the moment. It is tough balancing act: go to the centre for the votes or bring the centre to you and I think the government has gone too far towards the centre and not done/said enough to bring the centre to the right.

  86. Enjoy the debate while government(s) still have a choice about funding arts programs. The spectacular fall in tax revenues in the US is on its way to visit our country in a few short months.

    While I’m not philosophically opposed to arts funding I agree with jwl who says the current approach encourages crap. What other patron of the arts than the government doesn’t evaluate the quality of the outcome?

    Unless someone actually cares about what the money is used for, the budgets should be cut. It’s up to the umbrella organizations to demonstrate that they care about the ART, not just the MONEY.

  87. “As one Tory-friendly pollster put it to me, and I swear this is a verbatim quote: “Who needs a majority if you can keep your base so horny they’ll never leave you?”

    My gob has been well and truly smacked. Whoever said/thinks that better not be too influential with Harper and Finley because that is a pathetic attitude. Has that person never experienced ‘blue balls’? It’s not how you want your base to feel.

  88. “What other patron of the arts than the government doesn’t evaluate the quality of the outcome?”

    I think the problem some are having is with the evaluation itself. Why would a band’s name or someone’s political leanings be determining factors in the said evaluation?

  89. I tend to go with this one:

    “The maybe-third is that Harper can do no better because he’s a flawed political leader.”

    And he has attracted a certain kind of operative to work for him, and these are people who simply don’t seem to care or may actually want to cause offense, regardless of the merits of the policy they are carrying out.

  90. @David: “In fact, our archives is run by a bunch of technophobic luddites and copyright nazis who, if they had there way, would smash machines.”

    Godwin’s Law Rules Again!

  91. “Unless someone actually cares about what the money is used for, the budgets should be cut. It’s up to the umbrella organizations to demonstrate that they care about the ART, not just the MONEY.”

    J’ai mon voyage….

  92. “It just seems to me that 70% of the country is to the left of the Conservatives’ “base” and if they ever want to get out of the purgatory of minority government they need to appeal to THOSE people.”

    Well, you’re probably very wrong because people vote and/or join political parties for all sorts of reasons and probably don’t match your definition of left and right (whatever they are) as well as you would imagine.

    Take SSM, would Bev Desjarlais, an NDP MP who was against it, would she be to the right of the entire Liberal caucus, just those who voted for SSM, or none of them? Would she be to the right of James Moore who voted in favour of SSM as a Conservative MP?

    If people with diametrically opposed views on a subject as polarizing as SSM can be found within all three federal parties, perhaps it’s just a wee stretch to pretend that everyone who isn’t a rabid conservative is opposed to funding cuts to arts programs that most of them have probably never heard of, let alone benefit from.

  93. That’s not a true Goodwin’s law reference Andrew. A true reference would be something like “next thing they’ll be burning objectionable books in bonfires outside Parliament” or “watch for the exhibition of Conservative-approved art in the National Art Galley this fall.” When we loony lefties bring the Goodwin’s we do it with a little more panache.

  94. Lefties still say “panache”?

    Yoiks.

  95. Going back a few posts, I think the film YPF was partially financed via tax credits, which Bill C-10 proposes to put under direct control of the PMO.

    I’m trying to think of famous historical art that doesn’t result from public funding. I think most of the Abstract Expressionists made their living from selling vertical stripes & paint sploshes to the rich.

  96. Can the public actually access these program evaluations that Kory is referring to?

    I’d love to know their criteria / their methodology for deciding the effectiveness of these progams.

  97. Paul says: “Being content with minorities is a symptom of Conservatives, who spent much of that decade as laughing stocks and will take what they can get — and run with it.”

    But they don’t seem so content to me. Is it because of all the bad press they’ve been receiving? Or is it because they actually fear that they could be on the opposition side of a minority just as easily as the government side — and they’re playing their usual offence.

    Harper so damn cranky and angry! Gimme a little hope around here!

  98. Chris – I get the impression that if any of us sat down with Kory to get the real answer we would probably be disappointed. The global shortage of talent seems to have hit the political class particularly hard.

    boudica – sorry if my comments were abrasive. Museums and art galleries are expensive to operate and I know that the people who work there are dedicated and passionate.

    I maintain that artists need to please their patrons. When bands like Holy Fuck and a rather boring parade of scatological art installations can obtain government funding, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that people want to see cuts.

    I think cuts would have been made regardless of whether Liberals or Conservatives were running the show. Kory’s stupid comments are a distraction and hopefully his handlers will realize he’s a liability in time for the next election.

  99. Perambulator wins the steak knives.

  100. As a high school teacher, I find that websites like culture.ca come in handy now and then for my students, but, if it disappears, well, they’re bright and will find the information elsewhere.
    The problem that I have is that the people who complain about young Canadians not knowing anything about their history and culture generally come from the right. Ironically enough, they are generally the same people that are quick to encourage the government to get rid of any program that may aid in getting kids interested in our culture and history.

  101. The Harperite Conservatives are a bunch of wannabe Americans. Of course they hate Canadian culture and anything that contributes to our unique identity and prevents us from being just second-class North Americans.

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