The unofficial opposition, headquartered in Toronto and Quebec City


From the Inkless emailbox: a joint statement by the culture ministers of Ontario (Aileen Carroll, former federal minister under Martin and, I think, Chrétien); and Quebec (Christine St.-Pierre, former Radio-Canada TV reporter). What is interesting, of course, is that the Charest government continues to appear to define itself as a Liberal government in concert with the Queen’s Park Liberals, if not with the Ottawa Liberals, rather than as an ally of the Harper government:

As ministers of culture for Quebec and Ontario, we want to convey our deep disappointment about the recent cuts to federal arts and culture programs. In so doing, we are joining countless Canadian artists and arts organizations who have publicly expressed their grave concern.

We understand that at least seven programs that provide crucial support to Canada’s cultural sector have already been cut. We have now learned that the federal government intends to continue this ill-advised course of action, abolishing or severely reducing the budgets of essential initiatives.

Our artists make unique, important and necessary contributions to the cultural, social, economic and political development of our vibrant society. They act as ambassadors for our culture abroad and here at home. The excellence and the originality of their work witness and mirror to the world the modernity, dynamism and vitality of our country. They are the creative engines of our knowledge-based economy.

The culture sector plays a vital role in the Canadian economy. In Quebec and Ontario, the sector contributes close to $30 billion to both provinces’ GDP, which represents 68 per cent of the national cultural sector. The sector also employs roughly 616,000 people across the country of whom 68 per cent call Quebec and Ontario home.

Culture is one of Canada’s fastest growing economic sectors. It’s spin-off benefits include growth and diversification in tourism and local economies, and skills development for the knowledge economy. Investing in our home-grown talent on the international stage encourages foreign investment, opens new markets for export and promotes our country as a cultural tourism destination.

Equally vital, culture helps us define who we are, describes where we have been and signals where we are going. Culture is an essential ingredient to the cohesiveness of our society and to the promotion of our identity.

This is not the time for the federal government to reduce support for culture. Governments need to invest in the people and businesses that make up our cultural industries so that Canada’s economy will reap the benefits. The governments of Quebec and Ontario understand this and have targeted the cultural sector for investment to generate future growth in our economy. Given the context of globalization, now is the time for each province to promote Canadian culture. Our governments recognize the power of culture in the conduct of international affairs, which is essential for a country like Canada.

By cutting these federal programs, without any notice or consultation, the federal government has put the future of organizations and initiatives across the country at serious risk. These programs, primarily for international development, film, video and new media, have complemented Quebec and Ontario programs in priority areas. They promote our artists touring abroad and support the work of such prestigious institutions as the Society for Arts and Technology and the Institut national de l’image et du son, Hot Docs and the Canadian Film Centre. These cuts will compromise years of work on the part of organizations, artists and governments to make culture a sector of excellence recognized throughout the world.

To grow a stronger economy and put Canada on the international stage, we will need to work together. Quebec and Ontario will be raising this issue at the Sept. 25-26 meeting of federal, provincial and territorial ministers responsible for culture and heritage in Quebec City. We hope that our colleagues from across Canada will join us in urging the federal government to reinstate these programs and reinvigorate federal funding in arts and culture. We both have asked federal Heritage Minister Josée Verner to meet with us and to work together to ensure that Canadian arts and culture remains a powerful contributor to the development of our creative society, our economic diversity and future prosperity.

It is one thing to review programs to make sure funding is there for those who need it; it is quite another to scrap an entire program because of an ideological aversion to a handful of ideas.

Aileen Carroll is Ontario’s minister of culture and minister responsible for seniors.
Christine St-Pierre is Quebec’s minister of culture, communications and women’s issues.


The unofficial opposition, headquartered in Toronto and Quebec City

  1. They’re obviously communists.

  2. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’m eagerly awaiting what will surely be a devastating rebuttal from Canadian Heritage Minister – and Quebecoise – Josee Verner.

    What? It could happen. Surely, that’s why she hasn’t been able to talk to the media since word first leaked out almost exactly a week ago — she’s been putting the finishing touches on her talking points.

  3. I noted today, though the information may have been available before today, that much of this money is now to be directed toward amateur sport funding.

    I find this interesting in the sense that this debate has, as far as I can tell, not yet turned toward how we define “culture” in Canada. I have always thought that “culture” should be (and is) dynamic and be defined more broadly than simply the arts. I would posit that sport is more integral to the larger Canadian cultural scene than art. In that sense, I find it hard to take issue with the funding of sport over the arts.

    In that all of the arguments against these cuts have focused on the necessity of funding “culture”, I wonder how these positions will or should be amended to argue that the government should not fund “culture”, but, rather, the arts.

    It seems to me that this is the perfectly reasonable conclusion a democratically elected government has reached – cultural funding is important, but we define culture just a bit differently than some others might.

    I might take issue with the funding of any culture, but that is another debate.

  4. A small cut to arts spending (less than 1% of the over $3,000,000,000 spent each year by the feds), and the arts community, along with the media, lose their collective minds. OMG the world is ending because we’re shifting (at a grave rate) from public arts financing to private donations (as they should be). But in addition to encouraging Canadians to donate more, the Tories have actually increased spending on the arts over the past 2.5 years, an under-reported fact that was acknowledged by the former Liberal in charge of the Department.

    It was fun watching CBC cover the reaction to the spending cuts as they interviewed members of Toronto’s artistic elite. David Cronenberg’s slander of the Harper government as an anti-culture right-wing government almost made me laugh.

    Ironically, Americans, and conservative Americans in particular, donate a greater portion of their income in private charity to various causes, far exceeding private Canadian donations on a per capita basis. The most charitable state in the U.S. is Utah, no less. We’re so busy being smug and feeling morally superior that we Canadians forget to actually put our money where our mouths are.

    If Canada wants Holy F*&( to tour the world, let ’em pay for it or send them a check yourself.

  5. Please keep in mind Neil:

    “out of the charitable giving in America in 2006, only 16.9% went directly to the areas of “health” and “human services” (32% going to religious organizations and 10% to foundations of one sort or another)”

  6. It’s true that it’s hard to figure out who are the natural allies of the Quebec Liberal party.
    Since many Quebec conservatives and liberals must unite together within the various federalist/sovereignist options in provincial politics, it’s hard to tell where the chips fall on the traditional issues of left and right.

    It’s similar to the parties in Northern Ireland in British elections. Labour, Conservative, and Liberal Democrats are options nowhere to be seen, instead it’s all about the Republican vs Loyalist issue.

  7. Just as a point of information, Quebec Liberal party doesn’t actually need federal electoral allies, sf, and on occasion has gone long periods without one. Bourassa-Mulroney was an exception. I wouldn’t read *too* much into Charest’s occasional criticisms of the Harper Tories — any premier will criticize any prime minister at times — but this creation of a Quebec-Ontario axis, only a few months after the Harper Conservatives ostentatiously picked a fight with McGuinty, is damned interesting to me.

  8. Disingenuous, propagandistic tripe from Neil.

    Many of the cuts made by wheezer and his band of fundamentalist freaks are to programs that PROMOTE CANADIAN ARTS ABROAD.

    Just for comparison, a similar type of promotion is done by the British Council. Their budget is the equivalent of 60 million Cdn. per year.

    Wheezer slashed an already relatively small number of grants in this area to almost nothing.

  9. Sigh, just more evidence of the difficulty slaying any publicly-funded beast once created. From a comment on KadyO’s blog:
    …precisely the danger of willy-nilly government programs. You just can’t kill any of these bloated beasts without a massive backlash and accusations of knuckle-dragging, or union whimpering, or whatever. No sunset clauses on any of this crap. Absurd exaggerated “conservatives are accusing defenders [of whatever frivolous theft of taxpayer $] of being communists” nonsense (yes, Mr. Wells, I’m looking at you) to try to knock down conservative argument against government bloat.
    Better to have limited government in the first place. Better to stop massive funding increases for all sorts of junk. If only Harper et al could actually live up to the “conservative” epithet the lefties throw out.

    Please explain why Canadian artists are such miserable business persons that they feel entitled to the fruits of my hard work in order to support their business. And please understand that I am likely to feel unsympathetic to your arguments, so give it your best shot.

  10. Okay, madeyoulook. I’ll take you on about this: “Please explain why Canadian artists are such miserable business persons that they feel entitled to the fruits of my hard work in order to support their business.”

    What hard work do you do? Are there grants and support programs that your business is elegible for?

    I operate two businesses, and for one I have a Canadian Small Business Loan at an excellent rate, guaranteed by the government should I go under without repaying. It financed the considerable equipment I needed to start my second business. Am I a “miserable business person” because I didn’t have enough cash up front to for my full equipment needs? (I had to contribute 10% of the cost and all the GST out of my own funds.)

    If an artist with a reasonable reputation in Canada would like to grab an opportunity to promote their work outside of Canada with some help from a government program, how is that so different from taking advantage of the various trade shows and exchanges that government offers for other businesses — perhaps yours? Are all those Canadian companies that take advantage of such programs “miserable business persons”?

    And have you ever considered that a good cultural environment contributes to the success of your business and hard work? Do some of your clients or customers come to you because they’re already in town for a cultural event? Or perhaps some of them are your customers because they chose to live in your town because of the presence of a symphony with an international reputation, a terrific art gallery with work by internationally recognized artists, or a music or film festival that attracts high-quality contributions?

    Wake up a little and seriously consider your business connections. You may be surprised.

  11. MedEditor:
    That was a rather weak argument.

    You never even bothered to debate the concept of subsidies, all you can say is “We should all have a sense of entitlement, not just artists. Everybody should be subsidized, I was subsidized, and you should be subsidized too, even if you don’t want it. The government should be a middle-man in every transaction, the government should be involved in every business”.

    Pardon me if I have paraphrased incorrectly.

    Where is the why? The only “why” I could find in there was that you got a good interest rate from the government (which is just another subsidy). Other people have to pay the going market rates, but thanks to our taxes, my hard-earned money subsidized your interest rate, which gave you an unfair advantage over your competitors, who must obtain their startup loans from the marketplace, unless of course, as you so state, everybody should be taking government money.

    Which of course means that everybody is working for everybody else involuntarily, there is no free trade and no free markets.

    The sense of entitlement is startling.

    Sophie: “They’re obviously communists.”

  12. MedEditor, I have little to add to sf’s reply, sort of on my behalf, to your oratorial challenge. But that’s never stopped me before…
    Your invitation for me to join you at the party going on at the public teat, or to recognize how much I may already benefit from taxpayer largesse, does not at all change my unhappiness that somehow it is government’s role to decide who deserves the support (subsidies) and who doesn’t (punishing taxation to support the subsidies for the allegedly deserving). If you cannot see, after all the backing-and-forthing at Macleans Blog Central, how these miserable beasts just will not die once started, you have not been paying attention. And if your business would not have made it without all that government help, ask yourself why: Is it a bad business? Or would you be happy with your profits if your success weren’t punished so severely by such high taxes to support Avi Lewis’ trip down under, and the privilege of the Maple Leaf over the last “a” in “Canada” on a banner at the Festival de Rien en Particulier in St-Trou-de-Cul, QC, and everything else?
    The TV is on in the background, some family members (“Communists!”) are watching the Mother Corp’s Beijing Olympic coverage. A Bombardier commercial has folks all around the world humming out the “catchy tune” of Oh Canada. How many CBC viewers are currently in need of a high-speed electric train, or a subway car, or a Canadair 100-plus-seater, I wonder. Nope, they’re just trying to make me, Joe/Josephine Canadian, feel good about the billions of federal dollars thrown at them to develop a product that either would or would not have succeeded in the marketplace without the, what’s the buzzword, investment.

  13. To sf and madeyoulook:

    I’m not going to rise to this stupid “entitlement” bait. Both my businesses are highly profitable, thank you, and I work *hard* at both. Moreover, a Canadian bank gets the interest I pay on my loan (which is more than 2/3 paid off at this point), and it would probably have financed my equipment without the government intervention. I chose the CSBF route because of the loan guarantee by government, and I needed that guarantee as a backup. I was thrown into the position of sole breadwinner after my spouse became ill and our delightful private insurer refused to pay out on the disability policy that our hard-earned dollars (which were apparently good enough for their bottom line, but not for our benefts) had paid for. Wonderful thing this “free market.”

    If you really want a paraphrase, here it is: A thriving arts community is good for *everyone’s* business. And every business can use a little help from time to time to grow and thrive. And, sometimes, government can help make that happen, at a price that is minuscule compared to what we shell out for the big things that you seem happy to pay for.

    But I know that won’t convince you either, so I’ll just leave it at that.

  14. sf and madeyoulook both seem to believe that their particular philosophical stance is so pure and noble that *of course* if the rest of us just pulled our heads out of the sand, our country would rise to unblemished heights of fiscal prudence and economical purity and thus we would all live happily abd wealthily for ever and ever.

    The nasty reality is every government everywhere subsidizes something and often that something competes with Canada. Always has, always will. If we stop subsidizing Bombardier will Brazil stop subsidizing Embraer? I doubt it. The only way to compete is by trying at least a little, to support our industries (including cultural industries) against the foreign subsidies.

    It’s like unilateral disarmament…might be a great idea in theory, but it doesn’t work in practice.

  15. MedEditor, you are at risk of falling into the same ugly trap Sisyphus finds him/herself in a thread over on ITQ. You assume that Canadian artists are so pathetic that a “thriving arts community” could simply not exist without stealing so much from the taxpayer. I agree wholeheartedly that it would not look at all like it does now: whimpering about government censorship in between Canada Council deadlines. Maybe instead they would work “*hard*” for a living, like you do, finding a way to produce a product people might actually want to pay for themselves.
    But let’s take a look at your self-described “stupid entitlement bait.” You say the bank would have lent you the startup dough for your business without the government guarantee. Maybe that’s true, but maybe the interest rate would have been a bit higher. The taxpayer is still paying for your 2/3-paid off loan, because you pooled it in with government-backed projects that HAVE failed, for which we are all on the hook. Take away that government backing, and it sharpens the focus of the next business person about to start a business, no?
    But alas, poor John.K deserves the greatest heaping helping of scorn for the “everybody else does it” argument. If Brazil’s government wants to force Brazilian taxpayers to lower the price of an Embraer plane, we can (a) buy these cheap planes or (b) throw our own money away to distort the market even more. But, if you’re honest, you know why Brazil throws the money into the marketplace like that: because there are several misguided John.K’s in Brasilia telling government ministers they must do so, since evil Canada is going to do the same with Bombardier, and evil Europe is subsidizing Airbus to the hilt, etc., etc.
    John.K actually WANTS this country to have industries whose existence must depend on the perpetual mugging of honest taxpayers. Me, not so much.

  16. Problem is, MYL, that the rest of the world doesn’t really care about your nobility of spirit. They’ll happily subsidize us right out of existence.

    Obviously, you’ve never had to work in an industry that competes internationally. Your product has to be miles above the competition to succeed against a subsidized product, and in today’s world, it’s very nearly impossible to have that kind of technical superiority for very long. Even heavily subsidized industries can still produce excellent products.

    I don’t so much want us “to have industries whose existence must depend on the perpetual mugging of honest taxpayers”, as I want us to have industries…any industries, so that we can still have taxpayers who aren’t just employed extracting natural resources. Your philosophy might have worked in the 19th or early 20th centuries when there were lots of undeveloped colonial customers to force our wares on. Those days ended long ago.

    Reality has such a nasty way of intruding on the way we wish the world was.

  17. John K,
    The interesting thing about government subsidies and trade tariffs is that it really is possible to unilaterally remove them and benefit. All countries have that have relaxed their practices in this respect have benefited, India being a notable recent example.

    There is no particular reason why we, as a country, have to be in the business of making planes, and our economy ends up by taking the hit twice – once when we subsidize and once when we pay over the odds for the product. If we stop subsidizing AND buy cheaper from abroad, the money we save can be more efficiently spent elsewhere.

    And yes, I do work in an export business and it’s tough but there you go.

  18. Argentina being your counter-example, where unilateral liberalization lead to complete collapse.

    There’s no particular reason why we, as a country, have to be in the business of making anything, if you want to be technical. Unfortunately, we like to be able to have a reasonable chance of selling things to other countries so that we can buy their subsidized goods from them. If all of their value-added products are subsidized and ours are not, John K’s situation comes into play, and all we have left are those export businesses like oil — where we basically our subsidizing our economy by stripping out a finite resource. Not a sustainable situation.

  19. I think the opposing examples of India and Argentina sort of prove my underlying and probably badly-expressed point:

    The world is complicated and messy and unintended things happen all the time. Anyone who believes that their pure capitalist/socialist/mercantilist/any-other-ist philosophy represents absolute truth, is sadly deluded. If they are foolish enough to ignore messy reality, it will quickly bite them in the posterior.

  20. I’d just like to get away from the inflammatory language. “Entitlement” and “mugging”?

    “Mugging” the poor taxpayer to put money in the hands of business (large or small)? Have a look at http://www.fin.gc.ca/taxdollar06/text/html/taxdollar06_e.html, which lays out the destinations for every penny of your tax dollar. It seems that all transfers to business amount to a maximum of about 2 cents on the dollar. So if you are paying $10,000 in taxes, you’re being “mugged” for about $200 for all contributions and subsidies to business, of which contributions to the arts sector and small businesses like mine is a vanishingly small percentage.

    This talk of “mugging,” even for giants like Bombardier, looks like the whine of wage-slaves who never hung their rears over the precipice, betting their mortgages and their and their children’s futures on a combination of their own hard work, creativity, and salesmanship — something I’ve done for more than 10 years now. And anyone who works for wages had better be prepared to admit that their employer undoubtedly benefits from some combination of favorable tax treatment and sectoral subsidy. To continue to pay your wages, you can bet your life that they’re grabbing every fiscal advantage they can.

    And those fiscal advantages were placed there because, by helping to grow and nuture business of all kinds, more money is made by all the various players, which accrues back to the government in the form of increased corporate and personal taxes,

    So let’s cut the holier-than-thou stuff, shall we?

  21. MedEditor:

    I wish I’d said that. Bravo.

  22. Hmm, should’ve checked back here much earlier.

    The world is complicated and messy and unintended things happen all the time. Anyone who believes that their pure capitalist/socialist/mercantilist/any-other-ist philosophy represents absolute truth, is sadly deluded.
    Why then must we be forever stuck on “interventionist”??

    This talk of “mugging,” even for giants like Bombardier, looks like the whine of wage-slaves who never hung their rears over the precipice, betting their mortgages and their and their children’s futures on a combination of their own hard work, creativity, and salesmanship — something I’ve done for more than 10 years now. And anyone who works for wages had better be prepared to admit that their employer undoubtedly benefits from some combination of favorable tax treatment and sectoral subsidy. To continue to pay your wages, you can bet your life that they’re grabbing every fiscal advantage they can.
    Everyone’s doing it, and you probably are too, so quitcherbitchin’. Sorry, that government feels the urge to muck around in so much of the economy and our lives, leading to many businesses that are basically in the business of creatively living off of the handouts, does not constitute a moral exercise.

    So let’s cut the holier-than-thou stuff, shall we?
    Shut up and join the party; if you behave nice, I’ll even sneak you in front for a turn at the teat.


  23. No arguing with sophistry is there?

  24. To John K:

    Alas, no. (And thanks for the earlier support.)


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