Thursday, September 25, 2008

Harper and the arts

I'm generally not a huge fan of exhorbitant government subsidies for the arts, especially not for chronic under-achievers like the CBC and our film industry, and I said so here.

But with that said, this kind of thing is really not helpful:

Under fire for his government's $45 million in cuts to arts and culture
funding, the Conservative leader yesterday said average Canadians have no
sympathy for "rich" artists who gather at galas to whine about their

"I think when ordinary working people come home, turn on the TV and see
a gala of a bunch of people at, you know, a rich gala all subsidized by
taxpayers claiming their subsidies aren't high enough, when they know those
subsidies have actually gone up – I'm not sure that's something that resonates
with ordinary people," Harper said in Saskatoon, where he was campaigning for
the Oct. 14 election.

Rather cynically, he did not repeat the statement in French, as government arts funding enjoys considerably more support in Quebec.

It's not that I fundamentally disagree with Harper on this issue (I don't). But characterizing artists in general as "rich", and trying to insert a wedge between them and "ordinary people" is nothing but demagoguery. We can certainly debate the merits of arts funding, but this should not be a class issue.

Margaret Atwood wrote a good editorial for the Globe yesterday, pointing out that the cultural sector has become a vital part of our economy, employing some 600,000 people and generating billions of dollars in revenue. Most of those 600,000 are anything but rich snobs attending taxpayer subsidized galas.

Granted, some of them are whiners, and do look quite silly whining about "censorship" simply because the government isn't giving them enough money, but it really isn't fair of Harper to say it in a way that paints all artists with the same brush.

No comments: