Busting the arts

Economic stupidity or state censorship?  

The Harper Government, sweater-vests and John Lennon songs notwithstanding, doesn’t like the arts. It made serious cuts to the creative community back in 2008 and then did some fancy accounting to make it look as though it hadn’t. Now it has cut all federal funding to SummerWorks, an important theatre festival in Toronto.

If you say that government should not be in the business of funding the arts, perhaps you’ve been looking at Sun TV too long and have gone blind to the facts. The facts are that the arts have been shown to give governments more bang for their buck than any other industry, including oil and gas. Government investment in sports is kaput by the time an athlete reaches 35. But, at that age, writers and artists and performers are just hitting their stride. The arts pump some 80 billion dollars into the GDP and is the most efficient industry in creating jobs.

One measure of that is how efficiently the theatre community can mount a major festival in Toronto. The federal government’s contribution to the festival was a measly $46,000 – a drop in its bucket of deficit, but a fifth of Summerworks’ budget.

After last year’s SummerWorks, Mr Harper spoke out against a play he didn’t see but didn’t like anyway: “Homegrown.” It glorified terrorism he said. I saw the play and it did no such thing. But it did raise some troubling questions about Canada’s Anti-Terrorism Act and the government’s Orwellian “Security Certificates.”

Ahh, maybe that’s why the Tories are yanking funding for the arts. To paraphrase Steven Colbert, they have, along with facts, a well-known liberal bias. If so, then it’s not only a case of economic stupidity; it’s state censorship.

© David McLaren July 12, 2011.

Steven Harper sings McCartney & Lennon's "With a little help from my friends" at an NAC gala in October 2009 (You Tube still).

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About David McLaren

David McLaren is an award-winning writer. He has worked in government and the private sector, with NGOs and First Nations in Ontario. He is currently writing from Neyaashiinigamiing on the shore of Georgian Bay and can be reached at david.mclaren@utoronto.ca. In February 2015, he won the nomination for the NDP to represent the riding of Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound in the 2015 federal election. See that page for writings during the campaign.
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