Federal Finance Minister James Flaherty (rather than Heritage Minister James Moore, interestingly) issued threats of potential arts cuts just days before Canada Day. His warning came on the heels of the abrupt slashing of grants to Toronto’s successful Summerworks Festival which had drawn the ire of the Conservative government the summer before for its political content. The cuts to Summerworks are clearly politically motivated, are an utterly unacceptable interference in the arts, and are a threat to basic Canadian freedoms. Further threats to investment in other parts of the Canadian culture industry are also unacceptable, a reversal of the Harper government’s stated intentions during their election campaign, and economically let alone socially unwise. CBC story follows:
“Federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty has a warning for cultural institutions that have come to rely on regular government funding: don’t count on it.
Flaherty delivered the message Tuesday shortly after announcing $500,000 in support for this year’s Canada Walk of Fame Festival, to be held in Toronto.
The funding falls under the Canada Arts Presentation Fund administered by Canada Heritage.
On Monday, SummerWorks, an acclaimed Toronto indie theatre festival, announced it had lost its federal funding. The festival made headlines last year after staging “Homegrown,” a play about a convicted terrorist, a member of the group known as the Toronto 18.
In a note posted on its blog, the festival said it had received federal funding for five straight years — totalling $140,000 — and was surprised to learn it would not get more money this year.
But Flaherty says arts organizations should not set their budgets assuming they’ll get government funds.
“One thing I’d say, and maybe it’s different than it used to be, is we actually don’t believe in festivals and cultural institutions assuming that year after year after year they’ll receive government funding,” Flaherty said.
“They ought not assume entitlement to grants … no organization should assume in their budgeting that every year the government of Canada is going to give them grants because there’s lots of competition, lots of other festivals, and there are new ideas that come along.
“So it’s a good idea for everyone to stay on their toes and not make that assumption.”
For more information on the cuts to Summerworks in particular, read:
Globe and Main: SummerWorks appearance gave Victoria’s Ride the Cyclone legs
And just as an aside, here’s what the federal government thinks is worth investing in, culturally, outside the Canada Council or other arms length agencies. Is the government deciding what our culture will be now or does Canada’s culture industry perhaps make more informed choices, let alone better and wise use of tax dollars?
The 1970s in Canada were a golden age of culture in Canada (NFB, CBC, film, visual arts, design) & we could do that again.
Or fighter jets.
What sort of country do we want?
Write Minister Flaherty and Minister James Moore and tell them that you as a Canadian citizen and audience member do not want cuts of investment to Canadian culture and the Canadian culture industry. It might also be good to tell them that government must not dictate the content of Canadian culture, and that the cuts to Summerworks are disturbing.
A couple of lines is enough.