How to discard unnecessary voters

Michael
Michael Johansen
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Clearly, Stephen Harper doesn't want my vote.

In fact, he doesn't seem to want the vote of any Canadian writer or artist - or, at least, of those capable of creative and independent thought.

If he did, he wouldn't have waited until the run-up to a federal election to cut the $4.7-million PromArt Program, the $9-million Trade Routes program, the $1.5-million Canadian Independent Film and Video Fund, the $2.5-million National Training Program in the Film and Video Sector and (just to make sure no Canadian video or music survives in the future) to slash $300,000 from the Audio-Visual Preservation Trust of Canada.

Clearly, Stephen Harper doesn't want my vote.

In fact, he doesn't seem to want the vote of any Canadian writer or artist - or, at least, of those capable of creative and independent thought.

If he did, he wouldn't have waited until the run-up to a federal election to cut the $4.7-million PromArt Program, the $9-million Trade Routes program, the $1.5-million Canadian Independent Film and Video Fund, the $2.5-million National Training Program in the Film and Video Sector and (just to make sure no Canadian video or music survives in the future) to slash $300,000 from the Audio-Visual Preservation Trust of Canada.

As expected, the prime minister and all his lesser ministers have denied the cuts were done because Canadian writers and artists rarely seem inclined to vote for Reform-type Conservatives.

Surprisingly, however, one Foreign Affairs official did actually admit that one of the main reasons why they cut PromArt (a program that helped musicians and other artists travel abroad to perform publicly or otherwise promote their creations) was because they didn't like the name of one of the bands that got money. No doubt that official was severely reprimanded for telling the truth.

Mostly Conservatives say they're cutting these and other arts programs because they want the cash for better things. They have made some vague promises to start new arts programs, but apparently what they really wanted the money for was to pour it into a shut-down car plant in Ontario.

Even as Harper is forcing an unnecessary election, he's betting that Canadian taxpayers (which happen to include many Canadian writers and artists) are more willing to bail out a poorly run private American car company that's in trouble today (along with all other North American auto manufacturers) largely because its directors were too shortsighted to see that they should have stopped building gas-guzzlers 20 years ago, than they would be to help out fellow citizens who strive to earn a reasonable living (maybe even as much as the minimum wage) through their hard work and art - citizens who think the whole world should see more Canadian culture, hear it, read it and enjoy it.

It's not a vain pursuit - that is, financial assistance given to writers and other artists is not charity. It isn't wasted to support some misfit scribbler's private whims or to keep some colour-splasher in breakfast cereal while he churns out the kind of work no self-respecting Harperite wants to see. It goes to support Canada.

The arts are an industry just like auto manufacturing is an industry, except that the arts are far more cost-effective, efficient, labour intensive and generally beneficial to the Canadian economy.

It's culture that brings a country to the world and the world to a country. It's culture that brings thousands of Japanese people to Prince Edward Island every year. It's culture that's made Saskatchewan famous in the Muslim world. It's culture that shows the people of other countries that Canada is indeed its own nation, distinct from its southern neighbour, and is therefore well worth visiting and investing in. It's not business that does that - at least not businesses that own outdated automobile factories.

But, I guess, Harper thinks he only needs the votes of people who like scarce taxpayer dollars going to big foreign corporations.

You'd think, in his shaky minority position, he can't afford to be so exclusive, but apparently he's given up on ever getting a majority, so he's writing off any Canadian who disagrees with him.

Why should he worry about the strength of Canadian culture? Why should he care about artists and writers? He's managed to run his minority government without them for the past two-and-a-half years. Obviously, he thinks he won't need them for the next two and a half, either.

Michael Johansen is a writer living in Labrador.

Organizations: Audio-Visual Preservation Trust of Canada, North American

Geographic location: Canada, Ontario, Prince Edward Island Saskatchewan Labrador

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