Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Generalize Much, Steve?

If you have any awareness of the arts world, you will know just how badly Harper mischaracterized the arts community yesterday:

the Conservative Leader draped himself in populism and said he sided with regular folks who aren't troubled that his policies rile fat-cat artists or people “in ivory towers.”

Mr. Harper would not, however, repeat in French his criticisms of artists, for outrage at his party's culture platform is most outspoken in Quebec.


It's the kind of generalizations Harper makes that show us his thinking is extremely limited. His world is all black and white. The arts world - which is so often about 'the show' - is far from wealthy. Artists are ordinary Canadians. Look around your community, and how many volunteer theatre companies run on shoestring budgets - barely able to pay any staff salaries for the routine business of keeping things going.

How many people sitting in offices or working at Starbucks are writers, sculptors or other forms of artist who haven't come anywhere near 'the big time'?

The rest of us are in one form or another consumers of the output of the arts. Whether you attend a play or two a year, or you are a passionate devotee of literature.

The problem with Harper's recent cuts to the arts is not their scale, but rather the way in which he has gone about it. Rather than putting it forward as part of the government's budget, and making it part of the larger financial discussion for the government. Instead, Harper did the changes under the rules of Order In Council, a tool primarily intended to enable Her Majesty's Government to continue the day to day operations of government while Parliament is not sitting.

The issue is this - like Ralph Klein in Alberta, Harper is doing as much as he thinks he can get away with outside of the open forum of Parliament. When he does have to use Parliamentary process, Harper tries to make everything a confidence motion, and further abuses both the concepts of democracy and parliamentary politics.

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