Editorial: The Truth for the Arts Lies in the Numbers by Wah Keung Chan
/ October 13, 2008
The first sign
of trouble for the arts in Canada from the current Conservative government
came in their first budget. In 2006, newly elected PM Stephen Harper
fulfilled his promise to sports parents by giving a tax credit for kids
taking part in organized sport. Parents of musicians and artists were
understandably perplexed by their exclusion—a petition of 35,000 Canadians
was ignored. Was Harper putting more value on sports than the arts,
they asked? Now we know the answer is yes.
artists were complacent. The Conservatives gave increased funding to
the Canada Council for the Arts (CCA), $50 Million over three years,
though a far cry from outgoing Liberal PM Paul Martin’s promise to
double the CCA’s budget over the same three-year period. A few artists
welcomed the $50 Million gain, but realized that they had really lost
The $45 Million
in cuts to arts funding this summer, coming on the heels of Bill C-10,
was the last straw for the arts community. A storm of protests followed.
The Tories first explained that it was good governance, i.e., those
programs were inefficient. Then it was that arts funding had actually
increased 8% since the Tories had taken power. The truth is that the
increase was for the Department of Canadian Heritage, which includes
not only the arts, but also sports and cultural minorities. On September
20, The Globe and Mail exposed the truth: Arts funding has decreased
under Harper. The 8% increase has in fact, been diverted to sports and
cultural communities; indeed, the $45 Million cuts will be destined
for sports. Heritage Minister Josée Verner refused to announce new
programs, claiming that the election was no time for serious debate;
the last time we heard that was when Kim Campbell lost the 1993 election.
With his provocative statements in Saskatchewan on Sept. 24, Stephen
Harper has divided the nation, pitting “ordinary” Canadians against
artists. This is hardly prime ministerial behaviour.
In this print
issue, we take a balanced look at the arts platform of the 5 major parties,
a critical look at why the arts are important, and, given the current
economic uncertainties, look at the economic impact of the arts. The
remaining 14 days before the election will certainly be tumultuous,
and we will track the discussions (in both languages) online at federalelection2008.scena.org.
Our cover this
month is the 35-year-old Studio musique ancienne de Montréal’s founder
Christopher Jackson, who has recently turned 60. Jackson shares his
love of Bach and the art of musical rhetoric. We continue our coverage
of classical radio with a critical look at the new CBC Radio 2, and
a profile of Radio Ville-Marie, which has proven that a volunteer-based
radio station can fill the void in music and culture. We are launching
a new series on the music recording industry with a profile of the resurgent
XXI-21 Productions. We celebrate the MSO’s 75th Anniversary with a
profile of Desiré Defauw and “A Nagano Summer”, which looks at
the maestro’s activities last summer. In a commentary, we make the
case for a summer opera festival in Montreal. Also, look for a continuation
of our Messiaen series, a celebration of Twigg Musique’s 50th anniversary,
and a look at Bach and the organ, a follow-up on last month’s organ
both arts and arts-lovers are under attack, we encourage you to show
your pride by wearing our new Arts-Lovers button. We will be introducing
more LSM merchandising in the months to come. For instance, in a partnership
with XXI-21 Productions, we will be celebrating Giacomo Puccini’s
150th anniversary with a commemorative 2-CD Set in November.
helping fund La Scena Musicale, your favourite music magazine, by participating
in our next fundraising activities: Opera Weekend in Toronto
(October 25-26 at the Canadian Opera Company) and A Night at the
Opera (November 13 at the Opéra de Montréal’s Pearl Fishers).
Remember to cast
your “Vote for the Arts” on October 14.