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Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Cuts like a knife

Posted on Wed, Aug 20, 2008 at 4:43 PM

Sadly, the flurry of publicity over last week’s federal government cuts to the $4.7 million PromArt funding program, which subsidizes international touring artists, became more about Harper’s press secretary Kory Teneycke’s McCarthy-like claims that funding choices were “inappropriate...because they were ideological in some cases, or the money was going to fringe arts groups that, in many cases, would be at best, unrepresentative, and at worst, offensive.” And then a spokesperson for foreign affairs minister David Emerson named Polaris-nominee Holy Fuck as an example of the type of potty-mouthed musicians our country will not stand behind. Remember the Bill C-10 Young People Fucking debacle? Fuck, we have a problem. And yet, the CTRC just gave the green light to an all-Canadian porn channel (because we’ve been waiting for Corner Ass and The Peachcombers).

Then, while Canada’s Olympic medal count was still zero, news of another cut---the $9 million Trade Routes, an arts export promotional program funded through Canadian Heritage. According to Shelley Nordstrom, international program manager for the East Coast Music Association, the “ECMA’s international program relied heavily on both programs. The Trade Routes funding source has been crucial in the recruitment of US talent buyers, bringing them into our events. And PromArt has been invaluable with the recruitment of European and international buyers.”

The ECMA’s program attracts booking agents, key festival programmers, labels, media distributors and technology experts from around the world. Nordstrom quickly lists off successful artists who have benefitted from the program including Joel Plaskett, Slowcoaster, Jill Barber, In-Flight Safety and Meaghan Smith.

As arts groups wait to hear about a promised replacement program, lobbying is key. Last week, Nordstrom was involved in a national conference call with Canada Council for the Arts, and the Music Industry Association of Atlantic Canada is meeting this weekend in Cornerbrook, where lobbying strategies will be discussed.

But the buck-cutting doesn’t stop there. In addition to those cuts, funding was reduced to the Canadian Arts and Heritage Sustainability Program; $1.5 million hacked from the Canadian Independent Film and Video Fund; $2.5 million is gone from the National Training Program in the Film and Video sector; and $300,000 cut from the Audio-Visual Preservation Trust of Canada. NOTE: today the Globe and Mail reports new cuts equalling $44.8 million!

Looking through a list of previous CIVVF recipients, it’s pretty tough to find anything “offensive.” Locally, filmmakerWalter Forsythe received money for his Rubix Cube doc-in-progress, Cubers. There’s Jason Buxton’s lovely short, The Drawing, about a young boy chasing after his tossed-out drawing through cobblestone streets. Marc Almon, writer/director of the Gaelic, Genie-nominated The Wake of Calum MacLeod, also received funding. According to Forsythe, the $2.5 million cut to the training program will probably kill the intensive Summer Institute of Film and Television.

I can rattle off stats about how culture is a $26 billion industry that employs over 740,000 people (more than the natural resource sectors) and that many artists live below the poverty line, but I have a feeling you’re either convinced already, or you think artists should get “real jobs.” What I’m looking for is news of lobbying efforts, petitions and protests that will make me feel proud to be Canadian again.

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