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All-party culture club 

How involved and knowledgeable are Halifax's federal party candidates in locals arts and culture?

It's hardly news to say the arts don't rank as a top-level issue in the current federal election campaign. But, when asked, each of the four local candidates vying to represent the riding of Halifax in the next Parliament can produce a platform or set of numbers relating to their party's supposedly solid position on arts and culture (first and foremost, funding and the maintenance or restoration of program cuts).

But the candidates' credibility might arise as much from their own experience with, and interest in, arts and culture as the party line.

"I'm a young woman riding around on my bike and going to the Pop Explosion," says NDP candidate Megan Leslie, adding her admiration for spaces like Bus Stop Theatre. "You need to engage with the many diverse communities within arts and culture."

Leslie has a law degree from Dalhousie and has worked with Dalhousie Legal Aid. She's also been heavily involved in anti-poverty and climate change movements. But she's taken a screenprinting course with the Ink Storm Collective at Anchor Archive. "They're just doing it on their own. It's so incredibly inspiring and so incredibly depressing," Leslie says.

"I want to...listen, and ask what we can do to makes things better." Catherine Meade, Liberal

Empathy for and awareness of those who regularly balance creative and administrative work (probably a couple paying jobs on the side, too) is something Green candidate Darryl Whetter brings up as well, praising the "multitasking" abilities of creative professionals in Halifax as fuel for the city's "creative economy."

Whetter moved here in August from Advocate Harbour to teach creative writing at Dalhousie. He's written a novel and a book of short stories and has two more books underway, so is versed in balancing two pursuits. "It's how I live; it's how I make my living," he says. "My partner's a writer as well."

Catherine Meade, a lawyer and Liberal candidate, has struck a balance in her life, too. "Much of my life has been about balancing music and sport," she says.

Along with work at the Gay and Lesbian International Sport Association and the Out Games, she's played percussion, performed in a symphony, sang with the Nova Scotia Mass Choir, the Acadia Gospel Choir and has been involved in musical theatre---all activities through which she's met many different people with different motivations for getting involved. Though she lauds Halifax as Atlantic Canada's major cultural centre, she knows "there aren't the same opportunities here," as there are in bigger cities like Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver. Rather than ignore that fact, Meade plans a simple approach to working with those in the arts/culture sector: "I want to simply listen. And to ask, 'What can we do to make things better?'"

Conservative candidate Ted Larsen already has the biggest battle because his party is in power and has formed the government people accuse of drastic reductions in arts funding. But, he maintains, "I'll be there in a very real way," when asked if he can work with the community and industry in Halifax and bring their concerns to government.

A small business owner and operator, a single father and former Chronicle Heraldreporter, Larsen recalls as his exploration of the city's culture: "As a young person, it was going out to hear good music." That was followed by attendance at Neptune Theatre productions, Symphony Nova Scotia concerts and "multicultural festivals."

Out of all four candidates, only one (Megan Leslie of the NDP) mentions the rally for the arts being organized for this Friday at Grand Parade and her plan to attend. Perhaps all will be seen and ready to show and to talk about where they stand on arts and culture.

Go to the Vote Arts Rally, Friday, October 3rd at Grand Parade, 12:30-1:30pm. We'll be there, covering the rally on our Dope Show blog

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Vol 27, No 7
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