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September 24, 2008

The Annotated Guide to Harper's Arts Gala Quote; Dean Del Mastro on the Arts Funding Cuts Issue

Img_6320 Someone should ask Dean Del Mastro if he's going to be echoing what the boss had to say last night in Toronto about those fancy-schmancy arts galas.

"I think when ordinary working people come home, turn on the TV and see a gala and all sorts of people at a rich gala all subsidized by the taxpayer [ you mean traveling Bev Oda style? ] , claiming their subsidies aren't high enough when they know they have actually gone up, I'm not sure that's something that resonates with ordinary people. Ordinary people [ like people working as, say artists or writers - ed ] understand we have to live within a budget."

After all, he's certainly been doing a good job with the political arts spin as of late.

Unfortunately, some of the messages he's been coming out with aren't totally compatible with the truth, as this Liberal Reality Check item points out (see text below) -- but that's never stopped Peterborough's man in Ottawa from getting the job done, Tory style.

Note: The Dean quotes are my own additions. The Liberal campaign team somehow neglected to include him in their roundup of quoteworthy Tory MPs. 

ISSUE:
Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his Conservative cabinet ministers have been travelling the country falsely claiming that they have substantially increased funding for arts and culture.
[ And so has our man Dean. ]:

For example:

  • Stephen Harper’s director of communications, Kory Teneycke: "The opposition seems to be accusing us of having an agenda to see the arts is funded to a lesser extent on an ideological basis, and I can say that's not the case (because) we are spending more on the arts than the Liberal government." (Kory Teneycke, Toronto Star, August 16, 2008)
  • Heritage Minster Josée Verner claims the Harper government has put "more money" into arts and culture and has even gone so far to claim Quebec artist were "exaggerating" when protesting the $44.5 million in recently announced cuts. (CBC Radio, Sunday Morning, September 14, 2008)
  • [ "Conservative MP Dean Del Mastro argued the Conservative government increased arts and cultural funding to $200 million in the 2008 budget — 20 per cent more than the last Liberal government allotted to the sector. (- CBC.ca, Tuesday, August 26, 2008 ]
  • [ Conservative MP Dean Del Mastro said: "We (the Conservatives) have actually allocated 8 per cent more to the Department of Canadian Heritage -- some $200 million in new funding -- since we were elected. The Opposition hasn't been too interested in getting the truth out on this but the truth is we've looked hard at programs and asked questions that need to be asked." (MyKawartha.com and Peterborough This Week, September 23, 2008) ]

REALITY:

The Globe and Mail (September 20, 2008) contradicts this claim, noting:

  • The “nearly $45 million in recent federal funding cuts are symptomatic of a larger trend under the Conservatives that has seen dollars gradually shifted away from arts and culture, and funneled instead into other branches of the Department of Canadian Heritage that focus on the department's social mandate.”
  • Heritage Canada confirmed “that every program cut under strategic review has come from the department's arts-and-culture arm.”
  • Conservative commitments to Canada Council “paled in comparison to a Liberal promise, made in late 2005, to double its budget to $300-million – a promise the Conservatives initially pledged to honour, and later abandoned.”
  • “Federal budget documents show the Conservatives spent $3.2-billion in 2006-07, and suggest that Liberal spending had dipped to slightly more than $2.9-billion the previous year. But the Conservative figure includes money spent by the Liberals in 2005-06.”

Fact:

  • Over the summer, the Conservative government slashed $44.5 million and over a dozen programs geared to directly funding and supporting the arts.

Fact:

  • Following John Baird and Jim Flaherty’s so-called expenditure review in 2006, Harper scrapped the $11 million from the public diplomacy budget and cut $4.6 million from the Museum Assistance Program. At the time, then Treasury Board President John Baird described these cuts as “trimming the fat.” (Globe And Mail, September 27, 2006)

Fact:

  • In addition, Mr. Harper government also axed the Canadian New Media Fund—a $14.5-million program administered by Telefilm — which fosters the creation of internet content and its distribution. (Globe and Mail, August 30, 2008)

Fact:

  • The Harper government has said it has no plans to restore any of these cuts or increase funding on the arts until after the election: "As soon as we finish to design the program, and as soon as the election will be finished we will work on that." (Heritage Minister Josée Verner, CBC Radio, Sunday Morning, September 14, 2008)

Shown in photo:
Recent fancy-schmancy arts gala in Peterborough. Audience sits transfixed in ballgowns and tuxedos while viewing satirical cartoon, PeterboroughTime. See PeterboroughTime clip to find out more about this comedy about an unnamed political villan who plotted to destry the arts community in a small town. Better yet, buy your own copy and have a viewing with a houseful of your most politically-minded friends -- and so on -- and so on -- and so on.

Related:
Liberals Offer Income-Averaging for Artists, Total Reinvestment in the Arts

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