« October 2008 | Main | December 2008 »

6 posts from November 2008

November 11, 2008

Environment + Justice and Fairness + Strong Political Democracy = Powerful Progressive Force: James Gustave Speth

Tulip “Our best hope for real change is a fusion of those concerned about the environment, of those concerned about justice and fairness, and those concerned about building strong political democracy. The fusion of these things will create one powerful, progressive force. We’ve got to remember that we are all in a community of shared faith. We are all in the same boat and we will rise or fall together.”
- Yale professor and environmental activist James Gustave Speth, delivering the 2008 Beatty Memorial Lecture at McGill University in October

November 10, 2008

Building Bridges and Delivering Trains: Can Del Mastro Do It All?

"The Kelowna Accord...there is no such thing. It was nothing but a press release."
-
Peterborough MP Dean Del Mastro,
newly appointed Parliamentary Secretary
to Heritage Minister James Moore


Figurineandclock It will be interesting to see how other members of the Peterborough community respond to Dean Del Mastro's appointment as Parliamentary Secretary to Canadian Heritage Minister James Moore.

We've already heard from the arts community, but cultural workers aren't the only ones who will be affected by Del Mastro's appointment.

Canadian Heritage is responsible for arts and culture, citizenship and identity, international activity (international events, international expositions, trade and investment), diversity and multiculturalism, sport, and youth. See this comprehensive A to Z index for an overview of everything this Ministry oversees. 

The Peterborough business community will no doubt be enthusiastic, looking for opportunities to benefit from trade and investment opportunities abroad.

And the sports community will be delighted to have sports being overseen by someone based in Peterborough. (Peterborough has long claimed ownership to anything related to the world of hockey, as any local can attest.)

But as for those parts of our community affected by government decisions related to diversity and multiculturalism; citizenship and identity; and youth -- they may not be quite as enthused.  Along with arts and culture, there are many parts of the Canadian Heritage file where Del Mastro has more learning and much bridge-building to do.

It sounds as if Del Mastro is going to be busy. Very busy. And yet he told the Peterborough Examiner that he won't be too busy to deliver the goods as an MP: "Ultimately I won't allow it take away the focus away from delivering the many things I have been working on for our riding."

Good thing. On top of all his new responsibilities, he still has to follow through on his promises to deliver the train, the battery plant, the Little Lake resort, and the legislation guaranteeing property rights. Etc.

No MP Left Behind

Radar Dean Del Mastro's big news wasn't the talk of Toronto, and because that's where I was this past weekend, it wasn't until this morning that I got the scoop on the second biggest news story in Peterborough: that Dean Del Mastro has been named Parliamentary Secretary to Heritage Minister James Moore. (The really big news in Peterborough these days is that Serena Ryder's second album is due out tomorrow.)

Harper certainly works in mysterious ways. It wasn't that long ago that Dean Del Mastro was at the bottom of the learning curve on this file. And now he'll be one of the key influencers.

No MP left behind.

The response from the Peterborough arts community has been less than enthusiastic, as you might expect. It seems that the only one around town who is gushing about this appointment is Del Mastro himself. Surely Del Mastro wasn't expecting much more. This is the same community, after all, that

The Peterborough Examiner's coverage of Del Mastro's appointment included these comments from ARTSPACE Executive Director Iga Janik, who generally acts as a spokesperson for the broader Peterborough arts community:

Artspace director Iga Janik expressed concern that Del Mastro is too inexperienced and not involved enough in the local artistic scene to handle the file: "I don't know how qualified he is considering I don't see him at any of the cultural institutions or events in Peterborough," Janik said. "In light of all the cuts to the arts that the Conservative government have made, Del Mastro and Mr. Harper have a big job ahead to rectify the situation."

Janik made reference to the $34 million dollars in arts funding cuts. That's how much the Conservative government cut to cultural and heritage granting programs such as the Heritage Sustainability Program, Canadian Independent Film and Video Fund and the National Training Program in the Film and Video Sector on the eve of the election. Moore has since announced the Harper government has no plans to reverse those cuts. What's more, the spin-cycle of carefully crafted political messaging about arts funding has started up again.

The strategy is consistent with what we saw before the election -- attempt to confuse Canadians by talking about the entire Canadian Heritage budget, which includes arts, culture, sports, and recreation funding -- rather than sticking to the arts funding portion of that budget when arts funding is being discussed.

Here's Del Mastro quoted in the Peterborough Examiner (November 8, 2008):

"I'm proud to say that no government in the history of Canada has put more money into the Department of Canadian Heritage than ours has, that includes direct funding of arts and culture and promotion of arts and culture in Canada."

This kind of political double-speak does not bode well for Del Mastro's relationship with members of the arts community, local or national. Why not just talk about what you've actually spent on the arts -- and just the arts -- when that's the issue on the table?

Here's the thing. Artists are a tell-it-like-it-is kind of crowd with very finely tuned spin radar. They don't have a lot of respect for double-speak and carefully crafted political messages that dance around the truth

That's why musicians, artists, writers, filmmakers, dancers, singers, songwriters,  and every other kind of cultural worker you can think of rallied behind Obama in the US election.

That's why musicians, artists, writers, filmmakers, dancers, singers, songwriters, and every other kind of cultural worker you can think of rallied against Harper in our election.

Oh yeah. One more thing. The anything-but-Conservative election strategy wasn't just about the funding cuts.

It was also about the lack of respect for Canadian artists and what we do; and Harper's inability to appreciate what Canadian culture is and what it means to Canadians. 

The good news is that artists are the cultural canaries. We're good at reading cultural, political, and social trends; and finding compelling ways to let people know that the canary is sick, dying, or in danger of being murdered by its keeper.

The canary has been being plucked of its feathers for quite some time. The canary can't go on like this much longer. Hopefully, it will only be a matter of time until the rest of Canadians decide they want something better for their country; that they can feel that sense of hope and renewal our neighbors to the south experienced last Tuesday night.

Until that happens, the artists will continue to paint, dance, film, write, and storyboard the visions of what was, what is, and what could be. Stay tuned.

Related:
Dean Del Mastro on public vs. private funding for Canadian broadcasters: Canadian Heritage Committee Meeting in June

November 04, 2008

My New Computer -- Stéphane

I had to break down and buy a new computer today -- a few months earlier than I had planned to -- after my previous computer developed a major attitude problem.

I was thinking about naming the computer after the winner in tonight's election -- assuming that the winner is Obama -- but then I felt that I'd be being terribly disloyal to my personal political hero, Stéphane Dion, if I did that.

I hope to have all my data transferred over to Stéphane by tomorrow.

BTW - Like Dion, my new computer is a MacBook Pro, known for its quality and integrity, and appreciated by individuals with discriminating taste.

On Being a Survivor

Restarea "Survivors break down large jobs into small, manageable tasks. They set attainable goals and develop short-term plans to reach them. They are meticulous about doing those tasks well. [They test] each hold before moving forward and [stop] frequently to rest. They make very few mistakes. They handle what is within their power to deal with from moment to moment, hour to hour, day to day."
- Paul B. Farrell, in an essay on political survival tips at Marketwatch.com

November 03, 2008

Rugged Individualism: Darwin at Work in the Market Economy

Img_6991 Are Canadians actually willing to embrace a model of a society in which survival of the fittest is the dominant philosophy? Whether we care to admit it or not, we're already headed down that path -- and we just elected a national government that embraces that vision of diy-or-else success (a vision where there's little compassion for those who fail to live out the Horatio Alger success story).

Here's a brief snippet from a highly thought-provoking article on this subject from September's issue of The Monitor (published by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives).

"Whether Canadians voluntarily embrace individualism or feel compelled to adopt it, the consequences are equally horrendous. Why? Because it rests on a philosophy that is fundamentally flawed and dangerous.

"This is the spurious notion that, if each person and corporation is left free to pursue individual advantage, the “market” (or its “invisible hand”) will somehow make sure that the overall result will benefit everyone. In fact, as we have seen, the outcome is the precise opposite. Only the strongest, the smartest, the luckiest, and the fiercest prosper—at the expense of those less strong, less smart, less lucky, and less unscrupulous."

- Ed Finn, "The Decline of Collectivity, Triumph of Individuality a Defeat for Society as a Whole," The Monitor, September 2008, Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives