Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his Conservative government are under relentless attacks from opposition parties and various Arts communities for reallocating $44.8 million in spending on some federal arts programs. The rhetoric has reached unseemly and unnecessary levels.
Harper’s “grabbing ahold of the aorta of the creative process and putting the squeeze on it at the same time,” said NDP leader Jack Layton in Quebec City—in one of the mildest statements I've heard on the subject; some statements are quite vile.
But is Layton’s graphic metaphor at all reasonable? How does his imagery play when confronted by the facts?
Now, I don’t want to confuse anyone with facts, but just compare the $44.8 million in recent funding reallocations to the following analysis done by CanWest:
“For the current fiscal year, which ends March 31, 2009, Parliament has voted to spend more than $4 billion on cultural programs, including the CBC, the Canada Arts Council, the National Gallery of Canada and the Department of Canadian Heritage. That amount is $660 million or 19.7 per cent more than was spent in fiscal 2006, the last year when the Liberals controlled the purse strings.
“Overall program spending during that same period is up 18.6 per cent. In other words, Conservatives have boosted spending on arts programs faster than they have boosted overall government spending”
So, apparently the Tories are spending more on the arts than the Liberals did. Go figure.
By the way, the $44.8 million in reallocations and program cut-backs represent slightly more than one per cent of the current budget for cultural programs. Hardly justification for the hyperbole we have heard from the opposition parties and the arts community.