Thursday, August 21, 2008

Conservatives Cut Arts Funding by $45 Million

The Canadian Tories are committed to cutting $44.8-million in spending on arts and culture by April of 2010. The Conservatives have earmarked 10 programs and parts of another to be eliminated and will reduce spending on two others, after a "strategic review" process that audited all Canadian Heritage programs for efficiency and effectiveness. All but one cut falls under the Heritage purview, the lone exception being the previously reported $4.7-million PromArt, a grant program for foreign travel administered by Foreign Affairs and International Trade.

The most expensive of five new cuts approved in February was the $11.7-million Canadian Memory Fund, which gives federal agencies money to digitize collections and mount them online. Also chopped were the $3.8-million Web portal; the $560,000 Canadian Cultural Observatory; the $5.64-million research and development component of Canadian Culture Online; and the $2.1-million Northern Distribution Program, which distributes the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network signal to 96 Northern communities.

The departments says a rarely advertised $500,000 annual fund - part of the Sustainability program designed to rescue arts organizations on the brink of extinction - has also been axed, after helping rescue four groups on the brink of disaster in the past six years: the Winnipeg Symphony, Calgary Philharmonic and Théâtre du Rideau Vert received $250,000; and the Orchestre Métropolitain du Grand Montréal received $100,000.

Montreal Mayor Gérald Tremblay and Toronto Mayor David Miller's joint letter to Prime Minister Harper, which decried a perceived reversal in a generous Conservative approach to the arts, only added to the exasperation of the Prime Minister's communications director, Kory Teneycke. "To listen to some in the arts community and the opposition, you would think that there's blood in the streets…When we find examples of programs that are clearly not meeting their objectives, without apologies we will cancel them. That is the entire purpose of Strategic Review. We owe that to taxpayers," Mr. Teneycke added, calling PromArt "a boondoggle."

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