More Discusson on Arts Funding and the Election

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For Canadian Music Week, the Canadian Independent Record Production Assn., the East Coast Music Assn. (ECMA), the Western Canadian Musical Alliance, the check is not in the mail If the Conservatives continue in power.

Nor should members of the Holy Fucks hold their breath waiting for federal government tour funding.

Hundreds of Canadian cultural groups and artists recently learned they would not be receiving federal support in 2010 due to the Conservatives stripping $45.5-million from nearly a dozen arts programs.

Arts funding has emerged as a hot button election issue, particularly after Prime Minister Stephen Harper defended his government’s cuts with American-style, anti-intellectualism rhetoric, arguing that “ordinary people” object to tax dollars being used to fund glitzy galas at arts and cultural events…...Ordinary people understand we have to live within a budget.”

Yet, a July, 2008 report “Valuing Culture: Measuring and Understanding Canada’s Creative Economy” by the Conference Board of Canada indicated that the economic footprint of Canada’s culture sector was $84.6 billion in 2007, or 7.4 per cent of Canada’s total real GDP, including direct, indirect, and induced contributions. Culture sector employment exceeded 1.1 million jobs in 2007.

Amidst charges that defunding of these programs will be devastating to Canadian musicians, actors, and dancers and to organizations who present the work of artists of all kinds, Harper has also called his party's decisions good governance and said the government must walk “a fine line” between providing financial stability and “funding things that people actually don't want.”

Harper has, however, been very careful not to repeat in French his criticisms of artists, for outrage at his party's culture platform is most outspoken in Quebec where francophones are trying to maintain a distinct linguistic and cultural community.

If the Conservatives continue in power—particularly if they are handed their first majority government since 1988—the recent announced cuts may well lead to further significant cuts.

Canada’s musical community has much to fear.

A future body count would almost certainly include the Music Entrepreneurial Component (MEC) program launched by Canadian Heritage in 2005. MEC funds 19 Canadian-owned record labels.

Almost certain to be placed under review would be the overall cultural program, Tomorrow Starts Today which includes programs administered by the Foundation Assisting Canadian Talent On Recordings (FACTOR).

With the music industry worldwide in the throes of a slump and with lay-offs commonplace throughout the industry as music sales have fallen, and with more and more Canadian musicians and labels depending on export revenues through sales and live performances to survive, the timing for the cuts is disastrous to Canada’s independent music sector.

The cuts began last month with the news that funding would be terminated for two industrial policy programs, PromArt, a program to encourage international promotional tours by Canadian artists overseen by the Department of Foreign Affairs; and Trade Routes, a Canadian Heritage Department program enabling cultural producers to export their work.

Then just prior to the election call, the Conservatives axed the Canada New Media Fund (CNMF), a $14.5-million-a-year program administered by Telefilm but funded by the Department of Canadian Heritage designed to create and distribute Canadian interactive new media both domestically and internationally,

As well, the Canadian Tourism Commission (CTC) has since decided not to be the lead organizer of the Canada Day London events going forward. For the last two years the CTC and its partners had delivered events on Trafalgar Square, engaging some 30-40,000 people each year.

The Conservatives announced the majority of these cuts in Aug. 2008 via phone calls by departmental officials to key stakeholder groups. Press releases were pointedly not issued by either the ministers of Canadian Heritage or Foreign Affairs.
Conservatives argue that the cuts are the result of a "strategic review" of arts funding-- part of an ongoing government-wide review to trim spending--that found the programs had either fulfilled their original goals or wasted money with excessive administrative expenses.

What is particularly puzzling is that the Conservatives killed the Canadian Memory Fund, the portal, and the A-V Presentation Trust--all programs relating to the digitization of Canadian content. These cuts are particularly devastating since Canada continues to lag behind much of the world in content for digital networks.

As Duncan McKie, pres./CEO of the Canadian Independent Record Production Assn. has pointed out, “The government of Canada recently introduced new legislation to amend the copyright act to give our cultural industries the tools necessary to meet the challenge of an increasingly globalized cultural economy. A few weeks later, they cut the very programs that abet access to these same markets. In this case, politics trumps policy.”

Canadian Heritage Minister Josée Verner has indicated that the Conservatives hope to craft streamlined replacements for PromArt and Trade Routes, and have them in place by March 31, 2009. Verner insists that PromArt and Trade Routes need to be more "efficient" and "adept" at adapting to a globalizing marketplace.

What is alarming, however, is that the Conservatives do not hide the fact that they killed the programs largely due to ideological reasons, indicating that that they do not want to support artists they considered "marginal" or "offensive."

Harper’s press secretary Kory Teneycke, in fact, noted that, “In the case of PromArt, we think the [funding] choices made were inappropriate ... inappropriate because they were ideological in some cases, with highly ideological individuals exposing their agendas or [money going to] wealthy celebrities or fringe arts groups that in many cases would be at best, unrepresentative, and at worst, offensive."

The Canadian music acts singled out by the Conservatives include:

++ Toronto-based Holy Fuck who received $3,000 for a 21-date European tour.

++ Tal Bachman who received $16,500 to perform at music festivals in South Africa and Zimbabwe.

Federal government money has helped Canadian Music Week, East Coast Music Assn., and the Western Canadian Musical Alliance to recruit talent buyers from the United States and Europe, including booking agents, film and television distributors, and technology specialists to their annual events.

Also, federal funding has helped Canadian acts perform at such conferences as the CMJ Music Marathon in New York, and SXSW Music Trade Show in Austin, Texas (I’m not sure we needed 109 Canadian acts appearing at this year's SXSW, however).

Little wonder that a slew of provincial government heads as well as provincial music organizations have condemned the Conservatives’ cuts, arguing that the elimination of PromArt and Trade Routes will devastate individual organizations as well as will damage the cultural industries in their provinces.

Premier Danny Williams has already promised to "cover the financial gap" that would affect artists from Newfoundland and Labrador.

The Liberals and the New Democrats have both indicated that they will reinstate the $45.5 million the Conservative government slashed.

A Liberal government would increase spending to arts and culture by $530 million over four years, says party leader Stéphane Dion.

NDP leader Jack Layton says that his party would spend $125 million to preserve Canadian arts and culture. The party has also rolled out a glitzy arts platform that would also bring in an income-averaging tax scheme for artists, that would create a tax exemption for the first $20,000 of income earned on copyright material.


Journalist/broadcaster/researcher Larry LeBlanc has been a leading figure in Canadian music for four decades.

He has been a regular music commentator on CTV’s “Canada A.M” for 35 years, and has been featured on numerous CBC-TV, CTV, YTV, Bravo! MuchMusic, MusiMax, and Newsworld programs in Canada; VH-1, and EEntertainment in the U.S.; and BBC in the U.K.

Larry is a weekly columnist for Encore Celebrity Access in the U.S. He was a co-founder of the late Canadian music trade, The Record; and, until 2007, the Canadian bureau chief of Billboard for 16 years.

He has been quoted on music industry issues in hundreds of publications including Time, Forbes, the London Times, and the New York Times.

He has acted as a consultant for The Canadian Competition Bureau, The Canadian Assn of Broadcasters, The Canadian Private Copying Collective, and the Neighbouring Rights Collective of Canada as well as such Canadian media group as Astral Media, CHUM Radio, Rogers Communications, The Evanov Group, and Harvard Broadcasting.

Larry sits on the board of The Audio-Visual Preservation Trust of Canada.

The LeBlanc Newsletter is exclusively carried and archived by Canadian Music Week in Canada at:

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