Harper government announces more cuts to cultural programs

0 Posted by - August 21, 2008 - Blog, Policy, Public art

The Harper government has announced more cuts to cultural spending in Canada. More than $17 million in cultural programs will not be renewed in the next budget.

The recently announced cuts include $13.7 million for the PromArt and Trade Routes programs which promoted and supported Canadian artists exhibiting and performing outside of Canada, $1.5 million for the Canadian Independent Film and Video, and $2.5 million for the National Training Program in the Film and Video Sector. These decisions come without consultation with the arts community.

In response to criticisms that the cuts represent a further attack on cultural spending in Canada, the government said that the cuts were aimed at specific programs, not arts in general. “The public reaction out there – you’d think we’d shut down the arts. That’s not the case,” said Kory Teneycke, spokesperson for Prime Minister Stephen Harper. “This was not about less money for the arts. Its about having government programs that are meeting their objectives. We’re committed to canceling programs that are boondoggles.” But despite suggestions that these programs were cut because they did not provide sufficient returns on investment, the government has yet to make public detailed analysis of why the programs were considered failures.

The Canadian Independent Film and Video Fund, which lost $1.5 million, said that the cuts will force the closure of their program that makes documentaries for libraries, community centres and other grassroots educational purposes. “It’s not just a question of how it affects filmmakers and first-time filmmakers and a diversity of voices across Canada,” said said fund co-chair Ira Levy. “It actually affects Canadians on a very basic level.”

It has also come to light that these cuts are part of a wider series of planned cuts to cultural spending in Canada totaling more than $44 million. The Globe and Mail reported yesterday that additional cuts include $11.7-million for the Canadian Memory Fund (which helps federal agencies digitize collections for online access), $1 million for the Book Publishing Industry Development Program, $3.8-million for the Culture.ca Web portal, $5.64-million for the research and development component of Canadian Culture Online, and $2.1-million for the Northern Distribution Program (which distributes Aboriginal Peoples Television Network to Northern communities).

The timing of the announcements, at the peak of Canada’s summer holiday season when many Canadians are distracted with summer holidays and family vacationing, has also been criticized as a cynical attempt to have the cuts go unnoticed.

For more reporting check out Council of Canadians .

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