As of January 7, 2013, this website will serve as an archive site only. For news, reviews and a connection with audience and creators of theatre all over the country, please go to The Charlebois Post - Canada.

Search This Blog

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Theatre For Thought, April 26, 2011

What’s a Political Artist to Do?
There’s nothing sexy about debating artistic policies so it’s likely that nothing will change.
 joel fishbane

Whatever happens on May 2, two things are clear: this country will once again be run by a white guy in a suit; and the opinions of artists are not really much of a concern. Coalition, corporate tax cuts, health care, the long gun registry: all these issues have taken centre stage at various points in this election. But it probably won’t surprise anyone to learn that the words “art” and “culture” have rarely been heard. This isn’t because our politicians aren’t concerned about the arts; they simply aren’t concerned about artists, or rather the artists’ vote. The ethnic vote, the senior vote, the immigrant vote: these demographics have all become the focus of our scrambling would-be leaders. The artists have been left in the cold.

It’s all pretty ironic, given the pains each party has taken to include the promotion of culture in their respective platforms. Artists are traditionally pegged as left-wing intellectuals. It’s not surprising, then, that the Conservatives - otherwise known as the Only Party in the History of the British Commonwealth to Be Found in Contempt of Parliament – are promising an Economic Action Plan designed to seduce artists to the right side (that’s right politically, remember). It’s interesting to note that their budget includes $7.5 million to the Royal Conservatory of Music, $100 million to the Canada Media Fund and $15 million to the Canada Periodical Fund. 

...the various live performance arts (theatre, opera, ballet) don’t seem to have merited much Tory attention...

At first glance, this platform looks mildly promising, but it’s noteworthy that they have targeted only specific artistic areas – namely film and TV (the areas covered by the Canada Media Fund.) Funding for the Royal Conservatory not withstanding, the various live performance arts (theatre, opera, ballet) don’t seem to have merited much Tory attention. Rather than discuss the reasoning behind this policy, the Conservatives - with the help of the media - has focused our attention on a rhetoric of attack ads and fear-mongering about the demon of coalition. 

This has forced the other parties on the defensive. The Liberals, otherwise known as the Party Who May or May Not Be Lying About Forming a Coalition, are unable to discuss their promise to double to annual budget for the Canada Council for the Arts. Nor can the NDP – also known as the Party Who Desperately Want You To Think They’re A Viable Alternative – talk about their promise to promote the production / broadcast of Canadian content and “strongly support” Canada’s performing arts. Like the Tories, the NDP want to sustain the Canada Media Fund. And like the Liberals, they want stable funding for public broadcasters and to increase the funds available to Canada Council. But neither the NDP or the Liberals have explained how they hope to pay for any of this. And chances are they won’t be called upon to do so before we go to the polls.  

There have been three C’s to the narrative of this election: coalition, contempt and corporate tax.

It almost makes one respect the Bloc Quebecois, who aren’t making any promises they don’t know how to pay for. Not that they’re making any promises at all - the Bloc, a.k.a. the Party Without a Specific Platform, have filled their website with vague notions of “tirelessly” defending Quebec culture and championing Montreal as both an economic and cultural centre. (This implies they’d be supporters of Montreal artists - whether or not you believe this includes Anglo artists depends on your level of cynicism). But, like everyone else, the Bloc have not been asked to clarify their policies in any way. They have been too busy attacking the other parties for their “Canadian Coalition” and seem to have little time to explain exactly how they hope to get the Federal government to increase support for Quebec culture.

There’s nothing sexy about debating artistic policies so it’s likely that none of this will change. There have been three C’s to the narrative of this election: coalition, contempt and corporate tax. The fourth C – Culture – will probably continue to be blithely ignored. This may prove to be a crucial point in the election. Since the other parties traditionally attract most artists, it can only benefit the Conservatives to have an election narrative that keeps the other parties from engaging the public in a discussion of their own cultural mandates.   


  1. You're right about those three C's Joel.
    hopefully Canadians are able to choose the lesser of all evils next week!

    Lots of this was talked about at The Wrecking Ball event @ Mainline last night.
    surprised nobody from the CharPo was there to cover it. I was there, and had a blast

  2. On CharPo not covering: although we like to discuss events immediately on the site, it was a one night event and there is nothing more frustrating for readers than seeing: "Here's what you missed." However, we do cover all one night events in advance if someone involved in the work writes us a first-person piece about it!


Please read our guidelines for posting comments.

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.