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Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Conservative handling of culture “inexplicable”: Tom Flanagan

The Canadian Press reported today that Harper’s suggestion that artists are wealthy, elite and out-of-touch, and his decision to make cuts to culture programs, hurt the Conservative party in Quebec:

The Conservatives had been well-placed to at least double their 10 seats in Quebec until the cuts were portrayed as a threat to Quebecers’ identity.

Harper compounded the problem by dismissing the artists as whiners at a “rich gala subsidized by taxpayers” whose complaints don’t resonate with “ordinary people.”

Almost overnight, a moribund Bloc Quebecois campaign was given new life.

Tom Flanagan, a former chief of staff to Harper, said provoking a contretemps over culture was simply inexplicable given Harper’s high hopes for building his majority in Quebec.

If the government was determined to save such a piddling amount of money, he said Harper should have waited until after the election to cut the arts programs.

While the timing of the arts cuts may have been poor (they came just before the election was called), the government’s mismanagement of the culture portfolio goes further than this. Harper cut a “piddling” $45 million from specific arts programs, but he actually increased the budget for Canadian Heritage overall. Why didn’t he get credit for this “investment” from cultural groups? (I won't ask why he didn't get criticism for this from so-called conservatives.) I would argue that the answer to this question lies with Bill C-10. While members of the arts community are unlikely to ever vote Conservative, they would have been less combative -- and less persuasive with the general public with their criticisms -- had the party not pursued Bill C-10.

Introducing this legislation put the Conservatives in a needless battle with the arts community over the issue of artistic freedom -- not directly over the issue of arts funding, a fight the party could more easily win with average voters. Bill C-10 would deny tax credits to Canadian film and video productions that are considered offensive to the Heritage minister and that contain messages and themes that are contrary to government public policy. The proposal is offensive to the arts community, who see the move as censorship, which is not quite accurate. The proposal is also offensive to libertarians and limited-government conservatives who see the move as a dangerous extension of the powers of the minister of Canadian Heritage to direct the creative minds of the country toward the production of government propaganda, which is a fair criticism.

Had the Conservatives quietly made small, broad-based cuts to Canadian Heritage -- instead of shifting funding from arts to sports, or eliminating some programs entirely, or trying to dictate and control cultural content -- the arts community may have been less effective in convincing average Quebec voters that the Conservatives are hostile to diverse cultural expressions. Bill C-10 made this charge seem plausible, and so did eliminating entirely specific arts programs.

Arts funding is not, of course, a legitimate function of government. But the solution to getting rid of government arts programs is to eliminate taxpayer funding while simultaneously expanding and increasing a tax credit system (or targeted tax relief) that would give private individuals and businesses a tax incentive to invest in artistic ventures where no obvious opportunity for profit is apparent.

Posted by Matthew Johnston on October 15, 2008 in Canadian Conservative Politics | Permalink


Matthew, I expressed to the CPC that there should be no government funding for "artists" and I am sure I was not alone. As for votes supposedly lost in Quebec, nothing of substance was lost. Actually having more seats there (remember the "Irish Eyes Are Smiling" PM), would only result in more pandering to the spoiled child.

As for Heritage Canada the whole ministry should be scrapped.

Posted by: Alain | 2008-10-15 7:44:23 PM

I would like to see an end to arts funding as well, Alain -- and I think Harper is right in describing artists, at least those who protest for increased arts funding, as spoiled and out-of-touch.

I also think conservatives and libertarians can sell the idea of cuts to the arts. (Joe Lunchbucket doesn't want to subsidize art he doesn't enjoy in order to support the lifestyle of a middle class, or better, artist.)

This is why I was -- and am -- disappointed with Bill C-10. Because of this proposed legislation, the arts community can point its finger and say: "Conservatives want to censor artists because they're puritans and philistines."

I won’t join Flanagan in criticizing the Conservatives for cutting arts funding before the election. I will criticise them, however, for doing it after introducing legislation that mobilised the arts community against a bad piece of proposed legislation.

The Conservatives have mishandled the culture portfolio -- spending is up, hostilities are high, and the only piece of legislation in the pipeline would further expand the power of the Minister of Heritage.

Posted by: Matthew Johnston | 2008-10-15 8:06:35 PM

Matthew, I agree that the way to handle this would simply be to handle small cuts without any fanfare. The arts community has many friends in the MSM. They will get their message out whereas PMSH will not. It should also be apparent (after last nights coverage of the election) that all of the major networks in Canada are rife with leftist media workers. The irony is palpable since none of the political parties in Canada could be described as small government parties.

Posted by: DML | 2008-10-15 10:56:36 PM

...well paint me a picture!

Posted by: tomax7 | 2008-10-16 5:03:27 AM

Pinning the possible loss of a majority on the arts/cultural file in Quebec is really nonsense as the whole thing is really a small component in the whole scheme of things.

That a majority was denied rests with Harper himself - how he has opted to run the show single handedly from the get-go and how he has allowed himself to be governed by the inner red Tory elements in ON. - including during the campaign (the war room)

If gains were going to be made, they should really have come from ON - much more than they did. Had all the money/social perks that were given to Quebec gone to ON things may have been very different. Many perks were directed to voters inside the GTA and Vancouver but this was about as successful as pandering to Quebec.

Let's hope the message gets through that pandering to bloc voting may well backfire. How much time/effort/money/apoligies have been directed to this in the past two years? Jason Kenny - are you listening? Many of those within the designated blocs will take all they can get and then on the smallest slight(or in the crunch of an election) will go back to their most comfortable home - the Libs. Time Canada was governed by the majority - not the small, vocal minority (really a collection of a number of isolated groups voting with the francophones).

Within these blocs are many people who will support a government who shows the guts to stand up to the small,negative vocal minorities within. They will not respond to blatent pandering any better than me. With voter turnout at 58% - a whole lot of us are thinking that our vote does not really count for much more than the $1.75. 42% apparently feel that even the $1.75 is not worth it and just stay home.

The time has come for the West to forget about giving Harper et al a free pass on all that they do.

Posted by: Calgary Clipper | 2008-10-16 6:35:30 AM

DML wrote: “The arts community has many friends in the MSM.”

You’re exactly right, DML. They have more power than their numbers might suggest.

Had the Conservatives simply cut Canadian Heritage by 10%, for instance, the arts community would have had a harder time peddling their moral outrage to the media and the public.

But, again, I won’t criticize the Conservatives for eliminating a few arts programs. It’s Bill C-10 that hurt them – and my guess is that the Conservatives will continue to push this legislation through the Senate.

Posted by: Matthew Johnston | 2008-10-16 8:18:03 AM

"...well paint me a picture!"

What does that mean, tomak7?

Posted by: Matthew Johnston | 2008-10-16 8:59:31 AM

This is not a funding issue. This is about disrupting and discouraging the socialist Canadian cultural complex and reducing their influence both inside government cultural funding agencies as well as their influence outside.


Posted by: epsilon | 2008-10-16 9:16:47 AM

Some people say that the art cuts hurt Harper in Quebec. Others say that Harper's tough crime approach hurt in Quebec. I have two questions. One did Harper's crime policies gain him more support in the other provinces than he lost in Quebec? Two, has anybody looked at the vote totals in the ridings outside of Quebec? The Conservatives lost 11 seats in Ontario and about 4 in BC by 2,000 votes or less. They came close to winning a 7th seat in New Brunswick and about 1,000 votes from a 2nd seat on P.E.I. Also, they narrowly lost 1 seat in Alberta, 1 in the Western Arctic, and came close in 2 Manitoba ridings. These are 20 seats that the Conservatives can target at the next election. This doesn't include any Newfoundland seats that the Conservatives could win back if Danny Williams doesn't play his games. The point is that the Conservatives can get a future majority without further Quebec gains. The key are further gains in the west(particularly BC) and Ontario. Harper has been more generous to Quebec than any other prime minister(even the ones originally from Quebec). Instead, most francophones continue to vote Bloc because the party promises more handouts. My advice is stop spoiling the children. Instead, the party should ratify a package that appeals in Ontario, New Brunswick and the west. One, emphasize(especially in Ontario) an economic policy that calls for tax cuts(Corporate and Personal) and actual reductions in the cost of government. One example might be to privatize LCBO. Another would be to save money by doing away with the federal and provincial human rights commissions. Also, pass legislation recognizing the ownership of private property as a charter right. Two, add to the current crime reforms being discussed. Call for the passage of a law(castle doctrine) that would allow Canadians to use deadly force to kill an intruder on or in their property(house) without being required to retreat first. Next, promise to pass a law that would charge criminals who attack a pregnant woman and kill the fetus with murder. Then, promise to put the issue of capital punishment to a public referendum. Finally, step in the Caledonia affair. The federal government will negotiate in good faith with aboriginal leaders. However, all roadblocks must end. Anyone blocking traffic, trepassing, or attempting to initimidate local residents will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Third, call for Ontario and BC(grizzlies)provincial governments to allow bear hunting. The bear population is too large and has now lost its fear of humans. Recommend passing an act in parliment recognizing the rights of hunters and fisherman. This will help shore up western and rural Ontario support. Finally, call for a Canada-wide revamping of the education system through the implementation of nationwide charter school legislation. They have proven successful in Alberta and should spread to other provinces.

Posted by: Sid | 2008-10-16 9:48:56 AM


Isn't the LCBO a provincial matter, just like health care and education?

It would be a good development if every province followed Alberta's example of having education funding follow the student.

My son was home schooled in junior high and is now in the work force, a productive member of society who understands Mark Emery is an idiot.

Posted by: set you free | 2008-10-16 9:55:12 AM

It's not art cuts that cost Harper seats in Québec but the part where it would be the Heritage Minister that would have chooses what pass and what don't. Josée Verner was unable to explain the cuts, the new programs that would replace them (because this was their words), or how she would control art in ways that please the CPC.

Harper wishes to govern like a dictator who controls everything.
This fact was underlined very clearly in Québec and that's why he didn’t have a majority down here. Too much “neo” in his “conservative” agenda.

Posted by: Marc | 2008-10-16 11:10:43 AM


Neo, neo, neo.

Grab a clue and come up with a neo argument.

One that's actually intelligent and not fear-based.

Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.


You feared Harper for no good reason. Now, you will have nobody else to blame for your suffering but yourself.

You and your friends can prance around all you like and call it arts.

You're also welcome to pay for it yourself, even though Harper actually INCREASED arts funding.

It's not that Verner was unable to explain. It's that your reason was blinded by your fear of being irrelevant.

Well, mon ami, by voting the way you did, you are the authors of your own future suffering.

Nobody else has done it to you. The responsibility is entirely yours.

Independence means paying your own way.

Posted by: set you free | 2008-10-16 11:18:02 AM

"One that's actually intelligent and not fear-based."

Did you just quote YODA ?

Posted by: Marc | 2008-10-16 11:23:11 AM

Josée Verner was unable to explain the cuts, the new programs that would replace them (because this was their words), or how she would control art in ways that please the CPC.
Posted by: Marc | 16-Oct-08 11:10:43 AM

The only arts cuts that most frogs worry about is the local French Canadian Ballet bar closing down.

Posted by: The Stig | 2008-10-16 11:24:17 AM

Matthew, you make a valid case. In that light I agree that it was not the best way of doing things, since they could have accomplished the same and even more differently. I still say that not winning more seats in Quebec is a blessing in disguise.

Posted by: Alain | 2008-10-16 11:33:16 AM


Yeah, matter of fact I did, Chicken Little.

And I believe that was a character created without any taxpayer dollars.


Well put. Quebec can continue their self-destructive existence and a majority can be formed without them.

Having said that, I know there are enough Quebeckers who think exactly like Western Canadians and do not believe you have to run to the government to fix every problem or fund every hare-brained scheme.

I have faith that there's enough people in Quebec who are quite capable of making decisions about how to best spend their own money.

The Gimme Culture is as dead as their homeboy, Stephane Dion.

Posted by: set you free | 2008-10-16 11:39:04 AM

Come on now...
We all know you squareheads are incapable of closing bars.

Posted by: Marc | 2008-10-16 11:47:46 AM


I just closed a bar on election night, one of three I was at.

That must confirm I'm not a squarehead.

Any other juvenile theories you'd like to float?

Posted by: set you free | 2008-10-16 12:05:15 PM

"I know there are enough Quebeckers who think exactly like Western Canadians"

I'm sorry sir,
hillarious theories are your expertise.

Posted by: Marc | 2008-10-16 12:08:48 PM

"I just closed a bar on election night, one of three I was at."

Expecting a majority CPC govrnment, I would have too...

Posted by: Marc | 2008-10-16 12:11:41 PM

It seems so many of you know very little about Quebec. I live in QC and know why the BQ held onto their seats and prevented a majority.

The attitude Harper had towards the arts did affect many voters here. It was obvious as the Liberals under Dion ended up getting more votes than the Conservatives. Harper and his advisers were taking a big gamble. They thought that the comments they would make would not go over well only in Montreal and that other areas could care less. That was the big mistake. Quebec society has always placed importance on the arts and tends to frown on cuts to it and when government tries to sensor or interfere. The provincial government would never dare do anything like Harper did.

But it wasn't just the arts issue that turned a lot of Quebeckers away from voting conservative. It was the proposed changes to the Youth Criminal Justice Act that didn't go over well here. We apparently have the lowest youth violent crime rate and feel the current system is effective. Many here don't like the idea of youth being put into "superjails" where they breed more crime and gangs. If the rest of Canada went ahead with Harper's plan, I could see Quebec strongly resisting and having its own law.

What I wrote is how it appears in Quebec and not necessarily my own point of view.

Posted by: Tim Trudeau | 2008-10-16 12:12:50 PM

Come on now...
We all know you squareheads are incapable of closing bars.
Posted by: Marc | 16-Oct-08 11:47:46 AM

And where would you frogs take your wife for your wedding anniversary but to a French - Canadian Ballet show. Ostie câlice tabarnak.

Posted by: The Stig | 2008-10-16 12:13:16 PM


We'll see who's laughing in the next election.

The hard-working people of Quebec who are the best qualified to spend their own money ... or Chicken Little fearmongers.

Posted by: set you free | 2008-10-16 12:15:38 PM

"We'll see who's laughing in the next election."

Isn’t that what you were saying two weeks ago?

Posted by: Marc | 2008-10-16 12:23:01 PM


Appreciate your intelligent analysis.

I guess the bright minds of Quebec's fearmongering elites could not bring themselves to point out the fact that arts funding actually went UP.

Or, that the youth justice proposal was for those who had committed heinous crimes and were hiding behind the Young Offenders Act.

Oh well, it's Quebec's loss.

Maybe next time, they'll put in some research of their own and discover the facts for themselves rather than allowing themselves into being manipulated.

I guess, though, that would actually involve independent thought ... something that's curiously missing from what appears to be a tribal mentality.

Posted by: set you free | 2008-10-16 12:24:51 PM


Yep. Supporting a party that gained 16 seats from the last election has made me so sad that tears of joy are streaming down my face.

Speaking of losers, how long is Gilles Duceppe going to continue as the leader of Bloc Marxist?

Posted by: set you free | 2008-10-16 12:30:16 PM

"I guess, though, that would actually involve independent thought ... something that's curiously missing from what appears to be a tribal mentality."

Truth is,
Canada suffers from tribal mentality and Québec represents the independant thought.
Finish this discussion alone "Set You Free", I don't chat with sour losers: too sad.

Posted by: Marc | 2008-10-16 12:37:13 PM


What part of arts and culture funding went UP don't you understand?

I can't believe the people of Quebec are so stupid that they would ignore this FACT.

Maybe I'm wrong because so many of your fellow Quebeckers were so willing to accept a total fabrication and a LIE.

The fact you will not listen to the facts or are too lazy to do your own research is the cause of your misery ... not Canada.

If you can be that easily swayed by a silver-tounged fearmonger, then you will get exactly what you deserve.

Posted by: set you free | 2008-10-16 12:48:16 PM

Matthew J:
"...well paint me a picture!"
What does that mean, tomak7?

HINT: "well cry me a river"

Posted by: tomax7 | 2008-10-16 3:12:41 PM

marc: "Canada suffers from tribal mentality and Québec represents the independant thought."


Good one marc, needed that. If anything Quebecers like you are a tribe.

That lost.


Posted by: tomax7 | 2008-10-16 3:14:38 PM

Fuck the Bloc and their pandering to loser mentality. I'm a Quebecer and I still don't understand how they can better serve Quebecers by being in the Opposition.
Let's face it: the name of the party itself is an intellectual fraud, leading electors (some) to believe that if they don't vote (Bloc) Quebecois, they are in fact anti-Quebecois. Same thing for the Parti Quebecois. Fraudsters. I am a Quebecois. Does that make me a separatist? Duh...

Posted by: Nothing New Under the Sun | 2008-10-16 10:08:41 PM

Thats it, Tim! What type of people have an issue with making criminals pay? Also, Harper wasn't cutting arts funding. I wish! Instead, he was reducing the rate of budgetary increase. Harper has done a lot for Quebec. He gave you a seat at UNESCO. He admitted that Quebec is a seperate nation within Canada. Also, he fought to make sure that Quebec is getting its fair share of transfer payments. Before Harper, almost every prime minister since 1963 had come from Quebec. The francophone response to Canadian friendship is 2/3rds of seats going to the Bloc. This is a party that insists that all Quebec government business be conducted in French only but feels that every federal employee throughout Canada must be bilingual. The Bloc is the party that calls for Quebec political independence but insists that it would still form an economic union(EU-like) with Canada. I call for the rest of Canada to hold a referendum on whether or not to keep Quebec in Canada. This referendum would call for the complete political and economic seperation of Canada from Quebec. I vote yes! NAFTA and all current Canadian treaty agreements would no longer apply to Quebec. With independence, there is no further union(economic or otherwise) with Canada. Quebec will have to pay for itself instead of expecting transfer payments. Let's see how the Bloc's pseudo-socialist economic policies help Quebec. Quebec will have to negotiate new treaties and be forced to provide for its own defense. Quebec will have to look over its shoulder at both an aboriginal and anglophone population that might feel no attachment to an independent Quebec. Careful, the aboriginal reserves might insist on seperation from Quebec. The last decades have seen Canada pander to Quebec and be spat on in turn. The seperatist threat of the Bloc is used to press more money from Canada. The francophones vote seperatist to get more money from Canada but then votes against seperatism because that would end their extortion rachet. Let Quebec go and build a smaller government Canada free of official bilingualism and where right and left can clash in the battle of ideas!

Posted by: Jesse | 2008-10-16 11:57:23 PM

Sir J.G. Bourinot wrote in "How Canada is Governed(1895) under "Executive Power" with regards to the Dominion Government and the National flag, Quote" The Dominion of Canada has also authority to display on all public occaions a national flag; viz., the Red or Blue Ensign...The Red Ensign is displayed at the opening and closing of parliament, and on national occasions. The Blue Ensign is a distinguishing flag of the government vessels of Canada; the mercantile marine of the Dominion has a right to use the Red Ensign."Sir John George Bourinot,(1837-1902)Canadian historian and political scientist. He is remembered as an authority on the Canadian constitution and government his "Local Government in Canada (1887), Manuel of the Constitutional History of Canada (1888,rev.ed.1901), How Canada Is Governed (1895, rev.ed. 1918)," and other books are still authoritative... It would be wise and only fair to make sure that it becomes common knowledge that with the passage of time the true perspective on the creation of the current national flag of Canada, and the great emotion and sadness that accompanied the moment has in many ways been purposly hidden, lied about, overlooked and in many cases forgotten. In June 1964 the Toronto Telegram wrote "The people of Canada should be allowed to decide whether or not they wish to live under the flag of thier forebearers or discard it in favor of a new emblem...Mr. Pearson has an enviable reputation for sagacity and diplomacy. Let him ask the people by referendum whether they want to replace the banner that carries the symbols of our nationhood by one that is mounted on the colour of surrender and would be most suitable for an arboretum." The Vancouver Province wrote "Canadians who are outraged at the thought of abandoning a flag sanctified by lives and blood of thousands of our countrymen in two great wars - a flag of colour and character in every way superior to the glorified dish towel that Mr. Pearson seeks single-handedly to impose on this country." No one can change these facts and many of us will always remember.

Posted by: Bill Bishop | 2008-10-20 2:30:38 PM

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