Over the last few months, the Conservatives have enacted legislation that will see between $43 and $46 million in cuts from arts groups’ budgets.
Surely, arts groups say, this must demonstrate the depth of the Conservatives’ mal-intent towards the cultural community? Well, as it happens, the answer is no. And yes.
Which is to say that while the Conservatives’ cuts to arts have been significant, they have been more than offset almost 100-fold by increases to the budgets of the CBC, the National Gallery and a wide variety of mainstream classical cultural venues. Yet, although the cuts to arts funding were relatively minor, it is true that they were more often than not targeted at artists renowned for providing, what is today called “cutting-edge cultural criticism” (what in another time would have been called socialist agitprop).
The central question here is whether or not one thinks that governments that subsidy art have a responsibility to select what art they will choose to subsidy (that is: to distinguish between art that is “good” and art that is “bad”). All the same, this issue is playing well in urban Quebec, so expect the NDP, the Bloc and the Liberals to be making hay out of this.
In early 2008, the Chrétien-created Millennium Scholarship Fund ran the course of its fixed four-year-term. The Harper Conservatives, never ones to pass up an opportunity to spend money, replaced the MSF with an income-based system of grants designed to provide aid to low-income students. Now, since the new loans take into consideration parents’ income, many wealthier students are understandably nonplussed. Nonetheless, the major student groups have, by-and-large, spoken positively about the new program.
Quebec nationalism – hard to say where this file is going. Dion is despised throughout much of Quebec for his role in drafting the Clarity Act (drafted after Quebec’s 1995 referendum on secession, this document effectively precludes future success for separation).
Harper, for his part, is an arch-provincialist who would likely prefer the Federal government stayed out of provincial concerns – he has also made half-hearted (read: non-constitutional) attempts at recognizing Quebec’s status as a nation “au sein du” Canada. Still, Harper can’t exactly fancy a legacy as the Prime Minister responsible for breaking up Canada, so expect to see little in the way of real movement by either major party. Instead, expect to see the NDP move on this issue. The choice of Thomas Mulcair as their front man in Quebec, along with their long-standing support for sovereignty-association, should give them good traction against both the Liberals and Bloc with left-leaning communities. As for the Bloc, what can one say? Sine qua non.
The Conservatives have been responsible for re-jigging the Young Offenders’ Act, which angered criminals, and for spiking the Long Gun Registry, which angered both those vehemently in favour of gun control and those who benefited from its largesse (initially pegged at $1 million dollars, the registry’s eventual cost ballooned to more than $2 billion under the Chrétien and Martin
Liberals). These two issues would seem like good election fodder given the fact that Canadians (especially those in major cities) by and large support a stiffer criminal code, but the Liberals don’t exactly want to discuss their mismanagement of the gun registry. Expect to see the issue raised by the NDP and the Greens, but don’t hold your breath for any real action on it.
What’s that? A country in west-Asia? An international peacemaking force, including a Canadian troop contingent? Taliban, you say? Tell me more.
As you likely haven’t noticed, in recent weeks, Afghanistan has completely dropped off the radar. Sadly, it’s hard to expect that it will be coming back any time soon. As Senator Roméo Dallaire said this weekend when he swung through campus, “This is an engagement that the Liberals entered Canada into, that the Conservatives expanded, and which the Liberals have since agreed to.” With a major-party consensus on the justness of Canada’s commitment to Afghanistan, expect only the sound of crickets on this file during the campaign. Which is too bad, really, since Canada is only committed to Afghanistan until 2011, and any government coming out of this election will likely have this on their plate inside of a few years. Canadians deserve a discussion of this issue, but, more than likely, they won’t get it.
And then, of course, we come to the question of green house gas. In a totally policy-focused world, one would expect that this would be this election campaign’s defining issue. Most obviously, environmental concerns are the raison d’