James emailed and asked why I hadn’t written about the Conservative government’s recent cuts to cultural programs. In truth, I kind of missed that whole debacle. Plus, it looks like they’ve been sufficiently raked over the coals for that one.
It’s an odd move, because up to now it seems to me that the Harper government has been relatively benign on cultural funding. I certainly remember deeper cuts from other Conservative governments. And their cuts only amounted to less than CAN $50 million. Was saving that money really worth all the grief they’ve suffered in the media? Or maybe it’s meant to be a gesture to their base?
Section 120 is a Joke
I have, however, been meaning to criticize the Harper government’s planned Bill C-10. That link goes to the CBC’s rather critical analysis of the proposed legislation. If ever you wanted an example of the CBC’s liberal bias, there it is. Here’s a summary of the problematic section of the Bill:
The issue that concerns CanadaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s film and television community is Section 120, which would allow the Heritage Minister (currently JosÃƒÂ©e Verner) to withdraw tax credits from productions determined to be Ã¢â‚¬Å“contrary to public policy.Ã¢â‚¬Â
The minister would create a set of guidelines for film and television producers. The guidelines have not yet been established but would cover violence, hatred and sexual content in film and TV productions, or anything else the minister believes should not be financed by Canadian taxpayers. Committees within the heritage and justice departments would be charged with vetting productions and implementing the guidelines.
In essence, the legislation gives the federal government carte blanche to bypass existing vetting mechanisms to deny funding to cultural works of which it disapproves. On top of infringing on free speech (even this conservative agrees with that), it will have a chilling effect on the kinds of movies which get made in Canada. Would The Boys of St. Vincent or Eastern Promises have been made in a Bill C-10 world? It’s worth mentioning that the Liberals had similar plans to restrict arts funding. It was a lousy idea then, and it’s a lousy idea now.
Poised, Disciplined and On Message
But don’t listen to me on this. Listen to the excellent interview (MP3) that Sarah Polley gave on CBC a couple of months back. If you’re ever going to advocate in the media for a cause, this interview is essential listening. Ms. Polley is incredibly poised and disciplined, articulates her position clearly and remains on-message. She never needlessly attacks the Harper government, nor does she sound like some hippie artist who’s making porn on the taxpayer’s dollar. She makes an impassioned but rationale and professional defense of her stance.
I so often see advocates of environmental and social causes on the news, and they waste their sound bite on lame, slightly nutty critcriques of whoever they’re railing against. Plus they’re frequently dressed shabbily and look frumpy. That sounds trivial, but in a world governed by televisual aesthetics, it’s not. I don’t care if you’re just back from a week of protest and bongo drumming in Clayoquot Sound. Shave, comb your hair and put on a suit before you go on TV.
On a related note, I was amused by this quote from a story about a new Canadian-content pornography channel on satellite TV:
“I think as Canadians there is a bit of a tiredness in seeing all American stuff,” Shaun Donnelly, president of Real Productions, said during an interview on Friday.
“There is always that thrill for something that is local and you get the sense that these are people you can meet at the supermarket.”
It just struck as the most ludicrous quote to offer. We can finally enjoy Newfy accents in our porn? Is that really a priority for Canadians?