We are a little late to this battle, having been on hiatus in August, so I’ll keep this brief. The Conservatives have already been pounded on mightily for their cuts to arts funding last month, but let me add that the skankiest aspect to their behaviour was the covert way in which they went about it. The cuts weren’t announced so much as opened to the air, like a wound; notices were quietly posted to websites for the PromArt and Trade Routes programs, advising that soon they would be no more, and that was that. No media release, no statement from Heritage Minister Josée Verner, certainly no consultation beforehand with those affected. Nothing.
It wasn’t until the press started nosing around that the government owned up to what was happening, using some truculent language left over from the ’80s, and admitted there were more cuts to come — enough, it transpired, to eventually amount to nearly $45 million. Their strategy was transparent: let the news leak out in the dog days of August, when hopefully anyone who might care about this sort of thing would be gone to the lake cabin or prepping for a gay pride parade.
Minister Verner was nowhere to be seen in the uproar that followed, except for a single interview with the Canadian Press French-language service, in which she claimed the programs were inefficient or had run their course. Otherwise, news sources from The Georgia Straight to the CBC reported that she wasn’t returning calls. The Minister, apparently, had been muzzled.
Indeed, Mme. Verner seems to be treated by her masters in the PMO in much the same way that they treat artists: as trinkets that are lovely to look at sometimes, but not to be taken seriously. Hopefully, the response of the last three weeks has taught them differently. I doubt it, though. If you think $45 million in arts cuts is bad, wait till you see what happens if these guys ever form a majority government.