Heritage minister promises no cuts to culture funding
Heritage Minister James Moore has promised no cuts to Canadian arts and culture spending in the upcoming federal budget.
“There will be no cuts, that was our campaign commitment,” he said in an interview with CBC’s Q cultural affairs show aired Wednesday.
Asked whether the $1 billion federal allocation to the CBC would be cut by the Conservative government, as the Friends of Canadian Broadcasting has suggested, Moore denied there would be cuts.
“The short answer to your question is, no, we’re going to continue our strong investment into the CBC. We believe in a Canadian broadcaster and that’s why we’re spending more money than ever before and we will continue to work with the CBC and obviously the concerns ó there’s issues over HD conversion that’s coming and mandate questions about how the CBC will fulfil its responsibilities ó but we’re looking forward to being strong partners with the CBC,” he said.
Moore suggested that arts and culture would be considered in the economic stimulus package the government plans to present.
“This is an incredibly important part of the Canadian economy. We often talk about arts and culture building value in communities and building networks and so bringing creativity,” he said.
“It’s a huge part of our GDP. It’s twice the size of all those who work solely in agriculture. It’s three times the size of our forest industry. So it’s a huge part of our economy and most importantly, in my view, is that arts and culture is about improving the quality of life of Canadians,” Moore said.
Moore defended the Conservative record on arts and culture, saying Canadians have an “incorrect” perception that the government does not support the arts.
He has been meeting with arts groups across the country in a good will tour aimed at counteracting the perception that the Tories are “anti-arts.”
When asked about the $45 million in cuts to programs such as Trade Routes and Prom Art, which helped promote Canadian artists in international markets, he said the money was reallocated to other arts programs.
“There weren’t cuts in arts and culture, the $45 million that you were describing in the campaignÖthat was money that was not cut from arts and culture,” Moore said.
Why Trade Routes was cut
The international programs were cut because of their “inefficiency” and “demonstrated ability to fail,” Moore said.
“Trade Routes ó one of the highest profile programs that received a lot of scrutiny and certainly in the city of Montreal ó is a small program, a $7-million program ó but it cost $5 million to administer $2 million worth of benefits. It’s a level of inefficiency that rivals the old long-gun registry and it’s just inappropriate,” he said.
The Trade Routes program, which helped for-profit and not-for-profit organizations in the arts and cultural sector prepare to export and sell in international markets, will end in April.
Moore claimed money from that program went to increases at the Canada Council, the Museum Assistance Program and funding for the National Gallery.
“It’s not a straight line ó that money is reduced and is then reallocated within different envelopes, but net, there has not been a nickel spending reduction by our government in arts and culture. We’re spending more money on arts and culture that any government in Canadian history,” he said.
Moore said Trade Routes will not be reinstated, but that the government “agrees with the goals” of the program and will consider other options.
He distanced himself from comments made by the foreign affairs office that suggested the cuts were ideologically motivated.
In September, Anne Howland, a spokesperson for Foreign Affairs Minister David Emerson, had mentioned the Toronto indie band Holy F— and writers such as Gwyn Dyer and Avi Lewis as artists funded by Prom Art and Trade Routes who should not have received taxpayers’ money.
Moore said that as heritage minister, he has no mechanism to affect who gets money or to cut funding where art has been controversial or even offensive. Those decisions are made by arm’s-length funding agencies such as the Canada Council for the Arts, he said.
“The Canada Council for the Arts ó $181 million this year, up 20 per cent ó because we’re a government that believes in those decisions being made independent of all politicians, whether they come from the right, left, centre, whatever,” he said.