Feds cut support to canadian art abroad

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The Conservative Government has announced that it is cutting funding to the Department of Foreign Affairs PromArt program and the Department of Canadian Heritage Trade Routes program. Both assisted Canadian artists in promoting their work and building the business abroad.

Canadian Press:
Foreign Affairs officials confirmed Friday that PromArt will lose its $4.7-million budget next spring, effectively killing the program. They attempted to play down reports that claimed the decision was motivated by ideological differences with many of the recipients. "More than anything it's a budget decision," said Anne Howland, a spokesperson for Foreign Affairs Minister David Emerson.

The National Post caught an advance leek of the info and ran details of the reasons for the cuts on Friday:
...because the program's grant recipients included "a general radical," "a left-wing and anti-globalization think-tank" and a rock band that uses an expletive as part of its name.
...because most of the money "went to groups that would raise the eyebrows of any typical Canadian," said a government official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

...But the program also funded travel to promote what many Canadians might consider "mainstream" Canadian art. For example, the Canadian Museum of Civilization received $50,000 to help defray the costs of taking an exhibition of Inuit Art to Brazil; the Royal Winnipeg Ballet received assistance of $40,000 for a U. S. tour; and former Supreme Court Justice Michel Bastarache received a $3,000 grant so he could travel to Cuba to give a lecture about the Canadian Charter of Rights. More than 300 grants were awarded in 2006-07.
The Globe and Mail ran details Saturday in an article by James Bradshaw.

Simon Houpt wrote from New York about the fantastic Canadian concerts that the consul-general's office used to run there, and offered cogent criticism of the Harper Government's squeamishness about the arts.
The program was not, as its critics are barking, a wasteful socialist/Liberal boondoggle. Its greatest champion was in fact Joe Clark, who as the secretary of state for External Affairs (now DFAIT) from 1984-91 oversaw a major expansion in the cultural diplomacy budget because he recognized the importance of increasing Canada's presence abroad as the country embraced free trade with the U.S. and made its way in a globalized world.

...A little while ago Pamela Wallin told me that when she served within DFAIT as the consul-general of New York, culture was an indispensable tool to create a broader understanding of Canada within the United States. "It's all about presence; it's all about being top of mind. The more stages we continue to take ourselves off of, the more difficult the overall mission becomes," she said.
The Globe and Mail also provided an editorial on why they think that The arts belong in foreign policy.
Ottawa says that the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, which runs the International Arts Promotion Program, should concentrate instead on its core mandate, which is "to advance Canadian interests and values in the world," as spokeswoman Anne Howland says. But doesn't it advance those interests and values to subsidize a reading series over 18 days in the United States by Canada's Faulkner, novelist David Adams Richards, who received a measly $1,000? Or to give the Royal Winnipeg Ballet $40,000 for a dozen performances in the U.S.?

Of course it does. Those subsidies help express this country's being abroad, and insofar as they help spread good feelings about Canada, they're good for business, trade, tourism and immigration. In a globalized world, there is nothing to be said for hiding one's light under a bushel. Britain, France, Germany and Italy spend vast sums on such programs.
Vancouver's Georgia Straight provides an NDP perspective, linking the cuts to DFAIT to the recent film and video censorship found in bill C-10.
"It’s very reminiscent of the trouble they got themselves in over the film and video tax credit in Bill C-10," Siksay told the Straight, "where they tried to propose that an individual minister should be able to enforce or inflict their own personal taste on film and video production in Canada. And I think that's exactly what they’re trying to do here with this program that promotes Canadian culture overseas. They want to make sure that it conforms to their ideological perspective and their own individual taste when it comes to artistic expression."
While much of this press focuses on the artistic and cultural aspect of these programs and their loss, for Canadian musicians, the PromArt and Trade Routes programs have helped artists and companies develop important foreign markets, promote themselves abroad to foreign consumer markets, and develop invaluable business relationships with companies in other territories.

UPDATE: The Canadian Independent Record Producers Association (CIRPA) has released an official response to the cuts, read it here.
More and more, Canadian musicians and music companies are depending on export revenues through sales and live performances to survive. Direct access to foreign markets is critical to stimulate new sales outside of Canada. Last year, the Canadian Independent Record Production Association successfully lead 21 companies to Japan on a single trip that resulted in 1.4 million dollars in export business immediately for Canadian firms. This is money that will be reinvested in developing new young talent in Canada. We need to make more of these ventures abroad, into new markets like China, South Asia and India.

What is equally problematic here is that the recipients of these grants, be they Inuit carvers or Toronto rockers are being demonized for applying to, and receiving support, from a program developed, sanctioned and administered by the Government of Canada.  There was nothing underhanded or surreptitious in this. If the program was ill-conceived or poorly run, why not say so Obviously it is easier to ridicule the recipients, rather than discuss the real issues.
UPDATE: Some more discussion of the Trade Routes program here. Some anecdotal comments from a Canadian living in the UK here. And here's a piece from the Ottawa Citizen.

UPDATE: There is clarification that the government is not only cutting the $4.7 million PromArt program, but also the $9 million Trade Routes program run through the Department of Canadian Heritage. The Georgia Straight has a blurb here. Also, this blog entry points out the significant contribution that the culture industries make to Canadian GDP, more than the mining or agriculture industries:
The wholesale elimination of PromArt and Trade Routes is neither selective nor judicious. And while it constitutes the federal government's latest offensive in its apparent war on culture, it also displays breathtaking ignorance of a subject the Tories, above all others, should know by heart: Commerce.

Canadian culture is big business. In 2002, for example, it accounted for $40 billion, or roughly 3.8 per cent, of the country's gross domestic product. Dominated by small- and medium-sized enterprises, it provided direct employment for nearly 600,000 people that year. By comparison, in 2002, the information and communications technology, construction, mining, and agriculture industries were worth $55 billion, $54 billion, $35 billion, and $21 billion, respectively.

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