Friday, August 22, 2008

re:Culture and Ideology - Jack Layton and NDP

A letter from Jack Layton:

Thank you for writing me regarding cuts to key programs assisting Canadians artists.
The NDP feels the Conservatives are wrong to cut important programs that help Canadian artists market and promote their work. I want you to know that NDP Critic for Digital Culture Charlie Angus and NDP Critic for Culture and Heritage Bill Siksay are working hard to protect Canadians artists. For more information on our position on this matter, please visit:
This move comes on the heels of Bill C-10 and the Harper government’s plans to censor film in Canada that it finds "offensive". I agree with many Canadians who are telling me that the Conservatives' continued attempts to force their tastes on Canadian artists and arts organizations is deplorable.
Again, I appreciate your efforts to protect artistic expression in Canada. All the best.
Jack Layton, MP (Toronto-Danforth) Leader, Canada’s New Democrats

Thursday, August 21, 2008

re:Culture and ideology: Response from Paul Dewar

From Mr. Paul Dewar, NDP foreign affairs critic:

Dear Mr. Kruse,

Thank you for your email concerning the recent cuts to government programs such as PromArt and Trade Routes. I have shared your concerns with Mr. Dewar and he asked that I send you a copy of the letter he sent Minister Emerson, concerning the cuts. I have pasted it below for your convenience. Thank you again for writing and sharing your thoughts on this issue, please do not hesitate to contact us again in the future.


August 12, 2008

Hon. David Emerson

Minister of Foreign Affairs

Ottawa ON K1A 0A6

Dear Minister Emerson,

I am writing to you today to express my concern regarding recent funding cuts to the PromArt and the Trade Routes programs. Both PromArt and Trade Routes have allowed groups and individuals to travel the world and promote not only their unique abilities but also our country as a whole. Cutting the funds to these two programs not only limits what Canada has to offer the world, but limits what we offer to our own citizens. This will eventually lead to more Canadian artists leaving the country in search of better opportunities elsewhere.

I have a number of questions concerning the manner in which this decision was made by your office:

1) What review took place prior to this decision being made?

2) What criteria were used to make this decision?

3) Who was consulted when this decision was being made? Were our missions overseas consulted prior to the decision being made?

4) How many Canadian artists will be affected by this decision?

What is at stake here is the future of our Canadian musicians, artists and entrepreneurs in the arts and cultural sectors. With fewer opportunities to promote Canadian culture, the industry will continue to weaken and our place on the world arts stage will diminish.

We should be proud to support our Canadian exports and not limit their freedom of expression through art.

I respectfully urge you to reconsider this decision. I look forward to your reply.


Paul Dewar, MP | Député Ottawa Centre
NDP Foreign Affairs Critic
Porte-parole du NPD pour les affaires étrangères
519 Confederation Building
Tel: 613.996.5322
CEP 232

Monday, August 18, 2008

Culture and Ideology

Here is my most recent letter to the Rt. Hon. Stephan Harper.

Mr. Prime Minister,

I am very dismayed to have learned that the Canadian federal government under your leadership has decided to cancel the travel grants program available through the Dept. of Foreign Affairs.

Among other things I am an artist and several companies that I worked with enjoyed the support of the grants and had the opportunity to share Canadian culture with the rest of the world.

It was with even greater dismay that I learned that the reason you had decided to cancel them was not out of some cost cutting measure but because your government felt that the grants were not in line with the current ideological bent of mainstream society. As reported in the editorial section of The Toronto Star on Aug. 14 2008: " The targets were "people with narrow ideological agendas or people who are rich celebrities or really very fringe groups," according to Prime Minister Stephen Harper's director of communications, Kory Teneycke."

Once again you have proved that ideology trumps reason. Canadian cultural industries have a long history of being very efficient when using federal and provincial funding to support their efforts. The funds available for most arts groups and intellectuals - barring the very small number of superstars who have large commercial success - have been quite small. Yet artists across Canada have managed to support a thriving cultural scene and employ many thousands of people directly; not to mention the bars, restaurants, suppliers, hotels and rental agencies that are supported indirectly by their efforts. Other great nations support their national cultural heritage with great pride. Your government does not even have a Minister of Culture.

Most arts organisations have very small corporate structures. The heads of many small and medium sized organisations don't even take a salary and are paid on a project basis or have other full time jobs to earn a living. In this way the federal funding goes directly to artist employment, capital costs and consumables; all of which help to float the economy. Almost all of the organisations are charitable or non-profit organisations as well. This ensures that, unlike the subsidies to the auto, forestry, oil and gas and mining industries, the money does not go to buoy up company profits and line the pockets of the already rich owners but ensures primary employment and investment in the end-product.

If the economic argument is not strong enough, let me voice my disgust with the cravenness that your government displays in the face of criticisms from these cultural groups and intellectuals. It is a cowardly act to choose to silence one's opponents rather that offer a better argument. This can only suggest that even you do not believe your ideology can stand up to public scrutiny. What is next? Refuse the Official Opposition office space in the capital? Perhaps we should do away with question period because the views expressed are not in line with mainstream thought. Maybe we should have the CBC only publish statements from the PMO rather than offer a diversity of opinion. That is what it seems you are implying.

Culture defines a very broad spectrum at its most essential definition. Canadian diversity multiplies this underlying spectrum a hundred fold. I certainly do not pay my taxes to have my government tell me what to think and how to think it. I only want the opportunity for all to voice their opinions, whether I agree with them or not.

You obviously do not agree. Why so afraid?

yours respectfully,

Michael Kruse


Among the "left wing artists" not in line with mainstream ideology (complete list from 2007-2008 is not available online - the FA website is having some problems) :

The Nathaniel Dett Chorale (A gospel choir, under the employ of the NDP?? Perhaps)
Ontario (Canada)

Tafelmusik (a baroque orchestra - dangerously left wing!)
Ontario (Canada)

Banff Television Festival Foundation (almost Communist I would guess)
Ontario (Canada)

Toronto International Film Festival (well, duh, all those film folks are lefty's)
Ontario (Canada)

The Bloc Quebecois has a great cultural article here

More from the Toronto Star here

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

re: Statistics Vs. Ideology, from Jack Layton

A reply from Jack Layton and the NDP:

Thank you for your previous email relating to justice and crime issues. I appreciate your comments and suggestions as they are helpful in our work.

Too often we hear politicians talk about getting “tough on crime” by promoting an oversimplified, one-dimensional punitive approach. I believe in a more realistic and far-sighted strategy that embraces three core elements – what I call - the three “Ps”: Prevention, Policing and Punishment. The NDP is proposing practical steps to ensure Canada gets “smart on crime” and our communities are made safer. You can read more about our approach by visiting:

The NDP caucus team continues to work hard to increase public safety and seek fairness for victims. I am proud of their efforts that include the following specific measures:

Proposed National Youth Safety Strategy

Restated call to get smart on gun violence

Demanded national strategy to fight street gangs

Introduced Bill to help protect public transportation workers

Called for a National DNA and Missing Persons Bank

Criticized Conservatives for delay in amended crime package

Introduced legislation requiring offenders make restitution to victims in certain cases

New Democrats believe that everyday Canadians have a right to feel safe in their homes and their communities. When they don’t feel safe, we undercut the building blocks of a caring and prosperous society. By applying the NDP's three P's, we can begin to build secure and successful communities.

Again, I appreciate hearing from you. All the best.

Jack Layton, MP (Toronto-Danforth) Leader, Canada’s New Democrats