Monday, August 18, 2008

Canada's Ministry of Truth

Oh, I mean the Department of Canadian Heritage. Typo, sorry. More details here, but I'll summarize the juicy bits:

Bill C-10, currently before the Canadian Senate, would deny important tax credits to artistic productions deemed “contrary to public policy.” With no guidelines for what that means, exactly. You can read the left-leaning summary, or the right-leaning summary (the thesis of this article seems to be that it's the Liberal Party's fault - quelle surprise).

Without knowing the guidelines, any discussion of what it entails will be speculation, I suppose, but let's consider some evidence. When the federal government announced its cuts to the PromArt program (among several others) which promoted Canadian art abroad (left version, right version), a leaked Conservative Party memo complained that the funds were being spent on "left-wing" artists. The National Post asks "Why, for instance, is it the duty of Canadian taxpayers to fly left-wing anti-war journalist Gwynne Dyer...." Let's not get into a discussion of all the bad ways in which tax dollars get spent, because that's not so relevant. What's relevant is why it should be the government's business to single out left-wing (or anti-war) art/journalism. Is that what they mean by "contrary to public policy"? At this point, what little evidence we have indicates as much.

So bill C-10 seems to be about letting the federal government moderate art on a political basis. Whether it's harming "left-wing" art, or right-wing art, that makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up. My brother-in-law grew up in a Communist country, and that was how they ran things there. "It sounds like something they do in Beijing," said Canadian director David Cronenberg. To have it enacted here is a terrifying prospect. The fact that it was even proposed (and then passed by the House of Commons) is disturbing. It has no place in a democratic country.

You can blame the Conservatives, as most do, or you can blame the Liberals, as the National Post does. I don't really care, because I don't think you should vote for either of them. I don't think you should support any party or MP that lets bill C-10 through without a fight.

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