By Jason Leach
Published September 24, 2008
Much of the current, unnecessary election campaign has been fairly boring, and for good reason. It's hard to drum up excitement when everyone already knows what the outcome will be in an election called as more of a personal war between political parties (whom I would love to see abolished someday, but that's for another discussion).
However, a quote today from Stephen Harper caught my attention:
"I think when ordinary working people come home, turn on the TV and see a gala of a bunch of people at, you know, a rich gala all subsidized by taxpayers claiming their subsidies aren't high enough, when they know those subsidies have actually gone up â€“ I'm not sure that's something that resonates with ordinary people," Harper said in Saskatoon, where he was campaigning for the Oct. 14 election.
Now, by ordinary does he mean people like you and me, or people living the high-life on the public fund in Ottawa? Hmmm, I wonder.
I consider myself ordinary, in a good way. I work full-time, have an incredible family and am blessed with great friends and a great church.
I am a drummer (yes, that counts as a musician) and have a great affinity for history and architecture. All three of these pastimes can be considered artistic, I guess, but I'm no Picasso.
There's plenty not to like about this quick rant from our PM. I admit to getting a kick out of the sentence referring to ordinary folks coming home to watch 'publicly subsidized' artists on TV.
It's not as easy to spout off about 'public subsidies' these days when the US is attempting to toss a pretty $700 billion subsidy at the richest people on planet earth.
Furthermore, I wonder how Mr. Harper assumes that all of these "ordinary people" got home from work? On a subsidized highway, perhaps? Or a subsidized transit system (albeit, not subsidized to nearly the same extent as the aforementioned highway)?
I didn't realize we still had politicians so willing to fudge words and phrases like this in order to paint an image in the public's mind. I mean, this is the same party that upped the annual oil industry subsidy from $1.5 billion to 2.4 billion when they first took office.
I guess some of the public are still easily swayed by such rhetoric, but I digress.
The real issue here is the arts. A wise man once said, "nobody goes to Paris and Rome to enjoy all the nicely paved highways and roads."
We spend thousands of dollars to travel to these world-class cities to enjoy their rich history, architecture, arts, entertainment and culture. If we were really going to these places to check out the fabulous highway infrastructure, we could save some money and take an exotic vacation in Amherst, NY or Mississuaga.
A recent study into Canada's arts community crunched some numbers and showed that for every dollar of government money pumped into the arts, it generated $3 in return. That sounds like an investment, not a subsidy.
I'm not sure if there is a more sinister motive behind the scenes. I get the impression that it's simply another case of a politician being completely removed from real society.
This is true of all of them (although Elizabeth May is earning some brownie points by taking VIA Rail across Canada).
Canada is woefully behind most other comparable nations when it comes to arts funding. In Hamilton, one only needs to wander up James North to see how vital the arts can be in our everyday life and society.
Real estate values are up, stores are renovated and occupied, crime is down and new businesses are moving into the area thanks to the recent influx of art ventures and artists.
It would seem to me that some well-planned government investment into an area like this would be much more preferable than spending that same government money on extra police and property standards officers in an empty, decaying urban neighbourhood.
What does it say about our society when we prefer a newspaper headline reading, "Government to invest $50 million into crime and policing improvements" instead of "Government investing $50 million into burgeoning, vibrant arts district downtown"?
It says a lot about our politicians, but it probably says even more about you and me.
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