Winnipeg Free Press - ONLINE EDITION
I would prefer it was a good fight, no matter who wins
I really, really hope the next federal election is a good battle. Regardless of who wins, I like a good, close fight that is a bit of a cliff hanger. Nice for us in the peanut gallery when you aren't writing about who is going to win the election in the first five days of the campaign.Given the latest poll results, I guess the next election (which could come as early as this fall) could be close. But I'm concerned it won't be a quality tilt. The Liberals continue to hold ground against the Conservatives, despite a lacklustre leader. The Tories, on the other hand, continue to demonstrate little appetite for broadening their base by looking for issues and policies that appeal outside core supporters. Given that the Conservatives are in power, and control the date of the next election, their failure to broaden their platform is really quite a mystery.Recent stories about cuts to arts funding demonstrate, I think, this curious inability to see opportunities to broaden support. Although total arts spending is up significantly
since the Tories took power, there have been swift and deep cuts
recently to some programs. This comes on the heels of introduction of Bill C-10
, which would cut funding to Telefilm Canada. Although the Tories have generally denied it, there has always been a suggestion the cuts had to do with the content supported by the programs. (I have always believed that voters in this country, by and large, don't want politicians to decide what kind of art is worthy of public support. Could be wrong.) The worse problem is that the decisions were made without any consultation with or warning to the people who administer the money.Why would they do this? I have always felt comfortable deferring to Hacks and Wonks
for insight into the Conservative mind. In his recent posting, Hs&Ws suggests the funding cuts are only temporary and even so, this might not be a bad strategy:"The arts community are not Tory supporters, so the short term pain is relatively minor. Over the long term, the Tories manage to tweak a source of funding often directed exclusively towards their opponents."
I agree with the basic analysis, but will disagree with the assessment of the potential harm. Pissing off groups that don't support you is a great strategy if you have a majority government. But if you're in a minority position, and seem to be unable to find traction toward a majority, it seems to be bad strategy to go around poking your traditional opponents in the eye. It's going to take a major breakthrough in Ontario and Quebec to get the Tories over the minority hump, and I just can't see how messing with arts funding is going to turn the tide in either of those provinces. However, the Hs&Ws post was very brief, and I assume (with good cause) there is more to the thesis.UPDATE: More than $40 million in total cuts.