Rally makes noise against arts cuts

Canadian artists should be pleased with Stephen Harper’s decision yesterday to abandon the Conservatives support on Bill C-10. The bill, if it were to be approved, would give the government the right to withhold funding for film and television shows that it thought were too violent or pornographic.

Today a rally took place in front of the CBC Broadcast Centre to oppose any government party that doesn’t support arts and culture. The rally was put on by ACTRA and the Writers Guild of Canada, two organizations that represent screenwriters, film and television writers and animation writers in Canada.

Mark McKinney, of Kids in the Hall and News Radio fame, is an ACTRA performer and writer and although many present were pleased with the Conservative’s decision to back down on threatened funding cuts for culture, he did not take it as a victory for arts and culture.

“That’s fantastic but I don’t think it’s anything to be grateful for. This is a man (Harper) who would steal your wallet, then kick you in the face and say ‘Sorry for kicking you in the face.’ It’s the same thing,” McKinney said, referring to Harper’s public about-face on Bill C-10, but still making cuts to arts funding.

He then went on to say that he didn’t know what dancer broke Harper’s heart when he was in his first year of university but it’s time for the Prime Minister to get over it and stop taking his frustrations out on the arts community.

James Hurst, a television series writer that has worked on Degrassi High, Sophie and Being Erica said Canadian art and culture need funding and support. He said the Conservatives don’t seem to think that’s the case but the rally shows that people really do care. Approximately 400 people showed up at the rally to show their support.

“We’re trying to get our message out: that we believe that most Canadians like what we do,” Hurst said. “They love Canadian television, they love Canadian culture, they watch it and we have the numbers to prove it.”

Hurst is afraid that if the Conservatives win the upcoming election, the arts community will suffer greatly. He said that the NDP are big supporters of the arts; the Liberals and Green Party as well, but to a lesser extent.

He would be happy if any party but the Conservatives won. He also added that without help from the government there would probably be no television or film in Canada because there would not be enough funding to support artists working in the film and television industry.

“They (the Conservatives) believe that arts and culture are made by and for a group of people that they don’t like,” Hurst said. “That we’re a bunch of champagne swigging, caviar-eating debutantes who only go to opera and high-brow places. But I write for Degrassi which is a show their kids watch.”

McKinney said that the film and television industry in Canada is a billion-dollar industry and it is growing all the time.

He said we are now on the cusp of being a world leader in arts and doesn’t understand why the Conservatives wouldn’t want to jump on board. He is upset that a leader of the country won’t help an industry that he feels can only benefit the economy, especially when leaders in other countries are taking the initiative.

“Look down to California. There’s a Republican named Arnold Schwarzenegger whose part of a platform that advocates that the legislature put in laws that are going to aid with the arts jobs that we enjoy here in Canada,” McKinney said.

The rally was peaceful with many speakers talking out against cutting funds to arts and culture in Canada. All of them felt that the majority of Canadians are behind what they are trying to do and support them.

“What we’re really asking (Canadians) to do is vote for a party that is going to support the arts. That’s really what we’re here to do and if we can get 100 people to change their minds, that would be good,” Hurst said.