Sitting down earlier today, right here in Winnipeg, to play music with 10-year-old Internet sensation Maria Aragon (she of Lady Gaga fame), Stephen Harper attempts to show that he’s more than just a robotic wanker — he can also sing quite badly.
I presume this photo-op has something to do with the proposed Children’s Arts Tax Credit that would allow families to deduct up to $500 per year for the cost of enrolling in arts programs. It’s not a bad idea, but again it prompts the question: why wasn’t it in the last budget?
If Harper’s ideologically-driven arts funding cuts turn out to be the fatal spanner in the finely tuned works of his Quebec machine, the resulting hilarity is going to be hard to contain.
While the $45 million cuts amount to a blip on the federal budget radar, they have hit a wide array of vocal artistic constituencies and convinced many others that the moves are part of a larger Conservative agenda to clip the wings of Canada’s arts community.
On Tuesday, that sense was relayed by Quebec’s cultural managers and artists, but also by leading members of the Montreal business community, including some with solid Conservative ties.
Economist Marcel Côté, a former chief-of-staff to Brian Mulroney, was on stage to protest the cuts as was the president of Montreal’s board of trade, Isabelle Hudon, the daughter of a former two-term Tory MP and once a prime target of Conservative head-hunters.
A similar demonstration is planned for next week in the Conservative heartland of Quebec City.
Meanwhile, the federal cuts are resonating in hosts of small towns and villages where Quebec’s diverse cultural scene unfolds over the summer season.
Harper may have thought that he could use cultural groups and “leftist” artists as sacrificial pawns to demonstrate his conservative credibility with “hard-working” NASCAR fans “who pay their taxes and play by the rules” but being the great chess master that he is (*cough*) Harper should realize that sometimes even a lowly pawn can checkmate an opposing King.