Remember what your mother said…
…sometimes, when you can’t say anything nice, it’s better not to say anything at all.
Hello, Internet, it is Friday, April 13th, and I’m upset.
This is not to say that I’m not having a very good spring, because, in fact, I am.
This is not to say that I have not been very thankful for the recent sunny days and have been feeling that lightness of self that comes with shedding winter jackets and being able to wear real shoes outdoors again.
This is not to say that I am not quite happy right at this moment, having just returned from a glo-bowling and rock band excursion with some new friends.
But I am, and have been, quite steadily upset by the federal budget. All week long.
It would, perhaps, be a bit different if the government that handed down that budget were not currently in the midst of a scandal involving a telephone message which was left on election day for voters, directing them to report to places that were not polling stations in order to cast their ballots, calling the legitimacy of their majority rule into question.
It would be different again if the government in question was not in the midst of a totally separate scandal involving what appears to be the outright lying to citizens regarding the real cost of certain fighter jets that many Canadians are not sure we need in the first place.
Perhaps, if those two things were not both happening at the same time that this budget was released, I would not be upset in a way that transcends all of the happiness that I experience in the short term because of things like sunshine and friendship. But that is not the world we live in.
I do sometimes write about politics on this blog, and I always try to stick a disclaimer at the top of those entries. But the thing is, that’s not really what this blog is for. I write about politics because I am interested in politics, just as I write about art because I am interested in art. The temptation to turn the blog into one made up entirely of political rantings and ravings is strong, sometimes, but I resist it because, frankly, other people rant better than I do, and the point of the blog is to talk about art (at its most specific, the art currently happening in St. John’s) and the world and how they react to each other.
This is one of the best occasions for that subject. Now is the time when I would most like to write about art as it exists in St. John’s today, and how it is being threatened by the federal budget. But the truth is, I am actually so angry about this budget and the government that drafted it that I am not sure that I will be able to talk about it without tripping on all of the traps that angry political types tend to fall upon. I am going to sound alarmist. I am going to sound like a pie-in-the-sky pinko commie leftist (and several other derogatory terms found in the comments section on any news website). I will not be able to cite my sources (right away – I may go back over this at some point when I have the time but don’t count on it). I am going to sound rabid and out of control and hysterical.
So, please consider this the most sincere disclaimer you have ever seen on my website. I mean everything I am about to write, and I will not apologize for it. But if you don’t want to read it, then you should stop reading. Right. Now.
The government is slimy. They are slimy toads who lie, cheat and steal from the people they are supposed to be serving. They may have cheated on the election results by sending voters to places where they could not vote. They very probably cheated on the election by deliberatelyÂ withholdingÂ the real cost of those war planes. They have first lied, and then confessed, on a growing number of shady dealings that have been brought to light. They make a fuss over something like the long-gun registry, touting their promise to trash it as “a matter of privacy”, and then introduce a bill that would give police the right to access your phone number without a warrant. They change documents fraudulently, guard their secrets with bared teeth, and constantly demean the population of Canada by telling us “what we want” and treating us all like idiots.
This budget is no exception.
Despite a number of polls that warn against it, and despite their own promises to the contrary, the government has chosen to cut 10% of the CBC’s budget by 2014.
Think about that. 10%. You know what you make in a year? Ok, shift the decimal point one spot to the left. That’s 10% of your annual income. Can you live your life the way you do without it? I bet you can’t. I bet you’d have to stop going out to dinner so much, or start buying more frozen veggies instead of fresh, or move into an apartment with lower rent, or get a roommate.
The CBC can’t continue to do what they do now with a 10% cut to their budget. No amount of “belt-tightening” – a term I loathe, by the way – can make up for the roughly $110M they will be losing. In response to the drastic cut in funding, CBC is making some pretty drastic cuts to their programs.
They have lost a couple of very well-known and well-loved radio shows.
They are cutting radio drama completely.
To clarify, unless a private radio station wants to pick it up from the ashes of CBC’s torched house, an entire art form has just been cut from Canadian life.
And, in a move that could potentially have the greatest effect on St. John’s, they are cutting their production of six television shows. And you know what show relies heavily on being co-produced by the CBC? Republic of Doyle.
It is not possible for me to tell you how important Republic of DoyleÂ has become to the arts community in St. John’s. It is one of the biggest employers of artists and technicians in town. It brings in hundreds of crew members and visiting cast members each year (not to mention the tourists who are drawn to the city by the show). These people participate in the life of the city. They spend money, which is good for the economy. They participate in fundraising events for other companies. They teach workshops. They push the local contingents of their unions forward.
For the people who work on DoyleÂ and really live in town, the steady work for several months on end is a game-changer. It makes taking the time to do small works for only a little money possible in the winter. Since DoyleÂ started shooting, the performing arts community in St. John’s – always a strong one – has been flourishing. People are buying houses. They are able to afford cars. They are happy artists working happily in the city, and the arts have only benefited from it.
What I’m trying to say is that, like most art, the economic return on investment is astronomical. Artists will take $1 and turn it into $7 (this is, by the way, pretty close on the economic return from the oil sands). The numbers for DoyleÂ are much bigger, but the idea is the same.
So, for as long as DoyleÂ still has an audience (and obviously, it does), it is economically beneficialÂ to produce it. But it isn’t the CBC’s job to take care of the economy in St. John’s, or anywhere else in Canada. Who’s job is that again? Oh. Yeah. The Government of Canada’s.
The dollar amount that is being cut from the CBC, and from the Department of Canadian Heritage (which also funds things with huge economic return as well as cultural impact) is enormous in comparison to the money needed to maintain their programming. But in comparison to the full federal budget, it is aÂ minusculeÂ amount. If the goal of the budget was really to provide economic stability for this country, the same number of dollars could be cut from an industry with a less profitable return (like, for example, the building of more prisons when crime has been dropping steadily across Canada for years).
But there is a core group of people at the centre of the government’s caucus who have been quite vocal about the place of the CBC for years now. They denounce it as left-biased and attack it for criticizing the government in power. Despite the fact that the CBC pays very close attention to the tone of its coverage, and has staff in place to balance the number of seemingly ‘pro’ or ‘anti’ government articles, the body must report on things that happen, look into things that don’t seem clear, and call the government to task when they mess up. They do it for Stephen Harper’s government, yes. But they did it for Paul Martin’s government, Jean ChrÃ©tien’s government, Brian Mulroney’s government. And should they survive until then, they will do it for the government that succeeds this one.
The point of having a public institution like the CBC is, in part, to keep private interests out of the reporting. They can’t be bought. But, it seems, they CAN be punished.
All of this business about reform to the Employment Insurance programs (long overdue, and long needed, but these solutions are, in my opinion, pretty much impotent), and the termination of the penny is just smoke and mirrors. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain (the major cuts to our culture). Look! We’re doing some tiny, inexpensive things that will make a big splash in the headlines! Â Pennies have been secretly stealing our money for years! But all that’s over now, thanks to the government’s brilliant decision-making!
All of it has made me physically nauseous. I am going to write some letters now and sign some petitions. Maybe, if the opportunity presents itself, I will stand by the road holding a sign or march at a rally. Just in case somebody in that slimy ball that we have the misfortune of calling our government is willing to listen.