Being a songwriter with more than a few politically charged tunes in my repertoire, some of you have asked me when my election rant was going to drop.
Two words: "Ta-Daa!"
I'll try to keep this as brief as possible, but I've had a lot of things rolling around in my head for a few days now. I thought of typing this without using vowels to save space, but if I did that, then Stephane Dion would have the same first name as Stephen Harper, and that could get confusing.
So one of the issues that's been brought up during this campaign is the issue of funding for the arts. Personally, cutting funding to the arts won't have a huge impact on me, I've always been self-funded and self-sufficient. I also sell more MP3s in places like Australia and Germany than I do in Canada, so for me Canada is where I live, but the rest of the world is where I make music. Having said that however, I still absolutely am in favour of my hard-earned tax dollars being spent on propping up whatever culture Canada still has. So let's quickly review what some of the leaders have said about funding for the arts, shall we?
First we have Stephen Harper. His opinion is that the arts are "a niche issue" which is only of concern to elitists, and that the average Canadian doesn't have any sympathy for rich artists who gather at galas to whine about their grants. Huh? Or rather FUCKING HUH?!?! The average self-employed artist in this country makes a paltry $23,000 per year, which I believe is roughly half the amount required to still fall under the category of "below the poverty line". The man is completely, utterly and hopelessly out of touch, to the point of being a bit scary. Or maybe he's afraid of art. You know, this artsy stuff is all subjective, and when the Fraser Institute implanted those chips in his brain, they didn't include the one marked "Imagination". Of course, this is the same man who wrote a letter to members of the Canadian Alliance Party (remember them?) suggesting that the Kyoto Protocol was a socialist plot. It's on public record people, go look it up. He also said that the whole notion of cutting carbon dioxide emissions didn't make sense because carbon dioxide is essential to life. Sure Stephen, and water is also essential to life, but we don't want the entire planet covered in it, do we?
The fact that Harper's political career has taken him as far as it has is a testament to how ignorant the electorate can be, so maybe we deserve him after all.
Next we have Jack Layton, who's promised to reinstate the $45 million that the Harper government cut from arts funding over the past couple of years. Jack is totally with the artists... as long as they're unionized. I say that because a few years ago the Blue Man Group attempted to set up shop in Toronto. There's a union for theatre actors in Canada, the Canadian Actors Equity Association (or "Equity" for short), but because Blue Man is more performance art than acting, it never occurred to the producers of the show that they'd need permission from Equity to run their show here. Unions representing theatre actors in other parts of the world had never had a problem with Blue Man's presence, so their oversight (if one can even call it that) was understandable. However, once Equity caught wind of Blue Man's plans (and realized they weren't going to be collecting union dues from the show, I'll bet), they immediately set about painting the Blue Man producers as evil infiltrators who were going to unfairly take advantage of their performers, and it would spell the end of decent working conditions for theatre actors across Canada. Equity managed to organize a boycott of the show by convincing the Ontario Teachers Federation not to take class trips to see the show (class trips being a big and necessary source of income for Blue Man shows), and they even organized a protest in front of the theatre where Blue Man was planning to stage their shows. They handed out placards to all their members who showed up to march around in circles, shouting cliched slogans about how unfair Blue Man Group was.
And who was right in the middle of the protest, carrying signs and shouting along with the rest? Why, only those great defenders of the arts, Jack Layton and Olivia Chow. Anyway, the protests worked, and the entire cast and crew (many of whom had been NDP supporters up to that point, but have since changed their minds) soon found themselves under the banner of "Unemployed Artists" as the producers closed up a Blue Man show for the first time in the company's history. Thanks Jack!
By the way, what Equity failed to mention in all of the hoopla was that performers and crew at Blue Man were guaranteed well above the minimum income and benefits laid out by Equity's guide lines, including dental coverage, which I'm told isn't even mentioned in Equity's agreement. I'm also told that Equity members in good standing are entitled to a free pair of insoles every two years though. Pretty slick, eh? Anyway, when it finally became apparent to the producers that the Toronto show was going to fold, they did everything they could to re-locate their performers and crew to other Blue Man shows around the globe, even picking up the tab for some of the moving expenses incurred.
Note to Jack Layton: although you're very good at smelling a photo-op three provinces away, next time try hearing both sides of a story before picking up a placard and trying to look "radical" for the folks at Now Magazine, okay?
Then there's Stephane Dion, who has suggested that he too would reverse some of the recent cuts to the arts. Maybe he will, maybe he won't. I seem to remember the federal Liberals making a few cuts themselves when Chretien was in office, but once again, I've always supported myself, so I'm not sure, it wouldn't have affected me a great deal at the time. I spent a lot of the 1990's partying too much to pay attention anyway...
Next up is Gilles Duceppe. You know, I almost wish I could vote for the Bloc at times. Putting aside their goal to separate Quebec from the rest of Canada (which I would absolutely HATE to see happen, since I assume they'd take Montreal and Mitsou with them), they have fairly progressive ideas on issues like the arts.
Which leaves us with Elizabeth May. Since she at least acknowledges that arts and culture are responsible for roughly seven percent of Canada's gross domestic product, and acknowledges that Canada's arts and culture generate more than $80 billion annually (that's right, billion with a "b"), and realizes the arts sector employs upwards of 600,000 people, I suspect she "gets it". Also, since the Greens are a perpetual thorn in the NDP's side (hence Jack Layton wanting them excluded from the TV debates, even though the Greens met all the requirements for inclusion), I have a soft spot for their ability to stir things up a bit.
For those of you still reading at this point, thank you for indulging me. And make sure you vote, because there's no such thing as a completely wasted "X" on a ballot (although it might feel that way sometimes...).