"Would your party support the Canadian Arts Coation's request for more stable, long-term investment for the arts, in particular the Canada Council?" Canadian Arts Coalition asked artists to connect with their Mps, this month and ask this question.
With that idea in mind, I attended an All Candidates Meeting for the London-North-Centre By-Election on November 27, 2006, at Huron University College, University of Western Ontario
Four candidates were invited and attended:
Dianne Haskett (Conservative Party of Canada)
Elizabeth May (Green Party of Canada)
Glen Pearson (Liberal Party of Canada)
Megan Walker (New Democratic Party)
After identifying myself as a member of several arts organizations and a representative of the Canadian Arts Coalition, I asked an abridged version of the CAC question to the panel. I noted that the question was being asked to MPs nation-wide this week, and that London North Centre was indeed central to the arts in London.
The first person asked to respond to the CAC question was Dianne Haskett, who referred to her record as former Mayor of London, and her personal appreciation of the arts. She gave a recital of the large projects in public spaces and summer festivals that she supported and claimed responsibility for. She said nothing about grants or other support for individual artists or artist organizations. She did not give a convincing testimonial of support for the CAC agenda.
Next was Megan Walker, who clearly stated that the NDP platform was in accord with adequate and stable funding for the arts, in particular the Canada Council. She indicated an awareness of the plight of arts workers during the years of federal Liberal, provincial Conservative and now federal Conservative rule. She stated that the NDP was the only party prepared to secure public funding for the arts.
Then Glen Pearson noted in broad terms his support for the arts, singling out the immigrant communities and their contributions to the arts, potential and real, and his eagerness to support them particularly so that we would have, for example, Chinese opera as well as Rigoletto.
Finally Elizabeth May, responding in very supportive but general terms, gave one example of a proposal: she suggested going beyond support for the Canada Council to recognize eminent artists in a program similar to the Japanese National Treasures.
While none of the candidates admitted to any antipathy to the arts comunity, it was Megan Walker who directly communicated her party's commitment to a funding profile similar to that proposed by the CAC. The other candidates replied anecdotally. None of the candidates chose to say anything about the arts of arts grants during their allotted time, nor were any of the set questions (coming from students) about the arts. I spoke as one of four members of the community given time for a question.
For more info, see canadianartscoalition.ca.