Before I move on from politics...
This will be my last political-based post for a little while as I'm going to start to focus more on artistic process and theory now that I finally got my first grant since moving to Ontario in mid-2007. (Yay!)
But before I do, I thought I'd answer my own question about arts funding in Budget '09.
Did we get what we wanted?
Well, no... but I don't really think it has much to do with how much money was earmarked for culture, nor do I think it has much to do with how the money was distributed (although this is a side effect of what's really ailing us).
What I think we really wanted was a government that recognizes the value of arts and culture in Canada. We still don't have it and, as long as the Harper Conservatives retain power, I don't think we will.
With the 2009 Budget, the sudden appointment of 18 senators immediately preceding it, and the establishment of a firm end-date for the Afghanistan mission during last year's election, the Conservative government basically stopped being... conservative. Or, at least it abandoned the lion's share of policies that it used to stand for.
(Don't take my word for it though. Here's a pundit that knows more about it than I do. Here's another. And another.)
But I don't think this represents a seismic shift in where the party's long-term goals are. Rather, I think that it's a natural consequence of a government whose immediate focus is survival at all costs: compromise.
But that doesn't mean Mr. Harper, his party, or his base now values culture any more than it did when they used arts funding as a wedge issue in the 2008 Federal election. In fact, I've written earlier that the new arts funding in Budget '09 is less a policy than a temper tantrum.
What bugs me, and I think most artists, is that Mr. Harper painted us as leeches in order to win a few votes, and the budget does nothing to salvage our reputation. And we can see that he still thinks we're leeches because no new money is going to arm's length organizations (i.e. Canada Council) that fund us.
What we wanted, what we still want, is a little respect. We want recognition that we do provide an important service to our country, that we are a boon both in raw financial numbers as well as in quality of life.
We want a partnership with our government that is both respectful and responsible. (We don't want to waste taxpayer's dollars anymore than the taxpayers want us to.)
We recognize that not all of our art is going to be brilliant... in fact very little of it will be. In fact, a large portion of it will be shit. That's a fact of life. Art is like science: you must fail, fail, and fail again before you finally discover another secret of the universe.
I think each new secret is worth it. I just wish more people agreed with me.