Not This Way
Aphorism of the Day: After thirty years of middle-class stagnation, the forces of fiscal conservatism have proven that if you strangle people slowly enough they’ll think you’re giving them a hug.
So… Canada has elected what is likely the most fiscally conservative government it has seen in a century. A University of Calgary educated economist now enjoys the peculiar blend of absolute power and constitutional constraint that is the result of parliamentary democracy. Someone who believes that market value is ethical value (with the exception of corporate and agricultural welfare, of course) is now running the Canadian show.
The silver lining is that the NDP, a party that genuinely believes that markets are a means as opposed to an end, are now the official opposition. Given the resources the Conservatives poured into maligning the Liberals, they were able to slip through the negative advertising cracks and make gains across Canada. Even better, they have brought Quebec back into the national political fold.
Another consolation is that after years leading a Minority government, Stephen Harper seems to have developed a taste for power. He knows that he’s far further right than most of the swing voters who brought him to power, so he’ll be certain to move slowly… slowly enough to fool people into thinking he isn’t moving at all, at least when it comes to pervasive social issues. He’ll only fiddle with the Canada Health Act. He’ll be content to let the CBC wither on the vine, lest he be labelled the Man-who-killed-Hockey-Night-in-Canada. Everything he hates that the bulk of Canadians support, he’ll let wither on the vine.
But what about arts funding?
My guess is that this is one issue he’ll move quite quickly on, so that the furor, which will be as thin as it is loud, will be little more than a sour memory when he faces the electorate in four years time. Given all the time I’ve spent grousing about living in a country with an Official Literature, you might think I would be happy to see this happen. But I am, in fact, a staunch believer in government support for the arts, so long as checks and balances exist to prevent the kind ‘institution creep’ that bedevils so many public enterprises.
Even still, I can’t help but feel as though the arts community has brought this ‘Harpergeddon’ on itself: why should the Conservatives fund a special interest that is not only overtly antagonistic to them, but communicates in no way whatsoever to their political base? This is what happens when you spend too long speaking only to the likeminded: you cease to be relevant to anyone else.
Maybe, when Canadians finally wake up to the fact that economic growth at the expense of middle-class stagnation is not social progress, but rather a power-concentrating trend that has unravelled many a society over the ages, we’ll be able to start over, introduce an arts funding model that serves all Canadians, rather than the cookie-cutter few. Maybe, maybe not. I just hate that it had to happen this way.