Recent surprise cuts to federal arts and culture programs—including the Canada Magazine Fund—are prompting artists and cultural workers to band together to defeat the Harper government in the expected election. A new group cheekily calling itself the “Department of Culture” launched last night in Toronto with just such a goal, and is calling on writers, graphic designers, performers, artists and other sympathetic souls to help.
Packing a Queen Street West venue and waving cards to cool off in the extreme heat, approximately 300 creators, administrators and a few politicians listened to passionate speeches that kicked off “a campaign to vote you [Harper] out of office,” in the words of Susan Swan, author and former chair of The Writers’ Union of Canada.
Several speakers noted the enormous economic and nation-building benefits derived from arts and culture. But anger at the way the cuts were announced, with ideological overtones and no prior consultations, was also a dominant theme. Best-selling author and former This Magazine editor Naomi Klein attacked the Harper “vision” for Canada that doesn’t include culture and innovation, but is focused on “boiling the tar sands to create oil to further boil the Earth.”
Department of Culture organizers then outlined some of their plans for “swing teams” to target vulnerable Tory candidates in swing ridings, and called on writers and designers, among other creators, to contribute their talents.