Friday, August 08, 2008

Ottawa axes arts travel program

Ottawa axes arts travel program
Tories say funds going to programs that would 'raise the eyebrows of any typical Canadian'
David Akin, Canwest News Service
Published: Thursday, August 07, 2008

OTTAWA -- The federal government will cancel a program on Friday that sent artists abroad to promote Canadian culture because the program's grant recipients included "a general radical," "a left-wing and anti-globalization think-tank" and a rock band that uses an expletive as part of its name.

The Conservatives are cancelling the $4.7-million PromArt program administered by the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade because most of the money "went to groups that would raise the eyebrows of any typical Canadian," said a government official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The move is sure to provoke a backlash in the cultural community, already angry at the federal Conservatives for tinkering with the funding criteria for other arts programs, most famously for pending legislation that would prohibit federal funding of films and television shows the government might find offensive.

The cut is part of a government-wide review to trim spending, but the PromArt program became an easy target when senior Tories discovered that some recipients of taxpayer-funded foreign travel were "not exactly the foot that most Canadians would want to see put forward."
The recipients singled out by the Conservatives include:
- $3,000 to Toronto-based experimental rock band Holy F--- for a week-long tour of the United Kingdom.
- $5,000 to former CBC broadcaster Avi Lewis, who now works for al Jazeera and who is described in a Conservative memo as "a general radical," to help pay for his travel to film festivals in Australia and Argentina;
- $16,500 to send Tal Bachman, a best-selling recording artist and the son of The Guess Who's Randy Bachman, to South Africa and Zimbabwe for music festivals.

"I think there's a reasonable expectation by taxpayers that they won't fund the world travel of wealthy rock stars, ideological activists or fringe and alternative groups," the source said.

Mr. Bachman, Mr. Lewis and representatives of Holy F--- could not immediately be reached.

But the program also funded travel to promote what many Canadians might consider "mainstream" Canadian art. For example, the Canadian Museum of Civilization received $50,000 to help defray the costs of taking an exhibition of Inuit Art to Brazil; the Royal Winnipeg Ballet received assistance of $40,000 for a U.S. tour; and former Supreme Court Justice Michel Bastarache received a $3,000 grant so he could travel to Cuba to give a lecture about the Canadian Charter of Rights.
The Foreign Affairs Web site said the grant program "provides funding to Canadian artists and arts organizations for the promotion of Canadian culture abroad, in alignment with Canada's foreign policy and trade priorities."

More than 300 grants were awarded in 2006-07.


Other artists and groups to receive federal funding for foreign travel assistance in 2006-07 were:

- Comedian Andy Jones, who received $11,000 for an Australian tour; the Atlantic Ballet Theatre of Canada, which received $18,000 to go to South Carolina; and The Gryphon Trio, which received $13,200 to travel and play in the United Kingdom.

Read the rest of this article here.