On Monday, September 28 at Showplace Theatre, EC3 and Artspace co-hosted an All Candidates’ Debate on Arts, Culture, and Heritage (ACH). The candidates are Toban Leckie (Strength in Democracy), Doug Mason (Green), Dave Nickle (NDP), Michael Skinner (Conservative), and Maryam Monsef (Liberal). The well-attended event was introduced by Su Ditta of EC3 and moderated by Jack Roe (CBC Radio Morning, 680 Radio News, and Peterborough Theatre Guild).

Jack posed five questions to the MP candidates and each candidate had three minutes to respond. Prior to the questions, candidates had three minutes to “position” themselves. The exact wordings of the questions are rather unimportant; questions were fundamental and basic, and phrased such that candidates could express both their own and their party’s views on the Arts, Culture, and Heritage sector. There was a short session of audience Q&A to conclude the two+ hour event.

Aside from the Conservative candidate, the others often chose to position themselves against the Harper government and were vocal about specific, and not-so-specific, aspects of Harper’s tenure as PM. Their sometimes facile criticisms are omitted here.

Arts Generally

The candidates were asked, in broad strokes, what their views were on the ACH sector, what they would bring to Ottawa, and how they would improve the ACH sector’s international promotion. The main thrust of Strength in Democracy (SiD)’s platform is policy tailored to the riding. Good ACH policy means a stronger economy. SiD is also committed to a basic income guarantee for artists and average income taxation. Further, Toban put forward the idea of artists gaining charitable status. He believes in strong federal funding for artists and an increase in domestic and international promotion for artists. On the international scale, Toban is a firm supporter of Canadian arts content and is skeptical of the argument that if Canadian arts are “good,” they will be consumed and purchased. The U.S.A. is an arts “behemoth” and Canadian arts policy should take this into consideration.

Mason cited his party’s pamphlet, Vision Green, on a couple of occasions. The Green party strives to support a society where the pressures of making a living do not crowd out the pleasures of life. This pertains to his views on the ACH sector. Mason’s ideas are many: better granting programs, funding incentives to tour rural regions, increased support from community arts programs across Canada and guaranteed stable funding, equalizing funding among provinces, territories, and municipalities, and incentives to schools and extracurricular programs for arts-related programming. Mason discussed a guaranteed livable income for artists, but disagreed with Leckie about artists gaining charitable status. Lastly, an increase in international arts promotion is solely needed.

The NDP ACH sector platform is extensive. Mason encouraged the audience to view the entirety of the platform online. Notably, the NDP will contribute to provincial and municipal ACH funding, particularly infrastructure projects. NDP has also put forward a lower small business tax, a call for more F/T jobs, and a minimum wage increase to $15 per hour.

Skinner has personally invested heavily in Peterborough ACH, including the purchase of the Red Dog and renovation of The Venue. The Conservative party has also invested heavily in the Peterborough ACH sector. For the Conservatives, the economy is the number one priority. ACH plays a vital role in the Canadian economy and his party believes in a low tax structure. Skinner will work toward infrastructure investments on the Trent-Severn Waterways, something each candidate similarly expressed, and will see that some of the $30-million budget for Arts events announced by the Conservatives will find its way to Peterborough. The Conservatives have additionally implemented a number of trade agreements and funded workshops on developing arts and artists internationally.

Monsef’s strategy as an MP is to be a facilitator and advocate. She will meet with leaders of Arts communities to develop and plan, and then advocate on their behalf. Monsef supports Trudeau’s plan for investing in the ACH sector, which includes bumping Telefilm and the NFB to $25 million in funding. Monsef also believes more can be done for the international promotion of the arts. She advocates Promart and Trade Route Programs.

Canadian Council for the Arts

Candidates were asked about the Canada Council for the Arts (CCA) and every candidate was in favour of increased funding. SiD supports the CCA but an increase in funding is not enough for ACH sector. Leckie is concerned about the competitive nature of CCA grants; his platform of tailored policy works with smaller communities and emerging artists.

Mason seeks to increase CCA funding because the Arts support democracy. Nickle also supports the CCA but the NDP platform on CCA had not yet been released. The NDP does believe CCA funding is insufficient at the moment. The extra funding to CCA will fill in much needed international promotion.

The Conservatives will continue to support the CCA. Since 2005, they increased CCA funding from $120 million to $180 million. For Monsef, the Liberals will continue an “arms-length” relationship between the government and the CCA, and the Liberals plan to double CCA funding to $360 million.

CBC

Nickle first quipped that his, Mason’s, and Leckie’s are the only parties that have not made cuts to the CBC. The NDP is committed to reverse cuts to the CBC and provide stable funding, retain the CBC’s editorial independence, and restructure their process of board member selection. Leckie followed up with the view that the CBC should have stable funding regardless of the party in charge. He challenged candidates to vote against more CBC cuts, regardless of party line. Mason also supports the CBC and he is particularly keen on restructuring their board members selection.

The Liberal platform includes $150 million to the corporation, consultations on a new strategic plan, and restructuring its board. Controversially, Skinner has attended all local meetings in regards to the CBC. He stands behind the cuts but as an MP, declared that if the riding wants him to fight for CBC, he will do so.

For further details on the candidates and party platforms, please search the Web for the candidates and party name.

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I’m a recent graduate of the Cultural Studies PhD program. My research includes contemporary film, film theory, and the history of moving-image pornography. In addition to writing for Arthur, this semester I’m teaching in the Cultural Studies department (Intro to Integrated Arts) and Continuing Education (Writing Short Film Scripts). I also work at the Trend (come say hi!), among other small jobs as they come up.