Tuesday, November 01, 2005

James Fleck needs to learn better timing


First, I read this. What I assume is an op-ed piece by some guy named James Fleck about how the Canadian Arts Coalition wants funding to the Canada Council increased by $150 million dollars, or as he puts it "$5 for every man, woman, and child in the country."

Second, I read this. Same newspaper, probably in the front (ie news) section. If you do the math, it turns out that according to Statistics Canada $243.33 is spent for every man, woman and child in the country on the arts by all levels of government. Yes, that is slightly different than asking to more than double the Canada Council's budget, however, more than 50% of that $7.3 Billion was spent by the federal government (or for the math challenged $116.66 per person).

Third, I read this. Same press release as number one, just with a focus on Quebec. (Our figures differ, 'cuz I'm using an even 30 million as the population of Canada, and I would assume that Le Devoir is using exact figures.) Or in other words "take that the rest of Canada!" And everybody please take note, that the Statscan report is based on funding after the federal sponsorship program ended.

Given that most folk do not make a distinction between the Canada Council for the Arts, and the federal government spending money on the arts, I can't think of a worse time for Mr. Fleck to have had his piece published. However, it still doesn't mean that I agree with him - not even close.

Personally, if I were in Mr. Fleck's shoes, I'd go about changing the Canada Council Act. Instead of trying "to foster and promote the study and enjoyment of, and the production of works in, the arts." I'd narrow that vague statement down to something a little more precise and focused such as; "to help market and promote the heck out of Canadian art and Artists, locally, regionally, nationally, and most importantly internationally." Or since there are a whole whack of artists in Canada out there who depend on the Canada Council to put bread on their table, I wouldn't mind if they changed it to something like "to help artists make stuff." But that wouldn't be half as much fun...

In short, the Canada Council's mandate is too broad and unfocused to be of any use. $15,000 for a career award is bupkiss. 19% administration and service costs are too much. $72,950 per year to promote the arts (even if you have to live in Ottawa) is way too much.

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