Arts-cutting Conservatives can’t do the math.
Of all the financially imprudent decisions made by the Conservatives - the reckless GST cuts, the costly occupation of Afghanistan, the scatterbrained funding of Arctic sovereignty, to name a few - perhaps the most disastrous was the cancellation of the one of the more lucrative government investments, in the arts.
In Ontario, artists's movements have made valiant efforts to bring the issue to the forefront of the current election, but so far have achieved little.
In Quebec, however, a searing government critique called Culture En Péril (Culture In Danger) emerged this week with remarkable reach.
The YouTube video was uploaded last Thursday, September 18, and became an instant hit: cultureenperil, its channel, became the most subscribed in the country this week, and in the top 20 worldwide.
Entirely in French, the video features Quebecois singer/?songwriter Michel Rivard, an established artist in the province who in 1980 ran against Pierre Trudeau as a candidate for the absurdist Rhinoceros party.
Here, Rivard plays a small-?scale music festival curator appealing to a panel of bow-?tied, elderly, unilingual Conservatives for government funding. Part of his pitch includes singing a Quebecois folk song about a seal. Only the reactionaries on the panel mistake the French word for seal, "phoque," for the English word for everything, "fuck," and reject Rivard's application.
In what is certainly a veiled allusion to fascism, lurking in the background are darkened portraits of Conservative minister Josée Verner and Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
The video's sting comes not from its rudimentary humour, but from its plausibility. Conservatives have already shown an affection for arbitrary decision-?making when they used musicians Holy Fuck and Tal Bachman (of all people!) to justify cutting back on culture in the first place.
At the sketch's finale, though, is a most critical message about the arts: "Chaque dollar investi dans l'industrie culturelle rapporte 11 fois plus en bénéfices directs ou indirects." In English, the rough translation is that each dollar invested in culture returns 11 times that amount in direct or indirect benefits. In more plain-?spoken English, it adds to the economy, stupid.