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Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion with supporters in Alexandria, Ont., on Saturday. ((Frank Gunn/Canadian Press) )

A Liberal government would reverse the Conservative cuts to arts funding and boost support for cultural industries, Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion said Saturday in Montreal.

The Liberal arts and culture plan would be worth $533 million over four years, he said.

"The return on investment [in culture] is phenomenal," he said.

The Liberal plan  includes:

  • Doubling the budget of the Canada Council for the Arts to $360 million a year.
  • Increasing the film production tax credit to 30 per cent from 25 per cent.
  • Reversing the Conservatives' $45 million in cuts to the budgets of various arts groups.

Dion also said the Conservatives would attack the CBC, citing a question the party posed in a letter sent as part of the Conservatives' fundraising campaign. The letter was released by the Friends of Canadian Broadcasting, a lobby group.

The group said the letter asked: "The CBC costs taxpayers over $1.1 billion per year. Do you think this is a good use of taxpayers' dollars or a bad use of taxpayers' dollars?"

Dion said the fact the Conservatives posed such a question indicated they had "something in mind."

He said the CBC and its French arm, Radio-Canada, are important institutions in a market dominated by U.S. culture.

Vision vs. gimmicks

Earlier in the day, Dion said the election represents "a choice between gimmicks and a vision."

The Conservatives are offering gimmicks and the Liberals a coherent plan, he told voters in Alexandria, Ont., where he was campaigning in the riding of Glengarry-Prescott-Russell.

Dion used the vision comment to promote his Green Shift plan, intended to cut pollution by increasing taxes on energy consumption but reducing income taxes by the same amount to offset the increase.

The Conservatives have attacked the plan, but Dion insisted the concept is simple.

"Cut income taxes. Shift to pollution," he said.

Dion appeared to back away from the Green Shift Friday, when he told reporters the plan was never central to the party's election campaign.

The Conservatives jumped on the statement.

"Stéphane Dion distancing himself from the Green Shift is like Tim Hortons distancing itself from the doughnut," Conservative leader Stephen Harper said Friday.

Dion said the Tory leader was right. A Liberal government will bring in the Green Shift, and Tim Hortons will keep selling doughnuts, he said.

Most of his speech was devoted to the Green Shift. Dion emphasized the tax cuts under the plan, saying a family with an income of $50,000 and two children will pay $1,500 less tax in the fourth year of the plan.