Inside Politics

Moore shifts money from bureaucracy to the arts

Heritage Minister James Moore told the Canadian Heritage committee Thursday that the arts are good for the economy, while pointing out that Canada is the only G8 country that actually increased funding for arts and culture during the recession.

As an economic generator, arts and culture industries are worth $46 billion, and employ 4 per cent of Canadians.

Nevertheless, Moore said, the Heritage department has eliminated 400 jobs, and the savings from those salaries mean more money has gone directly to artists and less is spent on the bureaucracy in Ottawa.

In fact, he revealed, the government department hit hardest in the budget is his own: "We will have the biggest cut in my department, more than anyone else, in order to protect the integrity of the Canada Council for the Arts, national museums and festivals across the country."

Moore stressed the importance of commemorating landmark events in Canada's history, particularly the War of 1812, which he described as historically vital to the "French fact in Canada" and a precursor to Confederation. The event is so important, and so unknown to most Canadians, he said, that there will be "one-off" money (including some from Parks Canada) for a national 1812 monument, to be located on or near Parliament Hill.

"These are moments we can't miss as a country, because we are such a young country."

Moore also expressed approval for the CBC's plan for how it wants to change by 2015. He enumerated the three pillars of the CBC 2015 vision he particularly liked:

The first, he said, is the increasing transition to digital technology. Moore noted that the only way his four nieces, who are in French immersion in B.C., and his sister, who is a B.C. French teacher, can access French content for the classroom is through the CBC.

Secondly, he approves of CBC's intention to move to all-Canadian programming. He'd like to see the U.S. programs Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy off the CBC schedule.

Thirdly, Moore praised the CBC intention to stay, and even grow, in the regions, "rather than have a massive footprint in downtown Toronto, or Montreal, or even Vancouver."

Moore added that the CBC plan was one his government had been "pushing for and hoping that the CBC would implement for a long time. These are things that we wanted them to do."

He noted that the CBC has consistently asked for stable long term funding. Now, he said, "In the budget, they will have enough funding to deliver that (2015) plan."

But Moore wasn't as positive when he was asked whether the CBC would continue to receive a supplementary $60 million earmarked purely for programming that has been renewed annually for 10 years.

Moore indicated that the $60 million was akin to a drop in the bucket in the CBC's $1.1-billion allocation: "There's a mythology built up around the fund, as if it's untouchable and would have an impact on the CBC." The $60 million top-up, he said, "could be supported through base funding for the CBC."

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