Don't blame us for Tory arts cuts says Toronto band

The bass player with Toronto indie group Holy F--- says it's not right that his band has been held up by the Conservative government as an example of misplaced arts funding.

The bass player with Toronto indie group Holy F--- says it's not right that his band has been held up by the Conservative government as an example of misplaced arts funding.

The Tories cut the PromArt funding stream, which subsidizes international promotional tours of Canadian artists, with one spokesman saying the groups getting the money were not ones the government believes should be representing Canada.

The prime minister's press secretary, Kory Ten-nike, said "the [funding] choices made were inappropriate … because they were ideological in some cases, or the money was going to fringe arts groups that, in many cases, would be at best, unrepresentative, and at worst, offensive."

Among the examples cited by Anne Howland, a spokesperson for Foreign Affairs Minister David Emerson — the Toronto indie band Holy F---, which got money in 2007 to help with a tour of the U.K.

Bass player Matt McQuaid said it's "silly" for the Tories to lay the blame on the band.

"I guess more than anything it's a little bit annoying that we've been made the scapegoat when you consider how much money we receive relative to the budget for the entire program," McQuaid said.

The program costs about $4.7 million a year and supports hundreds of different arts groups, from ballet and theatre companies performing overseas to author readings out of country.

"I think our funding comes in at something less than 0.1 per cent of the whole program," McQuaid told the Q cultural affairs show on Tuesday.

"So all of these other larger groups who need money more than we do to travel abroad — like ballet and symphonies — we become the scapegoat for the cutting in their funding."

Nontheless, Holy F--- is on a tour of Germany right now, paying their own way as they have been able to all year — because their growing popularity and an album deal with a record label in the U.K.

McQuaid says he realizes the band's name makes it an easy target, but still shouldn't be held up as an example of a way Canadians would not want their money spent.

He can't understand the arguments being made by supporters of the cuts that arts groups who need support are not "mainstream" enough. The band was shortlisted this year for the $20,000 Polaris prize.

"We've been nominated for a Juno award — that's as mainstream as you get for popular music in Canada," he said, pointing out that the band's videos appear on MTV and MuchMusic. "That argument falls flat in our case and from what I've read … for a lot of other people as well."

But he says other musicians and ballet troupes and authors and filmmakers sometimes need help to start out.

"All the funding programs, including FACTOR and the Canada Council and they just help to bolster Canadian artists as they're achieving their goals — whether it be music or whatever they do. A lot of times people are doing things that are valuable and meaningful but not necessarily commercially viable."

The PromArt program will wind down by March 31, 2009. A second program, the $9-million Trade Routes program, which helps promote cultural exports abroad, also is to be cut.