Thursday, September 25, 2008

There's no BUSINESS like show business, STEVE

Steve Harper's contempt for the arts is so great that he somehow needs a huge reminder that a large group of Canadians are directly employed by the business or keep their employment through direct spin-off benefits. By the estimate of the actors and singers themselves, 1.3 million Canadians earn their bread thanks to the entertainment business. That works out to 7.2% of our GDP.

If Steve needs proof that this is not a minor complaint, he only has to look at one obvious example: the Stratford Festival. The première showcase for drama in Canada is much more than the acting company we see on stage in repertory. 800 people work behind the scenes, from costume and set design to security and working the call centre that sells tickets and books accomodations for guests. The spin-offs for other jobs in Stratford and Perth County, from dentists and physicians to boutiques, auto sales and everyday sundry items cannot be measured except to say it's in the tens if not hundreds of millions.

And here's a newsflash for Steve: People pay income taxes on those jobs! Much more than if they were on EI (taxed) or on welfare (not but affecting entitlement to entitlements).

The subsidy the Festival gets from the federal and provincial governments is very small compared to its overall budget -- about 4%. The payback in income and sales taxes is many-fold. It's that subsidy that in part prices tickets at a level that makes it available to a greater part of the population and not just the "elite" to which Harper, ironically, is actually a part of.

Now, imagine all the community theatres across Canada. The nightclubs. The public and private art galleries and photo studios. And the benefits they create. And of course, radio and television. The spinoff effect for Ontario alone is $20 billion. It's even higher in Québec which actually has a real film industry and a festival of some kind of other going on in Montréal and other cities every week. Every province, every territory, gets a tax windfall from providing seed money to the arts. Get rid of them, then there's no need for CanCon rules -- we may as well be Hollywood North for real.

No ... I don't think it's the arts that's his problem. It's that the direct employment is mostly union labour and he has nothing but contempt for organized labour. One of his most ardent supporters, Mario Dumont of the ADQ, wants to get rid of the Rand Formula that guarantees union security and equal treatment of employees who want in the union and those who want out.

You want to throw away over a million jobs when we're in the start of a recession? Then you don't deserve to be PM, Steve. Because entertainment is a business, and there's no business like show business.

$45 million that has been cut out by Steve works out to about a buck thirty for each and every Canadian -- about double what it takes to run the Governor General's office. The total arts subsidy, including the CBC and the Canada Council, is about $25 to $30 per capita. That's a subsidy I and many others are more than happy to pay to send our message to the world. It's certainly way less than the mandatory license fee that nearly every household in the EU has to pay -- in the UK it's £139.50, and in the Eurozone it can be as high as €300 depending on the country you're in.

Gee, Steve, what's next? Closing rural post offices which for many people in forests, farmland and the outports is the only place to meet people on a regular basis -- as well as be connected to the outside world?

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