You may not have realized this, but Canada is now “bleeding” some three quarters of a billion dollars in cultural spending on an annual basis, to the detriment of Canadian film, television, music, and writing. It’s a veritable “crisis,” and we need a “collective sense of urgency” or else our cultural industries will be “decimated.”
Don’t take my word for it; let Globe and Mail arts columnist Kate Taylor set you straight. As she wrote in early February, “a successful society does not import every single cultural good that it consumes” and helpfully, “a creative society is one that creates things.” The previous federal government, according to her, was “in no mood to hear this,” and as for the new one, she’s unsure “whether it grasps the extent of the problem.”
Will There Be Blood?
The hundreds of millions of dollars Taylor is bemoaning are the dollars Netflix, YouTube, iTunes and others are “taking” out of the country. Those bastards. How dare they take our money in exchange for goods and services we want? The carnage is almost too much to bear.
I saw another example of this kind of tragic cross-border market exchange this past weekend, but it went the other way. After enjoying a lovely dinner in a swanky downtown Montreal restaurant, my Valentine and I noticed that some people were out on the sidewalk setting up large lights on tripods, pointed in at us. Sure enough, we were soon shifted to another part of the restaurant to let the film crew set up, and offered a free after-dinner drink for our trouble.
Turns out, it was some American studio that had, get this, crossed our border to come and shoot Bad Santa 2 in our city, “bleeding” millions of American dollars out of the United States! And I hear this kind of thing happens all the time. Why do they come up here, I wonder, to shoot their films in Montreal, Toronto, and Vancouver? Don’t they feel a collective sense of urgency? They’re going to be decimated!
Poor, Poor, Pitiful Me
Of course, in spite of the fact that we continue to trick Americans into making a lot of American movies up here, there is the more serious problem that any day now, if I understand Taylor correctly, we are going to be a society that imports every single cultural good that it consumes. This is because the previous government, I guess, reduced all arts funding to zero, shuttered the CBC, rounded up the directors of symphony orchestras from around the country and had them sent to a work camp in Nunavut, and all other manner of evil.
Clearly, artists cannot survive without government support. If we want at least some Canadians telling Canadian stories, you and I cannot be trusted to decide for ourselves which of them we’d like to hear, and voluntarily support those artists we deem worth supporting, either through the direct marketplace purchase of their art, or through a kind of charitable patronage. It’s unthinkable. It is furthermore the sheerest madness to suggest that self-respecting artists should be insulted to be told that if not for the government teat, they couldn’t cut it. Government teats for all!
And shut up, shut up, shut up if you’re the kind of “libertarian troll” who dares suggest that maybe, just possibly, not every single Canadian artist who puts pen to paper or eye to camera lens is worthy of support. They’re good because they’re Canadian, get it? You may not be in the mood to hear this, but we need to create things. And whether you like them or not, you need to pay for them.
* Bradley Doucet is a writer living in Montreal. He has studied philosophy and economics, and is currently completing a novel on the pursuit of happiness. He also is QL's English Editor.