Film tax deal a farce

No Party Affiliation
Ottawa should end financial handouts for repugnant work


A decade ago I spent an afternoon with Judy Sgro, now a Liberal MP. She was then city councillor and she and a member of her staff asked me to accompany them on a tour of various publicly funded art galleries in Toronto. It was, shall we say, an enlightening experience.
The four galleries we visited received hundreds of thousands of dollars in direct grants from various levels of government and through generous tax breaks. Was this, Judy wondered, an appropriate use of public money?
The first thing we noticed -- at no time was there anybody in any of these galleries apart from the curator and ourselves. Actually, the first thing we noticed was an enormous photograph of a man being crucified on a Volkswagen. Hard not to notice such a thing really.
The "art" was part of a larger display involving sadomasochism, with pictures of men and women being tied, bound, strangled and beaten for sexual stimulation. And not even on good old Canadian-made cars but on a German import!
The same gallery featured a six-foot high photograph of a naked woman pulling a long piece of paper between her legs. She was menstruating at the time. We knew this because the caption by the picture told us so and because that same paper, soaked in dried blood, was proudly placed alongside the exhibit.
The other galleries were of a similar quality. One was particularly disturbing in that its main exhibit was of children's drawings of men's penises. Certainly appalling and probably illegal. Sgro was rightly shocked.
I assume then that she and the rest of the Liberal caucus will be supporting the government's new amendments to the legislation that gives tax credits to Canadian movies. Because some of the films that enjoy these financial handouts are just as wretched, repugnant and, frankly, banal as the trash at the galleries.
The Conservatives have announced that they will be, "expanding slightly the criteria for denying tax credits to Canadian films that include gratuitous violence, significant sexual content and that lack an educational purpose, or involve the denigration of an identifiable group."
Hardly draconian stuff. Merely arguing that if people want to produce pornographic garbage, they should do it on their own dollar. Nor is this censorship -- nothing is being banned -- but an intelligent use of tax dollars.
The screams of protest, however, can be heard from cocktail parties coast to fashionable coast. "How dare a tiny minority of people dictate what we can see and how dare the government control art."
Quite so. The government should not be involved at all. If you want to make it, write it, record it, fine. Do it. Yourself. As for the tiny minority, it is indeed time that the usual types with their radical sexual agenda and hatred for what they see as orthodoxy lost their special privileges.
Canada may, just may, be able to survive without your money subsidizing yet more movies about gay angst on the Prairies, dads abusing their Marxist feminist daughters, the evils of religion and how Americans are lizards from Mars waiting to eat our health care system.
If Sgro and her Liberal MP friends want a reminder of what we are funding they only have to ask me. I can't send the pictures by e-mail though -- I'd probably be arrested.
Yeah, I knew it wouldn't take long before an example of the most extreme would be used to chastise the general whole of such diverse art in Canada.

Don't for a second mix up shock art and the Conservative Government's intent to determine what the moral stance should be on the film industry or the arts community.

I personally have a lot of experience in this area. About 15 or so years ago I once was featured on the second page of of the city newspaper where I use to live in which I heavily criticized the grant system for the arts community. That those who administer the grants were also at times on the receiving end of the grants or that they were very much socializing with the recipients and as such a huge conflict of interest was taking place.

I'm sure I lost a lot of friends or made a lot of enemies at that time so don't think for a second that I don't care about how money gets spent.

What is required with the arts is that such funding needs to become administered by those who are heavily qualified in the area of art histories and knowledgeable in being able to acutely critique the merits behind work. Do not mistake message for being equal to the merits behind artistic communication.

The last thing you want however is to leave the criteria of art in the hands of the government. Hitler eliminated support for a whole spectrum of art that didn't fit his attitude which favoured more conventional, realist, standard type stuff. That meant Modern Art was considered essentially anti-German. Same thing with the Solviets. A great way to crush a voice which challenges the molding by which the party in power wishes to create for the society. Just another step in the direction of fascism.

If you were a young Picasso type artist in Germany at the time you could get persecuted. Basically so much of that great art in the New York Guggenheim Museum would have been outlawed. Art which has changed our notions of how we see the world and how we have pushed our understanding to a greater visual context and experimentation.

You can't honestly expect Harper and his people to be able to rate artistic innovation and artistic morality for the Canadian citizen. We have laws for what admissible in our society. What already is acceptable in a legal context. A government that decides it should hold the authority when it comes to the arts is basically creating a climate that is the anti-thesis to what actually makes art flourish.


“The proposed new initiative, if not properly crafted, could potentially violate the Charter [of Rights and Freedoms] and lead to possible legal challenges against the Minister of Canadian Heritage,” Mr. Zitzerman said Wednesday. “Such a provision could potentially lead to the government acting as ‘morality police.' The existing definitions of pornography and obscenity in the Criminal Code should be sufficient for the government's purposes.

“Would this committee put money into Juno? It might not want to encourage teen pregnancy. Would the government put money into a film with a dirty title, like Young People ****ing? Would they invest in something like Brokeback Mountain? They might not want to encourage gay cowboys to have sex together in Alberta.”

Take for instance a movie such as 'Natural Born Killers' by Oliver Stone. The subject matter is extreme but it is a huge statement on the culture of American Society. One that has bred the highest number of cases in modern history regarding serial killers. It's won and been nominated for numerous awards. The movie deals with subjects of incest, rape, extreme violence, mass killings, abduction, etc. Really, do you honestly think Harper would give a pass to such a movie? That such a movie would fit his criteria?

Basically, you either fund the arts or you don't fund it at all. It's not right for a government to determine artistic integrity. That is not in their league to determine for the general public unless art histories becomes a requirement for politics.
Last edited by elevennevele; Mar 10th, 2008 at 12:12 AM..
What next? Music?

Just look at the struggles music has gone through. At one time Elvis was considered degenerate. That his music and his dancing on stage was bringing down the moral fiber of the nation.
Free Thinker
Although I understand how some of those examples can be seen as fokked up and no point to them, as an artist myself, and as a limited defence for these other artists, this Mr. Coren has expressed the exact reaction these artists expected to come from their art.

What this person may find offensive, another will not.

Myself viewing these forms of art, I might considder the same thing as this Mr. Coren. But others will differ. Considdering all the other arts that are displayed, I am sure he found a few that he and others like him liked.... while others may not like them..... to each their own.

If certain ones do not get funding, then none of them should.
Porn always makes a good profit,so why would it need any govt. funding? As for the rest of the Arts Community,if it doesn't sell and has no redeeming social values, by all means, stop funding them.
There is, of course, a simple, constitutional, reasonable and responsible solution to the entire mess:


All of it.

Why is the gov't in the business of giving away my cash to artists that can't produce good enough stuff to sell and support themselves?
No Party Affiliation
Quote: Originally Posted by Praxius View Post

If certain ones do not get funding, then none of them should.

Mr. Coren dosen't want any funding for the arts from government.
Free Thinker
Quote: Originally Posted by Avro View Post

Mr. Coren dosen't want any funding for the arts from government.

Well I guess it depends on what people feel is more important. I have my tax dollars thrown into all kinds of things I think are usless, yet it doesn't seem I have a say in the matter, so why should anybody else?
No Party Affiliation
The new censorship - comment - The new censorship
March 02, 2008
Canadians can only hope Heritage Minister Josée Verner has impeccable and wide-ranging tastes after the Conservative government moved recently to broaden its discretion over which films and television shows qualify for a federal tax credit.
The change, buried in a 500-page bill to amend the Income Tax Act that was approved last fall by the House of Commons and is now before the Senate, would allow the government to deny tax breaks to productions it deems to be "contrary to public policy."
Existing guidelines already deny public funding to pornographic films. That list will reportedly now be expanded to include productions that feature "excessive" violence or sex or promote hate.
This broadening of the government's power to deny tax credits to films and TV shows it deems offensive is troubling. What some people find offensive, others consider art. Barring a criminal act, it is not for the state to draw that line, especially where a supposedly neutral tax credit is concerned.
Any attempt to do so has the potential to stifle creativity and artistic innovation. That possibility is particularly acute in Canada, where the economics of our small market mean few productions can be made without government support.
Would a comedy about teen pregnancy, like the critically acclaimed Juno, pass muster under the new guidelines? What about a violence-wracked film like No Country For Old Men, which won this year's Academy Award for best picture?
Prodded by evangelical lobbying, the government is giving itself the power to make artistic judgments. It's a slippery slope to censorship.
No Party Affiliation
Quote: Originally Posted by Praxius View Post

Well I guess it depends on what people feel is more important. I have my tax dollars thrown into all kinds of things I think are usless, yet it doesn't seem I have a say in the matter, so why should anybody else?

You have a say just like those who support this sort of thing or those who want no funding like Mr. Coren. If you were really that upset about your money going to lets say the military you would find the means to make your voice heard just like anybody else does.
Free Thinker
Quote: Originally Posted by Avro View Post

You have a say just like those who support this sort of thing or those who want no funding like Mr. Coren. If you were really that upset about your money going to lets say the military you would find the means to make your voice heard just like anybody else does.

True... but seriously, when has change ever occured in this matter from one or two people opposing something? If, hypothetically I opposed our military and didn't want my taxes going into it, is there some actual process in the government that will sum it up as "Ok, you don't like it, then you are now exempt from paying taxes towards the military?" ~ Last I checked, there wasn't and unless the majority don't want to, then I have to suck it up and continue paying. And even if the majority didn't want to, the government wouldn't let us not pay taxes into it, cite it as a national security concern and we would still have no choice but to put money into it.... even if we bitched and moaned, they would play the "You elected us in for your best interests, we make the decisions, it's done" card.

I personally feel that the arts are a very important part of humanity, our culture/society, and without the arts, I couldn't imagine what the world would be like. Probably like some Bill Gates Borg Planet. And yes, eventually you will come across some art in which you will wonder "WTF were they smoking and who the hell paid them for this crap!?" ~ I see plenty everyday, in both bands/musicians, commercials, movies, and crap paintings that are worse then Picasos crazy crap.

But hey! That's the lovely thing about art..... it's variety, and each piece gives you an emotional reaction, be that impressed, love, hate, disgust, offense, whatever.

You can not pick and choose what art is funded and supplied to society to view, and at the same time, you can not cripple our industry by not funding any of it.

To me, of course being an artist, Art is far more important then the military and war and is perhaps the only balance to counter military and war, as it's the final level of human expression set in time that can and will touch anything and everything we encounter through out lives.

Music in the 60's started a huge movement against the Vietnam war and also a cultural revolution... the Beatles, Hendrix, Andy Warhol, etc. The 60's were perhaps one of the biggest times for art and it's capabilities of affecting society. To just toss it aside as a waste of tax dollars because someone found a few pieces of art that disgust them seems a bit short sighted.

(Granted, yes, most of the art in the 60's was greatly influenced by drugs.... notice how most of those drugs are now controlled and made illegal? The Government almost lost control over the people..... something they should never have had to begin with)
I... I was being mostly sarcastic when I said "you either fund the arts or you don't fund it at all." That would be a cultural disaster for this country. Even Saddam Hussein supported art in his country.

I think a lot of people here, whether or not they misunderstand art, might also misunderstand how arts gets supported. The government isn't buying art directly unless for the walls of government buildings and even then that is typically done by an arts council. A bureaucrat however can pay out of their pocket for whatever he/she wants on their wall of their office if it's in good taste, I'm sure.

Funds for art is basically handed down to institutions who then as per their budget manage shows, etc. The artist who is given a show will probably get some form of payment for displaying their works but that is only fair. Commercial galleries are pretty much commission based.

In either situation, some here are thinking that artists are getting fat off government handouts. In reality, those going through publicly funding venues, and those going via commercial routes are typically equally starving as artist all the same.

Most artist work a job so they can pay to do art on the side. The government money is more or less to subsidize the institutions that allow artist to then have a place to bring their art to the public view. You kill funding, you kill art in the country in a very big way. Even the good stuff.

Things that people might consider offensive are a very small/tiny part of the big pie. People who get so incensed by the shock art probably haven't even spent any time at any of the galleries to see what usually goes on in there. They just hear about something in an article and suddenly hold an unfair bias against the whole.

Take for example that if we expected much the same from government then we can equally say, let's not have government because how many times do we have to hear about a politician abusing the public trust. In any thing in life, there is at times a weak link but you don't destroy punish whole for a few bad.

I'm not a big fan of ballet, I could not qualify techniques in ballet, but even I know it would be small minded for the government to not support such an avenue of artistic expression in this country. The various forms of self-expression only enrich our country.

I haven't seen the art in question that started this forum so I can not comment on it's value.

Lastly, the politicians are not qualified to determine merit behind art and much worse, morality behind art. Some time ago the government was heavily criticize for the National Gallery of Canada buying a Rothko painting for a few million. Basically many of you would see a large canvas with a red border and white in the middle. It caused a lot of controversy at the time and the purchase what heavily mocked by the general public. I don't have the energy right now to explain the merits behind a Rothko, but from what I understand that artwork has at least doubled in value if not more.

I highly doubt Harper would have understood the value of the purchase. Now it's a public treasure. Let's not forget, Harper on the other hand took down the paintings on the wall of the Government Lobby to just fill the space with big photos of himself.


Wall o' Harper
by DavidAkin on Mon 28 Jan 2008 03:53 PM EST | Permanent Link | Cosmos

Green Party Leader Elizabeth May discovered something while acting as a leader earlier this month for a model parliament for students: A wall of Stephen Harper photographs in the the “Government Lobby”, the lounge area reserved for government MPs that is behind the green curtains on their stide of the aisle in the House of Commons:

It did not strike me until I walked into the Government Lobby to await my turn as Speaker that I had not been in there since Stephen Harper became Prime Minister.

It used to have some paintings on the wall. Past prime ministers, certainly a formal portrait of the Queen. Landscapes. I know there was the occasional photo of current Prime Ministers, but when I walked in this time, I felt chilled to the bone. Every available wall space had a large colour photo of Stephen Harper. Stephen Harper at Alert. Stephen Harper in fire fighter gear. Stephen Harper at his desk. Stephen Harper meeting the Dalai Lama. Even the photo of the Queen showed her in the company of Stephen Harper. None were great photos. None were more than enlarged snapshots in colour. They didn’t feel like art.

The student with me said it was the same in Langevin Block, the Prime ministers Office. Photos of Stephen Harper everywhere.


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