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Layton, Harper, and the Arts

This Magazine Staff

So far, the Conservative Party has made a real push for votes in Quebec. Harper recently asked Quebecers to ignore the Bloc Quebecois, saying the party would do nothing but come “empty-handed”. And the Conservatives were doing quite well in the polls — beating the traditional favourites, the Bloc, infused with the sense that this was a sign of even more good to come. But all things are liable to change. Harper’s proposal for a $45-million cut in arts funding has not been well-received (read: hated) by the average Quebecer. Who could have guessed it?
Well, perhaps the NDP’s Jack Layton. Glimpsing the Zeitgeist, he swooped into Quebec with plans to reverse the Conservatives’ proposed cuts. Fleshing out the details, he said he would expand to the rest of the country the common Quebec practice of income-averaging for artitsts; and he would provide tax exemptions to those earning income from copyright and residuals; among other, artistically-conscious, things. He also played the guitar and sang for the press.
I must say I enjoy this kind of instant-democracy. One party proposes a plan that does little more than anger people, and another comes along to provide its opposite. It might have been better to get it right from the beginning; or to not have to rely on public outrage to find out what the people want, but this is the way it goes – for better or worse. Our political system is a lot like what a scientist might call a kludge: a clumsy and inelegant, yet surprisingly efficient, solution to a problem.

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