Was Sun News' Margie Gillis hate-on a prelude for a Harper led Tea Party North?

Canadian dance icon Margie Gillis speaks out about how Sun News attacked and deceived her, calls for its demise. "I think the station should be taken off until they can prove that they represent Canadian values," she said. 

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Although Erickson attacked Margie Gillis on the grounds that she was receiving funds from the government, taxpayer dollars may not be not at the heart of the issue. 

Funding not the main issue

Gillis was put on the spot on grounds that her dance foundation received $1.2 million in public funding – over 13 years. But governments spend that amount on a regular basis, and is less than half the $2.4 million that Harper spent on buying lunch boxes last year. Considering the $5 million recently spent by the B.C. government on an unsuccessful and short-lived HST ad campaign, it's not a lot of money to be raising public anger about. As most arts organizations know well, public funding is scarce and needs to be carefully spent. “She really picked the wrong person (to target),” said Gillis. “I grew up very poor, and I'm very careful about money. If you think about $90,000 a year with three employees, that's $30,000 a year.” Gillis added that some of Erickson’s figures were inaccurate and poorly researched.

 

Government funding for the arts is in fact only a minuscule portion of its overall budget, Louis Laberge-Côté, a Toronto-based dancer and choreographer, said.  

“According to Canadian Heritage, the federal cultural funding totals “$1.51 billion for the fiscal years from 2010 to 2015, which amounts to an average of about $300 million a year,” he said. “The Canadian federal budget expenditure totaled $276 billion. Wanting to cut these amounts to help the economy is somewhat similar to wanting to cut the toenails of an obese man, just so he could lose some weight. Somewhat ridiculous, don’t you think?” 

What’s more, he argues, money invested into the arts is not simply being thrown into the void. According to Industry Canada, the economic footprint of Canada’s cultural sector was $84.6 billion in 2007, or 7.4 per cent of Canada’s GDP. The culture sector employment exceeded 1.1 million jobs that year.

And the arts are hardly the only sector to receive public funding: from professional sports to scientific research, every sector receives public funding.

“I don’t understand why artists are being publicly described as spoiled elitists when the government also supports the pharmaceutical industry, high-caliber sports or higher education,” argued Laberge-Côté.

“Everything is financed by the state. And everybody benefits from it. When an athlete competes on an international level, we’re all winners.”

Mike Ross, a writer for the Edmonton Sun, wrote that although he felt torn about the issue, he disagreed with the Conservatives' stance on the arts:

Just as there are “hidden” costs to the $1 burger at McDonald’s (obesity, the decline of family farms, etc.), there are many hidden profits from the arts aside from tourism or successful coffee shops in proximity to art galleries […]The better the art, public or not, the nicer the place and the richer society becomes as a whole. 

Artists aren't the only ones who are taking a beating. Journalists and media have also been a target -- Greg Weston, a Sun News writer, was quickly fired after he broke story on the the $1.2 billion "fake lake" that Harper ordered last year for the G8 summit. He was rumoured to have been let go for writing news that caused embarrassment to the Prime Minister.   

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