Harper defends arts cuts during stop in Saskatoon

The Canadian Press ~ The News
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OTTAWA Prime Minister Stephen Harper cast his lot Tuesday with ordinary, working people and not with a cultural elite he characterized as government-subsidized whiners.

On a day when Conservative cuts to certain arts and culture programs took centre stage on the campaign trail, Harper made an unapologetic appeal to working-class Canadians.

I think when ordinary working people come home, turn on the TV and see a gala of a bunch of people, you know, at a rich gala all subsidized by taxpayers claiming their subsidies arent high enough when they know those subsidies have actually gone up Im not sure thats something that resonates with ordinary people, Harper said during a campaign stop in Saskatoon.

While some arts programs have been cut, Harper noted the overall budget of Canadian Heritage has climbed eight per cent.

Every group cant get everything it wants, he added. Ordinary people understand we have to live within a budget.

Harpers comments came as both Liberal Leader Stephane Dion and NDP Leader Jack Layton highlighted some $45 million in Tory cuts to programs that help Canadian musicians, authors, painters, sculptors and poets, among others.

Layton graphically described Harper as grabbing hold of the aorta and putting the squeeze on Quebec culture. Dion described the Tory cuts as an ideological broadside on both artists and freedom of expression.

If Canadians want to replace this ideological attack against arts and culture, not only the (budget) cuts but the freedom of arts, there is only one choice and it is the Liberal team.

A major rally called Les Coupures, Ca Tue la Culture or Cuts Kill Culture was planned for Quebec artists Tuesday evening in Montreal. Layton and Bloc Quebecois Leader Gilles Duceppe planned to attend.

Harpers barbed shot at complaining elites attending galas came two weeks after his government was repeatedly excoriated by speaker after speaker at the televised French-language Gemini awards.

While the Conservative leader included Quebecers in his English-language pitch Tuesday ordinary Quebecers, like ordinary Canadians, understand that, said Harper he declined to repeat his gala comment in French after a francophone reporter invited him to do so.

The Conservatives hope to make major inroads in Quebec on Oct. 14 and see the province as the key to a majority mandate. But the culture cuts have proved a rallying point for anti-Harper forces in the province.

The NDP in particular is running extremely negative attack ads that subtly change the Conservateur party name to Conservatueur making it a killer of culture.

Harper dismissed the furor as a niche issue for some. He said most Canadians are more consumed with the countrys economic management.

Organizations: Tory, Canadian Heritage, Bloc Quebecois Conservatives NDP

Geographic location: Saskatoon, Quebec, OTTAWA Montreal

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