He has started a brilliant campaign/website entitled, What is Stephen Harper Reading? I should pre-face this all by suggesting that Mr. Harper does not represent the current political climate of Canada, but rather the backlash against the Liberals and Paul Martin - it's complicated.
Anyway, Yann Martel was inspired to start the website after attending a celebration at the Canadian House of Commons in honour of the Canada Council for the Arts. He writes:
Just so that you know: the parliamentary appropriation this year for the Canada Council for the Arts is $173 million. Next year it will be $182 million. Does that sound like a lot? Let me put it into perspective. A budget of $182 million translates to $5.50 per Canadian per year. Most Canadians I know spend more than that in a week on parking, some in a day on coffee. Sure, the federal government supports the arts in other ways, too, through industry-support grants and the funding of cultural agencies such as the CBC, the National Gallery, the Museum of Civilization, the National Arts Centre, Telefilm Canada, and so on, but these are institutional venues. Only the Canada Council for the Arts sustains our living arts of today and tomorrow where it really counts, at the level of the individual artist. And they’re supposed to do that on $5.50 a year per Canadian.
Now, let me put something into perspective: a nation of 34 million people (i.e. Canada) offers $173 million Canadian dollars (£78 million pounds) to its artists for funding and support while, in comparison, a nation of 5 million people (i.e. Scotland) offers £50 million pounds to its artists for funding. A city with a population just shy of 1 million (i.e. Glasgow), offers £3 million pounds in cultural grants.
While Canada parades itself as being an inclusive country with a socialist agenda, it's quite embarrassing when it comes to funding for the arts. Scotland, particularly Glasgow, has a long history of labour and socialist movements that does not shy away from bragging about its cultural and artistic landscape. Why is that? Why do Canadians moan about the shitty state of our film and tv sector and in the same breath criticise the government for supporting it? The BBC is supported via public funds and i just have to laugh when British people bemoan the state of BBC-produced TV. Shit, at least you don't have to suffer through commercials...