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Let us decide its own cultural priorities, Charest says

Quebec premier calls for reversal of arts funding cuts

 

KEVIN DOUGHERTY, The Gazette

Published: 8 hours ago

 

Premier Jean Charest called on the Harper government yesterday to roll back cuts of about $45 million in funding for Quebec artists, and said the prime minister should also restore about $20 million in subsidies for economic development agencies.

 

Charest said the federal cultural grants have prove their value in making Quebec artists known on the world stage and the economic development aid delivers dividends to Quebec businesses.

 

"For us, the ability to express ourselves outside Quebec is very important," Charest said after addressing the Association de la construction du Québec, representing about 15,000 construction entrepreneurs.

 

He added that unlike Parti Québécois leader Pauline Marois, who is tied to the Bloc Québécois, and Action démocratique du Québec leader Mario Dumont, who admits he will vote for Harper, as premier he will remain above the fray, defending Quebec's interests.

 

Charest said his declaration yesterday is the first in a series to make known Quebec's position on a number of issues before the leaders' debate ahead of the Oct. 14 federal election.

 

"As the premier of Quebec I want to express myself on a certain number of issues because I want, the day after the election, that the parties know where we stand, and if they choose to legislate they will know that Quebec will defend positions that are very detailed in certain issues."

 

Charest also announced he wants a Quebec-Canada agreement on culture and communication that would give Quebec a say in such issues as subsidies for artists. "What we are asking for is a determining say," he said, using the term "maîtrise d'oeuvre" in French.

 

The agreement would extend to federal institutions in the cultural domain, such as Radio-Canada, he said, explaining that in his view Ottawa would maintain control of such bodies.

 

But Quebec would have a say in how they are run. "We could have an agreement with the Canada Council where we agree on what the priorities should be for Quebec," Charest said.

 

In a telephone interview from Ottawa, Transport Minister Lawrence Cannon, who is also the senior political minister in the Harper government for Quebec, said his government's open federalism might allow for such an arrangement.

 

"We're not closing the door," Cannon said, adding that he does not want to negotiate such an accord during an election campaign.

 

But Cannon did close the door on reconsidering the funding programs for the arts and for economic development that Charest wants restored.

 

"We do not feel compelled to re-establish things we have reviewed," Cannon said.

 

[email protected]

 

In Extra: Why government cuts to arts and culture funding resonate strongest in Quebec. Pag

 

(The Gazette)

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