New heritage minister not about to reverse arts cuts
Published Thursday, November 6, 2008 4:38PM EST
OTTAWA - Those who hoped to persuade Canada's new heritage minister to reverse the government's proposed cuts to arts and culture programs are going to be disappointed.
Heritage Minister James Moore says he has no plans to cancel the $45 million in cutbacks announced before the start of the federal election campaign.
"These decisions have already been made, they're in the past," Moore told The Canadian Press in an interview at his office in Gatineau, Que.
"But in the future, there will certainly be opportunities to examine our spending."
The 32-year-old minister said he's ready to meet with cultural organizations, including the artists' union, to "build bridges" and discuss the necessary investments that will benefit the arts community.
One of the main goals is to re-establish dialogue with the arts community and with voters, particularly those in Quebec, where the cuts stirred several angry protests.
Opponents to the cutbacks have accused Prime Minister Stephen Harper of censorship and one speaker at a rally in August compared him to Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler.
"I'm not in a position to make announcements (or) promises right now, but I can assure these groups that I am certainly ready to work with them to see what we can do," said Moore, who is also the minister responsible for the official languages portfolio.
"We'll see what happens."
Following the lead of Harper, he insisted that arts and culture funding be used in an "efficient" manner.
Moore refused to criticize the work of Bev Oda and Josee Verner, the last two heritage ministers.
However, he said he has a mandate to repair frayed relations and that he must find a better way to explain the politics of his government.
Moore also said there is a gap between the reality of the Conservative government's arts spending and the public's perception of it.
The Harper government has doled out more to arts and culture than any other federal government since the 1970s, he said.
"It's been a long time since we've seen a government that has made this much of an investment on the ground to produce real results for arts and culture and official languages," he said.
Heritage Department budgets reveal that arts funding is being reallocated to other programs in the ministry, such as the promotion of sports, including the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.
Even though he's more comfortable in Parliament than on the red carpet, Moore promises to attend arts festivals and galas.
"I love to make decisions," he said. "I love to do research and have debates in my office and in the House (of Commons) or in a committee. That's what inspires me. It's not about the glamour."
A native of British Columbia, Moore was first elected to the House of Commons in 2000 under the Canadian Alliance party banner. Before turning to politics, he worked as a radio talk show host in his home province.
Moore is responsible for supervising the organization of the Olympics and its associated activities, such as the torch relay.