Liberal party leader Stephane Dion met with a few Canadian writers last week at the Drake Hotel in Toronto and promised that a Liberal government would restore the $11.8-million in public diplomacy funding cut from the Foreign Affairs budget by the Conservative government last fall, an article in The Globe and Mail reports.
The Writers’ Union of Canada has staged protests and sponsored a petition against the cuts, which have drastically limited the capacity of Canadian embassies to host events and assist with the promotion of Canadian culture and artists abroad.
“The meeting with Dion was a huge relief,” said Susan Swan, chair of the Writers Union of Canada. “We got a feeling of being on the same page with a politician after months of trying to have a dialogue with the Harper government.”
The Liberal leader is on a charm offensive with Canadian artists and arts leaders and has had face time with artists and leaders from the music industry, theatre, museums and dance in Montreal, Winnipeg and Toronto. He is gambling that culture matters to urban voters. Whether or not that’s true, “it’s a weak spot for this Conservative government,” says Peter C. Newman, one of the writers at the Drake. “With globalization, we’ve lost the battle for economic independence, but cultural nationalism is our saving grace.”
So, that should score some points with artists, but Stephen Harper is currently back at the ranch flipping burgers at the Calgary Stampede. How’s your barbequing, Stephane?