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Tories cancel cultural travel grants

From the Toronto Star:

The federal government has scrapped a travel assistance program to promote Canadian culture abroad, suggesting it catered to fringe groups, the well-off and left-wingers.

The decision yesterday to cancel the $4.7 million program offered by Department of Foreign Affairs effective March 31, 2009, drew sharp rebuke from critics, with one calling it yet another example of censorship by the government.


Gwynne Dyer, who received $3,000 to give lectures in Canadian foreign policy and defence issues in Cuba in March 2007, was described as a “left-leaning columnist and author who has plenty of money to travel on his own.”

In another case, the North-South Institute received $18,000 to help co-ordinate a Caribbean-Cuban conference in Havana in December 2006. The institute was described as a “left-wing anti-globalization think tank.

“Why are we paying for these people to attend anti-western conferences in Cuba?” the anonymous author asked.

Former CBC journalist Avi Lewis, now a reporter with Al Jazeera, was described a “general radical” who could easily afford to travel on his own dime.

A production company, Klein Lewis Productions, co-owned by him and his wife, Naomi Klein, an author and social activist, received a grant of $3,500 to promote the film The Take at films festivals in New Zealand and Australia.

“Klein has sold millions of books, and certainly does not need $3,500 from the government of Canada,” the note stated.

The issue of whether Dyer or Lewis could have paid their own way is irrelevant “ although, okay, they probably could have “ this is just more pettiness and narrow-minded ideological puritanism from a government that seems to be staffed entirely with cranky AM radio hosts.