When Guy Giorno took over the chief of staff’s office to the Prime Minister, he rounded up the Ministerial chiefs, the directors of communications and senior PMO staff and told them the same thing: this is essentially an election year and everything that we do from now on will be proactive, direct and obviously political. Giorno’s “be political” theme will set the tone of this government as it moves into the fall when opposition leader Stephane Dion blusters about defeating the government, into the winter when Dion threatens to defeat the government over the budget and into the fall of 2009 when the government’s mandate comes up for renewal due to the fixed election date legislation the Prime Minister’s tabled early in this term.
Today, in the National Post, David Akin writes about Conservatives cutting travel grants to Canadian artists. Surprisingly, at least to this observer, is that this money comes under the mandate of Foreign Affairs. Sending artists to film festivals and to columnists to give lectures in communist countries would more appropriately be fixed in the department of Canadian Heritage but that’s another discussion. The government’s political staffers have found some cash that is sure to enrage the arts community and as a side-benefit, show ordinary hard-working 9-5 Canadians that their tax dollars are sending others overseas while they put together their savings (after filing their income tax) over the months to put the kids in a minivan and drive down to Disneyworld for a week.
You can tell that Giorno’s people are executing the “be political” strategy in the quotes provided to David Akin by government staffers.
On Gwynne Dyer’s government grant to travel to a popular Canadian vacation destination to “[create] greater awareness and appreciation of Canadian foreign policy … within key audiences of Cuban decision makers and opinion leaders.” political staffers explained that
“[Dyer’s] a left-wing columnist and author who has plenty of money to travel on his own.”
On the North-South Institute
“[it’s] a left-wing and anti-globalization think-tank … Why are we paying for these people to attend anti-Western conferences in Cuba?”
Canadian artists are not on PMO director of strategic planning Patrick Muttart’s radar as these folks have never likely voted Conservative and never will. This move to cut taxpayer money from these groups for foreign travel will cause outrage among that community and will in turn, the Conservatives are predicting, will show other Canadians that the government is defending their interests instead.
This is an obvious political move by PMO and I wouldn’t be surprised if the Conservative Party comps Sarah Polley’s airfare the next time she comes to Ottawa to hold a press conference.
Here’s a summary of the Arts Promotion Projects funded in 2006-2007: