Sep 24, 2008

I arrived in Canada in 1952 from the Netherlands and did not expect anything in the way of culture as prior to 1952, Canada’s cultural expressions were unknown to me. But once we were getting established, I already noticed the growing interest by many people. Already we were able to attend a few concerts to reinforce our belief. And then we slowly noticed a growing tendency of the development of the arts, interesting programs on the CBC Radio that time, which improved steadily. Also hearing names like Sir John McMillan, Glen Gould, Lois Marshall, Leopold Simoneau and more to follow, artists we all could enjoy on the CBC.

It was not until I arrived in Fort McMurray in 1969, that time a small town of about 5,000, which already had an arts group organizing live performances for the many newcomers to Fort McMurray that time. Somehow I became involved and our first live concert was ‘Orpheus in the Underworld’ by the Canadian Opera, and I can tell you the gymnasium where the opera was being  held, was already overbooked, causing a warning by the fire-chief the following morning. There were people of all ages from 6 to 60 or older. In 1974 we held our first music festival with more than 2,000 children participating and still going strong. Later we arranged for the CBC Vancouver Orchestra to perform with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra as the final performance of our season, meanwhile we had annual appearances by the Alberta Ballet Company, with school performances in the morning followed by evening performances. When I started the Fort McMurray Society of the Friends of Music, our first prerogative were the young school children of Fort McMurray, as governements had already slashed music programs in the schools. I still can see the look of those children’s faces, which I never will forget.

Those days the CBC’s signal was too weak to reach Fort McMurray, so I started a two hour Concert Hall program on the local cable on Sundays. How can Mr. Harper say that he is supporting the young adults in their musical taste. What does Mr. Harper know? What sort of cultural education did Mr. Harper receive?

I only pity Mr. Harper’s short-sightedness, does he really want Canada to become a cultural waste-land, no longer respected by the rest of the world? Most of the countries that have public broadcasting do cater to classical music extensively.
In Mr. Harpers planned program, why does he only want to cater to some of the young adults’ tastes? What about the people, who build this nation, the seniors of this nation, who, I am quite certain, do not stand for Mr. Harper’s type of entertainment. His plans are to do away with an industry that is part of our overall economy, employing over a million people. Why does he hate art so much, that he killed the CBC Vancouver Orchestra, removed all the subsidies on the transportation of works of art, so that other Canadians, including their children, removed from Ottawa will never be able to see these works of art, or slashing the budget of the CBC to a point where the CBC has become the laughing stock of international radios, whose programs carry more Canadian artists than the CBC.

Canada is starting to look more and more like the “Untergang des Abendlandes” written by a German author, who saw the hand-writing on the wall, portraying and predicting the downfall of our western society.

If Mr. Harper wants to cater to the young only, he should have seen those children’s faces in Fort McMurray and those same children dragging their parents to the evening performances.

Mr. Harper you certainly don’t know much about art nor culture. I would say nothing at all, nor even about the history of the development of art. So what did you learn in school? Probably your education was also hampered by budget cuts. Oh, what a delightful word….budget cuts, we use it at all sort of excuses to downgrade our entire culture.

Well, one thing is for certain, Mr. Harper, you will not get my vote on the night of the election, and I hope that in spite of the standing at the polls as of today, many art lovers will prefer a candidate that stands for Canada and its cultural survival.