4. Conservative Creativity?

      A Comparison of Federal and

       Calgarian Approahces to Arts and Culture





“...art is elevated, to its detriment, as the preserve of an exceptional caste, and culture itself is seen as a rather unwieldy economic instrument."


At a recent meeting I attended that brought together students from The University of Western Ontario’s Faculty of Arts and Humanities, a debate broke out from one attendee’s seemingly benign suggestion that we, as students of art and culture, should publicly show our support of these broad fields. The comment arose in response to a discussion we were having about the Canadian federal government’s 2008 funding cuts that reduced – and in some cases entirely extinguished – the operating budgets of certain creative programs. I was surprised that Arts and Humanities could agonize over the ethics and implications of a political demonstration in support of itself, but I was at least heartened that we as a group did attempt to examine so comprehensively the statement we would make if we held a demonstration that took a critical stance on such a complex issue, whose myriad facets I hope to illustrate in the next pages. Yet, troublingly, it also appeared that we had too deeply internalized our own marginalization when one woman in attendance voiced her concern in an argument using the following metaphor: Say I like chocolate. I really enjoy eating it and feel that it’s an important part of my life. Then it’s up to me to satisfy my desire for chocolate. I don’t ask the state to supply it for me, and I don’t claim that it matters to anyone else. So it’s the same for the arts. She spoke matter-of-factly, in a tone that aimed to express her knowing maturity about a hard economic reality wherein anyone who matters understands that only lip service will ever be paid to art. She thus concluded:  The state shouldn’t have to sponsor my art habit.


In the Prime Minister’s view, creative types are extraordinary in the worst way, and this opinion motivated what can only properly be described as ideological revisions recently carried out in the Department of Canadian Heritage. In early summer 2008 (while on parliamentary summer break, meaning that no debate could be held in the House of Commons) the Conservative government announced approximately $48.5 million in cuts to the arts and culture that would reallocate allegedly unproductive funds from certain programs to others (Zorde 7). The subsequent onslaught of news reports, protests, art magazine articles, and concerned citizens’ blog entries frequently mentioned several of the specific programs affected by this overall reduction, yet few if any could fully enumerate what had been cut, and where all of the freed money went. The Canadian Conference of the Arts (CCA) claims that as of September 19, 2008 $72 million had so far been cut. The editorial in Fuse Magazine’s October issue states that “since taking power in 2006, the Harper Conservatives have eliminated almost $40 million dollars from Cultural and Heritage Granting Programs” (Zorde 7). As noted by Paddy Johnson of rabble.ca (a left-wing Canadian site featuring independent journalism), “a lot of people…don’t have pre-existing knowledge on how and where all this funding is directed, so it’s more than a little disturbing that you basically have to be an investigative reporter to get information the government could give you by running a basic search query” (Johnson).

In the interest of giving at least an idea of the nature of the budget changes, I will list some of the programs representative of those that have been discontinued or minimized, as well as some of the programs that have benefited from the reprioritization. The CCA’s Annual Federal Budget Analysis reports that on the whole, federal funding of the arts and culture has been relatively consistent over the past few years, and that, overall, spending is actually on the rise. The CCA lists 16 programs that were terminated or pared down between April 1, 2008 and September 2, 2008. Among the most talked about have been PromArt, administered by the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT), and Trade Routes, run by the Department of Canadian Heritage (PCH), both cancelled entirely, and both of which promoted Canadian culture abroad. It is worth noting that the discontinuation of these two programs follows a 2006 reduction of the Museums Assistance Program (MAP) budget by $4.63 million, leaving it to operate on just over $3 million annually. The MAP funded many collections and museum upgrades across Canada, often through grants under $25,000 to small institutions whose survival depended on these minimal sums. E-Culture, the National Training Program for the Film and Video Sector, and the Canadian Memory Fund, all under PCH, were also eliminated (Canadian Conference of the Arts). The choice of cuts reflects at least three discernable elements of the government’s agenda: controlling the exposure of Canadian culture internationally; resisting the democratization of history and creative production; and protecting the interests of large businesses. The overall aim is one of definitive control, consolidated in Ottawa. But we must ask: control over what, exactly? As we will see, Conservative strategies typically have more to do with encouraging grassroots economic successes in communities across Canada, and in a later analysis of Conservative spending, I find that the government tends to support small museums in small places. This apparent inconsistency suggests that the government is specifically concerned about giving its official backing to certain projects aligned with certain ideologies.

Programs and institutions that continue to be favoured include the Royal Ontario Museum and the Art Gallery of Ontario, both of which have undergone major renovations that, while necessary to preserve the integrity of their collections, are most often recognized for their cosmetic appeal in news headlines. At the time of writing, the Vancouver Art Gallery expects to receive support as normal, and The Canada Council has received a $30 million recurrent increase to its base budget. Cultural infrastructures such as Ottawa’s National Arts Centre and Ottawa’s national museums benefited from a government investment of $100 million (Ibid). Additionally, funds have been promised to build the first major national museum outside of the national capital region (the Canadian Museum of Human Rights, slated for Winnipeg). A national portrait gallery for which several major Canadian cities were encouraged to submit proposals was expected to house some 4 million photographs and over 20,000 paintings, prints, and drawings representing Canada’s history. However, on November 7, 2008, the government announced without warning that the project would be cancelled, leaving shortlisted cities Calgary and Edmonton confused and several thousand dollars poorer. (Ottawa was also a contender, but it is safe to say that it was not surprised by its own decision) (O'Hanlon). The evident trend in these choices is to solidify control over cultural content in the national capital region, promote an uncontroversial traditional museological structure, and maintain the appearance of national cultural appreciation while this commitment really holds only so far as the large institutions generate tourism and revenue. However, there are yet again contradictions to this neat analysis. Placing the Portrait Gallery in Calgary was Harper’s own idea. Does this reflect hometown favouritism, or does it relate to larger Conservative strategy? There is also the possibility that, in following the MAP cuts, the government does not plan to extend special protection to museums over the long term. Could it have simply chosen to begin its withdrawal of public arts and culture funding by starting with artists, who it portrays as greedy for handouts, as opposed to museums, which project a certain – generally much more conservative – image of Canada to its population?  

To return to my earlier anecdote, several people at the meeting, including myself, spoke out from our patchwork of knowledge on these many recent developments. We variously asserted that the arts have more than passing relevance, that they represent far more than mere fringe or decoration, contribute to the “soul” of healthy communities, contain objective value beyond matters of individual taste, and that cultural production can have important implications for the construction of Canadian national identity. It was this last point especially that I wanted to think about further. Not just in the sense of that perennial question “what does it mean to be Canadian?” but rather, “what is Canada’s stance on culture and how do its related federal policies, budget priorities, and attitudes construct its national identity?” I began to do this by looking at the Canadian city of Calgary, whose exemplary approach to cultural life is all the more remarkable for its connections, to which I alluded earlier, with the current Conservative federal government. In fact, this relationship turned out to be so peculiar and fraught that my question was transformed. Calgarians seem to enjoy such amenities and have successfully incorporated them into their municipal economy – in fact, household spending on the arts and culture is about 35% higher than the national average (Calgary’s Vital Signs 16) – yet they overwhelmingly support the Conservative party and its mandate to reduce public support for these sectors. In spite of possible limitations, Calgary continues to solidify itself as a cultural mecca. It has boasted an opera house longer than has Toronto, it features a 113,000 m³ performing arts, culture and community facility, numerous emerging and established theatre companies, and several important museums such as the Glenbow.  It supports higher than average quantities of filmmakers, artists and art collectives, a number of major annual festivals and events such as the Calgary Stampede, a strong public library network, and a thriving music scene. And crucially, it maintains a running metacommentary on its cultural life through annual “Vital Signs” reports sponsored by the Calgary Foundation, and community fora such as the Alberta College of Art and Design’s “Stirring Culture” series. In this paper, therefore, I ask: what is the connection between Calgary – Harper’s home riding – and the Harper-led Canadian federal government?

Having introduced the Conservatives’ treatment of Canadian arts and culture, I proceed to explore this question first by following the history of Calgary’s partisanship as well as Harper’s political ideology. These entwined trajectories reveal some of the interconnections between Calgary and Ottawa in terms of political allegiances and shared strategies. With this background knowledge, I investigate the intentions and motivations behind the cuts. Turning back to the anomalously conservative and creative Calgary, I examine the myriad factors contributing to the city’s success, and compare these with the attitudes and strategies espoused in the nation’s capital. I question whether Richard Florida’s model of the “creative city,” which equates economic success with a type of creativity reminiscent of Harper’s ideals, can help us to explain Calgary’s situation. I conclude by reflecting on some of Calgary’s tensions with Ottawa, and consider how these tensions currently coexist and under what circumstances they might transform into conflicts.

In looking for the root of Harper’s ideology, a perplexing relationship emerges between the culturally thriving city of Calgary and the national capital of Ottawa, which seems to be bereft of genuine interest in culture. In 2004 the city proposed cuts in the budget that would have reduced “Ottawa's [arts] funding to 57 cents per capita,” in contrast to Montréal, which “top[ped] the list at $26.62” that year (Lunman R.7). These changes were defeated, but their specter was raised again in 2008 when city staff “proposed a $4.1-million cut to the city’s arts and heritage funding that would see all support for festivals eliminated and 42 per cent less funding going to established companies such as Opera Lyra” (Bradshaw R.1).

Calgary has long been considered a conservative city, represented federally throughout the 1990s by the Reform Party and by the Progressive Conservatives provincially.  In the 2000, 2004, and 2008 federal elections, the Conservative candidate won in each of its municipal ridings (MacDonald). But Calgary, a city of 1,042,892 (City of Calgary Official Website) million also supports fast-paced economic growth, has the youngest labour force in any major Canadian city, contains 50% of Canada’s total downtown office space, and ranked 4.4% above the national average of post-secondary education levels in 2007 (Calgary’s Vital Signs Report 2009 5). From this constellation of characteristics, we may begin to infer that Calgary’s metropolitan conservatism is of a different breed than that which predominates throughout rural (and increasingly suburban) Canada; it is one that successfully exploits the economic expediency of arts and culture. In contrast to Calgary, many other cultural centres in Canada tend to embrace the Liberal platform. For example, the Conservatives failed to win a single seat in the urban cores of Vancouver and Toronto in the 2008 federal election (Greenaway). Montréal favoured the Bloc Québecois, but even still, the Conservatives ranked a comparatively low 4th out of 5 parties, with just a 15.67% share of the vote (MacDonald). Considering these trends, there appears to exist a Conservative battle over culture raging internally between its urban and rural supporters.

The Conservative vote in Alberta as a whole is tremendously strong (Boutet). This is partly because the province has long felt alienated by Liberal policies which privilege, in its view, Central Canada to the detriment of the West.  Former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau’s 1980 National Energy Program (NEP) did much to galvanize Alberta against the Liberals, as well as Central and Eastern Canada in general (O’Reilly). Though numbers vary according to the research of different scholars, it is generally estimated that Alberta lost between $50 to $100 billion because of the NEP (Vicente). During his 1984-1993 leadership, Conservative Prime Minister Brian Mulroney took two and a half years to finally phase out the last vestiges of the NEP, fomenting discontent with even his right-wing rule. Out of this series of events came the genesis of western separatist groups as well as a new conservative party, the Reform Party of Canada. This party, in which Harper served as Preston Manning’s chief policy officer, embraced ideological and fiscal neoconservatism, including deep spending cuts, privatization of social services, and tax cuts (The Harper Index). Its efforts to decentralize and reduce the size, scope, and cost of government hinged on reductions to social welfare and cultural support programs (including bilingualism and multiculturalism) and staunch opposition to Québecois nationalism (Harrison). In 2000, the Reform Party disbanded, with many of its former members dominating a new conservative party called the Canadian Reform Conservative Alliance. In March 2002 Harper was elected the Alliance's new leader. With a joint 2003 announcement by Harper and Peter MacKay, this group once again transformed through a merger with the Progressive Conservative Party to form the new Conservative Party of Canada (Ibid). Having summarily traced this history, both Harper’s ideological underpinnings and also the reasons for Calgary’s conservative fidelity become clearer.

Harper’s public statements, policies, and budget priorities seem to me to reflect a compartmentalized understanding of culture in which art is elevated, to its detriment, as the preserve of an exceptional caste, and where culture itself is seen as a rather unwieldy economic instrument. The problem that many Canadians, including most of our abovementioned student group, saw with Harper’s cuts did not have to do with the reality that certain sectors must suffer in the face of economic instability, but rather the spirit in which they were justified. Harper’s rhetoric conjured images of a wealthy artistic elite engaged in institutionalized self-indulgence. Selectively invoking a stereotype – note that the “starving artist” trope would not have worked here – to stand in for all Canadian cultural producers, Harper felt he could confidently assert that their lofty, esoteric matters would fail to resonate with “ordinary working people.” His statements imagined a sweeping unfamiliarity among his (significantly rural) voting public with creative pursuits and underestimated how widespread, diffused, and intertwined these activities are with the everyday realities of “normal” Canadians. But on closer inspection, it appears that rather than totally disavowing rural interest in culture, Harper quietly mobilized a very particular conception of it. Knowing that the Conservatives cannot rely on the urban vote, Harper sought to mythologize rural Canada in order to create (or reinforce) an ideal constituency. In addition to appealing to a “simple,” “honest” nationalism in calling the Conservative party “Canada’s party,” (The Conservative Party of Canada) his government also channeled money into “nonthreatening” “down-home” kinds of rural museums in order to gain rural votes.

Conservative pre-election spending in the Department of Heritage totaled $1,132,701,327 between June 2 and September 6, 2008 (Canadian Taxpayers’ Federation). Of the funds directed toward art and culture festivals, museums, and galleries, most were divided between small heritage centre type institutions, small community celebrations of local history and culture, French language promotion, community theatre, and music festivals. But the nearly $50 million cuts were never justified against these choices. If the government had done so, it could never have pulled the “fiscal prudence” or “trimming the fat” (Department of Finance Canada) card. Instead, the Conservative government has pointed out how it supports the beacons of national culture that are considered staples of first world nations. It does this to appear somewhat germane to the “art-minded” constituency, to capture the elite appeal of art and culture, and to affirm Canada’s parity with other powerful countries. I want to affirm that these Department of Heritage allocations do represent a very valuable and diverse set of projects that deserve support. I reference them here not to argue that they ought to suffer instead, but for the purpose of showing just how precise the Conservatives have been in their choice of cuts as well as in the manner of their publicity and that once again, the facile excuse of economic pressure breaks down.

Reassuringly, the reaction of the voting public confirmed that Harper misread a significant segment of popular opinion. The Québecois responded especially strongly against his ideological bent (Scoop Independent News), as did many students, academics, cultural practitioners, and “ordinary” people nationwide. Moreover, the incident made Harper appear even farther out of step with Canada’s fellow industrialized countries, whose political and economic policies are adapting to acknowledge the global north’s transition from industrial production and accumulative regimes into knowledge based economies wherein creative industries stand poised to lead. Britain, for example, has produced two creative industries “mapping” documents released in 1998 and 2001 as well as a Creative Industries Taskforce whose aim, says writer and policy analyst Kate Oakley, “was to convince mainstream policymakers of the economic importance of these activities and thus the value of public investment in them” (Oakley 3). Social and cultural analyst, Andrew Ross, has written a review that focuses on the “enthusiastic reception” of the creative industries policy paradigm by the UK, the USA and China among the many places it has been adopted (Ross 19). And here I return to Calgary (see fig. 4.1), because what Harper’s philistinism stands in most striking contrast to is his own hometown.


Dominated by the oil industry and historically right wing, Calgary could be a cultural wasteland. To its further potential disadvantage, it is located outside of central Canada’s corridor of tourism, into which former Prime Minister Paul Martin’s Liberals poured substantial resources with Toronto’s 2003 “Cultural Renaissance” (Jenkins 175). Not only is it geographically distant, but as mentioned, it also harbours resentment to the favoured cities of the East – and arguably, it would not even be in Harper’s interest to try in earnest to mitigate the Canadian West’s isolation because it would begin to erode the East-West opposition that makes Calgary’s vote reliable.

But what are the second-order reasons underlying Calgary’s success? Why does it look, in its artistic and cultural dimensions, like the rest of Canada ought to? Calgary’s difference consists primarily in a way of thinking about these issues that forms a disjuncture with how Canadian culture has traditionally been imagined. Its vibrancy owes to an entrepreneurial ethos, rather than a heavy reliance on state funding. It does of course receive federal and provincial funding, as well as Canada Council grants, but the success of municipal commerce provides substantial stimulus for cultural enterprises to establish themselves and for businesses to adopt creative strategies without the federal government intervening to manipulate them. The city maintains a creative momentum without the strategic placement of huge institutions to which the federal government has had recourse in Toronto and Ottawa especially. It is telling that Calgary contains 50% of all of Canada’s small businesses (Calgary’s Vital Signs). With its conservatism and business mindset, it has taken something of a free market approach to the arts and culture, and this represents one side of its successful equation. The other side contains important variables that are maybe nonintuitive, but which can be solved for in part using ideas from the “creative class.”

Florida’s formula explaining creativity and cities consists in the following “3Ts” slogan: technology, talent (creative capital, meaning “creative occupations”), and tolerance. His commonsensical view is that urbanized places actively using and developing technology attract a diverse workforce whose heterogeneity (and homosexuals, visible minorities, and bohemians) naturally foments creativity (Florida 35-7). Although Florida describes his three factors as highly mobile flows, he maintains that they work in concert to accelerate growth and prosperity with increasing rapidity. Florida also evokes parallels with the free market for the reason that strong community ties (controls) tend to reinforce the status quo and exclude outsiders (growth). He adds that the creative centres are not:

thriving because their local governments have gone bankrupt giving tax breaks and other incentives to lure business. They are succeeding because creative people want to live there. The companies follow the people – or, in many cases, are started by them. Creative Centers provide the integrated eco-system or habitat where all forms of creativity – artistic and cultural, technological and economic – can take root and flourish. (Florida 35)

Florida’s Rise of the Creative Class glibly identified, using clever data manipulation, a class of workers whose economic importance is growing significantly and who will predictably gravitate toward the social milieu offered by these creative centres. But his simplistic categorization of both constituent groups of the creative class and the places they inhabit grossly abstracts and flattens the range of human experience and identity. Moreover, his suspiciously causal relationships are made further problematic by difficulties in enumeration, statistical standards, and how his categories are defined.

Despite these problems, the concept of the “creative centre” may still help us think productively about Calgary. This city generates creative work from the bottom up – not necessarily in the archetypal grassroots sort of way, but in the sense of individuals and small organizations realizing for their own reasons that creative businesses that import an art-world aesthetic and organize cultural experiences for the community generate revenue in their own right. And more importantly, they spawn wider prosperity as connections proliferate through an energized, engaged atmosphere. Florida spoke in Calgary on May 12, 2008 at ACAD’s second annual “Stirring Culture” conference, where he let the audience know of his current work mapping Canada’s “creative cities.” He also revealed some preliminary data that placed Calgary 4th in terms of Canada’s creative work force as well as for its proportion of visible minorities, 2nd on “brain gain” and technology, and 7th for average income. Interestingly, he commented that Ottawa has performed very well on his indicators so far, besting or placing close by to Calgary. It therefore merits recourse to more statistics in order to understand some of the specific factors that enable Calgary to flourish. I break these down using Florida’s rubric.

The information and communication technology (ICT) sector includes over 2,400 companies and employs over 55,200 people in Calgary; almost 10 per cent of total employment in the Calgary Economic Region according to a 2007 report by Calgary Economic Development. The report also listed approximately 60 public and private institutions in the Calgary area that provide education and training specific to the ICT sector. Among the city’s valuable ICT assets are: the University of Calgary, the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology Polytechnic, [ACAD], Mount Royal College and the DeVry Institute of Technology. These institutions work with the second highest concentration of ICT employees per capita compared with other major North American centres to offer support for rapid industry changes. The sector is jointly supported by Calgary Technologies Inc, the City of Calgary, the Calgary Chamber of Commerce, and the University of Calgary. Additionally, the report notes that the “Calgary Council for Advanced Technologies provides a forum to enhance technology awareness, business development and networking opportunities for Calgary’s advanced technology community” (Calgary Economic Development).

Calgary’s Vital Signs 2008 reports that in 2007, 54.3% of Calgarians (15 years and over) had post-secondary education, compared to the national average of 49.9%. Among Vital Signs communities, only Ottawa (60.3) and Montréal (55.3) ranked higher. Relatedly, the same report claims that Calgarians are the most affluent Canadians, having enjoyed the highest wages per employee in Canada for the past seven years, and the highest average personal income at $52,922 in 2007. This seems to contrast somewhat with Florida’s assessment, but his data was admittedly preliminary and statistical results of course have much to do with methodology. Vital Signs also states that Calgary’s employment growth has been a strong point, holding steady at an average annual growth of 3.1% between 1987-2007. Furthermore, it claims that Calgary “has had one of the lowest unemployment rates in Canada for the past few years.” According to Statistics Canada, its population grew the second fastest among census metropolitan areas between 2001 and 2006 (Statistics Canada). And as previously mentioned, in 2007 Calgary led Canada in small businesses per capita, which accounted for 93.5% of all Calgary businesses with employees.

In Vital Signs diversity measures, Calgary ranked 4th in 2006 (behind Toronto, Montréal and Vancouver) in its share of recent immigrants. In the same year, its foreign-born population represented 23.6% of the total population, a 2.7% increase from 2001. 22.2% of Calgary’s population comprised visible minorities as opposed to the national proportion of 16.2%. This group increased 44.3% between 2001 and 2006. In another measure of inclusivity, Calgary’s share of the elderly in the population at 9.4% was slightly below both provincial and national averages. The report also describes that “in 2005, 60.9% of the population 12 years and over in the Calgary Health region reported a strong or somewhat strong sense of community belonging.” Although this is lower than the national level of 64.4%, fluid ties and multiple points of identification may not be a bad thing, in Floridian terms. However, recent immigrants also face a 7% rate of unemployment. This is relatively low in comparison to the rest of the Vital Signs communities, but it is important to note that recent immigrants’ average income is 63.2 % that of non-immigrant income and that this puts them at heightened risk of homelessness in a city where the condition is on the rise – 4,060 homeless persons were counted on the night of May 12, 2008, compared to 3,436 in 2006.

The reason why Ottawa, exemplary of many of the federal principles whose inadequacy I am arguing, does well on these statistical indexes but does not defeat my point is because it is not simply a matter of being able to check off the right boxes on a census form; it is the attitude that develops those attributes and the approach to working with them that determines success. Primarily, Ottawa’s arts and culture complement represents an official showcase of politically strategic institutions. According to its Vital Signs report, “in 2008, a survey of 11 major national museums and art galleries in Ottawa revealed that only 3% of the hours of operation are offered free of charge and almost 89% of these hours are offered free only to young children (ages three and under). The average admission for a family of two adults and two children (up to age 12 or 15) was $18, ranging from $13 to $30.69” (Ottawa’s Vital Signs). Thus, although these institutions are available, they are not designed with maximum accessibility in mind. Ironically, such cost-prohibitive amenities seem to favour the elite patronage that Harper scorns. This further suggests that their nature and placement owes to top-down planning intended to fashion an identity that superficially includes all of the politically correct points, while creating tourism (something which requires disposable income) and revenue. Florida also makes a distinction among the types of cultural amenities in a city, saying that people are looking for abundance and diversity of high-quality experiences (Florida 35). Calgary does a better job of offering this than does Ottawa with its flagship institutions which, as much as they respond to public demand, are also contrived in the name of political accountability.

Calgary’s demographic characteristics and municipal structures form a unique constellation of qualities that accounts for its self-sustaining focus on creativity. Consequently, this attention drives expansion of the role of the arts and culture. A frequent criticism of Florida is that his model privileges the already privileged – which he unconvincingly refutes by affirming that each and every human is creative – and makes monetary wealth a virtue. And it appears that wealth and population growth are key elements in Calgary as well as in most, if not all, metropolitan areas. After all, as centrally important as the arts are, a municipality will prioritize, say, basic transportation infrastructure above arts spending if it has not already stabilized such a fundamental area. Focusing on the arts and culture is therefore made possible through a combination of preexisting wealth allowing the city to prioritize spending on culture and market-driven growth making culture more central in consumer consciousness. I am not arguing that Calgarians are either disinterestedly devoted to or wholly disingenuous about the value of their creative life. I am making a case that Calgary’s is a particular brand of Conservatism that sees creativity as good business and that this outlook comes from identification with an entrepreneurial ethos and an almost default opposition to the Liberal party. Crucially, it coexists with such integral diversity among its constituents that their variety of interests can never be wholly subsumed under one ideology.

And all of these things are, in fact, well aligned with Conservative ideas. One of the most serious criticisms leveled at Florida’s model is that it creates a “new class” of workers whose work is intermittent and whose existence is precarious because it must rely on entrepreneurial skill instead of corporate benefits and loyalty. This notion evokes consonance with Conservatism’s minimized government and social safety net. Creativity isn’t inimical to Conservatism; Prime Minister Harper simply hasn’t learned to apply creative industries policies to neoliberal economics. Instead, he manipulates art and culture in a way that creates public bias against government spending on it but that doesn’t directly impede – and therefore enrage – communities where a creative atmosphere is already inbuilt through a confluence of businesses, stable institutions, and grassroots interest.

Calgarians, being already wealthy and having de facto adopted a creative industries paradigm, can continue to support the federal Conservatives without greatly injuring their arts and culture. Rural voters still vote Conservative in a landslide, making it obvious that Harper’s rhetorical spin on the arts in concert with the amounts – miniscule in the grand scheme – reallocated from the Department of Heritage’s budget achieved their aim. The Prime Minister is carefully regulating the expression of Canadian culture and simultaneously managing its image to recruit more citizens into the ranks of those who roll their eyes at it. The contradictions between federal and Calgarian Conservatism may, however, turn into irreconcilable differences apparent on the political stage if Harper begins to control industry in a way that disrupts the variety and multiplicity of Calgary’s businesses or begins to control the content of Canadian producers at the source. The latter has been a real threat with the introduction of Bills C-10 and C-61, both of which died when the 39th Parliament was dissolved on September 7, 2008 (Nowak). Bill C-10 would give the federal Heritage Department the power to deny funding for films and TV shows it considers offensive, and according to Michael Geist, Bill C-61 would “[eviscerate] user rights in the digital environment by virtually eliminating fair dealing.  Under this bill, the right to copy for the purposes of research, private study, criticism, and news reporting virtually disappears if the underlying content is digitally locked” (Geist). Thanks to pan-Canadian fury, Harper’s Conservatives vowed not to reintroduce C-10 if re-elected in the October 2008 election, which they were. But the same platform statement pledged to reintroduce the controversial copyright-reform legislation contained in C-61. If this happens, enough will be at stake that Canadians can unite across party lines and the divides of urban and rural, art gala-goers and business folk in opposition to having their rights so sweepingly curtailed. But until these foundations of artistic integrity, community, and business success are seriously threatened, Calgary (and cities like it) will continue to show that Conservative ideology can mesh with Floridian principles and raise the possibility that in Canada, to be creative could, in fact, be Conservative.



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Sharday Mosurinjohn is a fourth year student completing an honours degree in Museology, Anthropology and Scholars Electives. Her research interests are diverse, including the political and economic expediency of arts and culture as well as feminist ethnography and theology.