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Shifty, Hazy and The Dynamo

27 September 2007

Last night I attended a political debate about arts support in Ontario. Drolly moderated by comedian Elvira Kurt, panelists defending their parties’ positions were Liberal Cabinet Minister Chris Bentley, Progressive Conservative MPP (York North) Julia Munro and New Democrat MPP (Parkdale-High Park) Cheri DiNovo.

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Panelists asking questions included singer Molly Johnson, author Susan Swan and actor Wayne Robson.

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Mr. Bentley was at a disadvantage. The current Liberal government brought forth “Status of the Artist” legislation, which was supposed to address issues such as protections for child performers, income averaging, training, housing support and an improved collective bargaining process for artists. But all that was passed was a “Celebrate the Artist Weekend.” So the audience was understandably bitter.

Mr. Bentley did himself—and his party—no favours. He promoted the Liberals by saying they would “continue building on what we’ve done,” which to this audience of artists was like saying “we will proudly continue to feed you gruel.” (Several other broken promises by Dalton McGuinty’s Liberals have been highly-publicized.) He seemed unaware of his gaffe, as he kept repeating it .

But he was also generally unlikeable, coming across as a typical, programmed politician. He rarely answered questions but instead dissembled and equivocated. He employed cliche and ineffective hand gestures and head movements. His vocal inflections made him sound insincere. Even the Liberals in the audience ended up disgusted.

Ms. Munro made a strong opening statement, saying her party would only promise what they could commit to. (Of course, that in itself is a promise…) Thereafter, however, her answers were clumsy and unclear. And the Progressive Conservatives have a history of failing to see the value of the arts, so many of her comments were looked upon with some suspicion.

Ms. DiNovo was a tough-talking, clear-minded fireball. She gave straightforward answers that the crowd wanted to hear. I suspect she is sincere, but two realities must be faced. First, she may well be re-elected, but her leader, Howard Hampton (and many other NDP candidates) won’t be. Second, in part because of being a minor party these days, the NDP can promise much more than they can possibly deliver.

Personal disclosure #1: Cheri DiNovo represents my riding. I am pleased with many of her positions and with her overall performance. Disclosure #2: as an immigrant who is not yet a Canadian citizen, I don’t get to vote. Boo hoo.

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