Friday, August 07, 2009

Folk Festival Funding Fiasco is About Politics - Pure & Simple

The ham-handed handling of the Conservative stimulus oriented "Marquee Tourism Event" funding so far is political farce in three acts.

Some context on the first act. The Harper Cons contempt for culture cost them a majority government last election. That was when Quebec voters saw through them and backed off in support and have stayed away from the CPC's ever since. This insight in Quebec happened after first being bamboozled by the Rovarian message machine that promised them recognition of "nation" and the feigning fixing of the non-existent "fiscal imbalance." This opportunistic political pandering for personal political power is at the epicentre of the cold cynical heart that is the essence of the soulless Harper Cons.

Now we have act two and another culture based political farce in Edmonton that goes to the core motivations of that cold anti-culture heart of the Harper Cons and puts in a pinch of pure petty politics for flavour. I talked about the Conservatives taking Edmonton for granted in an interview for CBC's The National just before the last election. To paraphrase I said in politics you can ignore two kinds of voters; those who will never vote for you and those who will always vote for you. Edmonton falls mostly in the latter group. Hence the Edmonton Folk Festival, the largest in Canada and recognized as one of the best of its kind in the world and around for 30 years gets no federal funding under a "Marquee Tourism Event????"

Square this circle when news reports of the stated "funding criteria" from an Industry Canada spokesman who said "MTEP (the Marquee Tourism Event Program) is designed to help existing tourism events that occur annually, are well established, have a tradition of programming and management excellence, and generate significant increases in their levels of tourism activity." The Edmonton Folk Festival somehow does not fit this description? It defines this description!

So guess what you don't have to be rational or fair or even equitable in how you select marquee events for funding. Favouritism, ideology and calculated political positioning in anticipation of a fall election seem to play a major part in how these funding decisions are being made. Here are some facts for you to chew on that supports these conclusions. Edmonton got $800,000, half for the Fringe, the first of its kind in Canada and running successfully since 1980 and half for the 3 year old Rexall Indy car race. Calgary, the Prime Minister's home town and "rich with Conservative Cabinet Ministers, got $2.2 million. Lets talk about a shot at redemption for a minute. Ottawa gets over $2million for three festivals and Vancouver a similar amount for two events.

Only $33.4 million has been distributed across Canada so far, and mostly at the last minute, and why not distribute all of it if it to be part of the economic stimulus funding in response to the recession. Quebec scored an amazing $13.1m of the total loot - so far! Steve, Steve , Steve! You already now you can't buy love in Quebec. And now you better understand you can't presume Edmonton and Alberta will give you unconditional love anymore either.

Another thing Steve, wasn't it that same kind of political pandering to Quebec that angered you as the slogan the "West Wants In" actually helped start the Reform Party in the first place? Where are you're political principles and what does all this tell us about your character, other than the pursuit of political power as the name of your game?

The final act is where flummox and unfairness turns into political farce. The farcical internal caucus consternation that led to the dumping of Diane Ablonczy from running this funding program was the early warning sign of what is pure political interference in the program. She was dumped because she put money into Toronto Gay Pride events and had the temerity to pose for a picture with some of "them." Now we have the hapless MP for Edmonton Centre, Laurie Hawn, is turning out to be the goat in the practical politics of this pathetic little panto. He is hopelessly trying to convince Edmontonians that there is no political interference in all of this.

He obviously had to speak out on this funding farce before he got the official talking points from the Prime Minister's Office. That is definitely a career limiting event in the top down command and control culture of the Harper Cons. Here is the gist of what Hawn has said so far.

There is no Edmonton versus Calgary issue here. Yeah Right! Explain why the Calgary Folk Festive get 30% more funding Heritage than Edmonton's when it is half the size? He flat out states "I've purposefully kept out of the process, so there would be no political interference." What the hell do you think your job is Mr.Hawn as a political representative of Edmonton in the federal government? Why are you at the "government's big kids Cabinet table" if not to represent Edmonton's interest in such matters?

How did the 3 year old Rexall Indy get the nod over the Folk Festival? I hear Hawn had a significant hand in that political decision. Oh yes, the Indy race, has budget management problems and is only THREE years old BUT it is in your constituency. Of yes, the Folk Festival is also in the Edmonton Strathcona constituency. That is the political home of Linda Duncan, that NDP blight on the Harper Con field of broken dreams. She alone frustrated the presumption of totally Conservative control and domination of Alberta. And besides Linda's riding is also home of the Fringe, who got some funding. She should be happy enough to keep quiet about any implication of political machinations that did or didn't go on in final funding decisions. Yeah, right again!

The coup d'grace of Hawn's political pugnaciousness is when he tries to characterize this ineptness or indifference as a way to ensure "no political interference" in the funding process to make sure this program did not become another Adscam. He just had to draw out that old Harper shibboleth and continue to mislead Albertans and Canada about the Adscam facts. After months of public inquiry and investigation Mr. Justice Gomrey found no evidence of any political interference by any politician at any level in the all of the Adscam frauds. Those frauds happened but were perpetrated by bureaucrats, party officials and private sector businessmen. No politicians were harmed or were harming the interests of Canada or their constituency in Adscam so quit misrepresenting the facts for partisan political purposes Mr Hawn.

There is a fundamental lack of fairness in all of this and it simply does not pass the political sniff test. Edmonton is being sent a political message by the Harper Cons. We are being put in our place for frustrating the natural order of things because some voters in Edmonton thwarted Harper's pursuit or personal and absolute political power, a total sweep of Alberta.

Harper's political brain trust presumes the Edmonton folkies won't vote for him anyway and, after this he has ensured that result. Those who other Edmontonians who are equivocating about him, his governing performance and suitability for holding the highest office in the land are being sold in no uncertain terms that they had better hop off that fence right now. The message is clear. If Harper wins the next election Edmonton would be well advised to step in line with him, we have just had a small taste of what could happen.

Harper is a bully and we have just seen another example of it. So much for democracy and freedom if Edmonton complies and conforms to support that kind of "leadership" next election.