Cultural ImperativesGovernments or the political parties they represent in a democracy, along with their leader, can be subject to deliberate misconceptions through preconceived and closely-held prejudices. Canada has a Conservative-led government. Prime Minister Stephen Harper is held by those for whom conservatism is a fear-inspiring concept, to be a man with a mission to destroy the qualities and values that have made Canada the egalitarian, peaceful society it is; one that also prizes its artistic and literary figures.
This has been helped along by the unfortunately mischievous and very public antics of Saskatoon-based writer Yann Martel who embarked on a rather arrogant journey to introduce a man whom he seems to believe is a literary ignoramus to great literature, by launching a "What is Stephen Harper Reading" campaign, sending him one specifically selected piece of literature every two weeks. His campaign, denigrating the Prime Minister, earned Mr. Martel public notice over the four years of his well-publicized campaign.
One imagines Mr. Martel wishing to complement his fictional character's ocean journey with a tiger on board by this initiative; the analogy of offering books to a political tiger with a hidden agenda reflecting that of the young boy offering food and potable water to his unwanted passenger over his prolonged period of unwilling companionship fraught with the concern of becoming its meal, somehow managing to survive a long, exhausting and formidable ocean voyage through his own impressive improvisation skills.
Each represents a fable of the writer's imagination.
"It was kind of fun to do it. I enjoyed it. I learned that I lived in a democracy [and] that I can tease my prime minister for four years and not be arrested. That was a good thing to know", explained Mr. Martel when he announced his intention to call an end to the provocative nuisance he so much enjoyed and which garnered him the public applause and attention he sought. His little exploit was applauded by that proportion of the voting public that prefers to believe Stephen Harper has much to learn from his critics.
Needless to say the Prime Minister has many other important things on his mind. He does, after all, represent the head of a government that is performing exceedingly well on behalf of all Canadians, in ensuring that the country's interests are advanced. Much to the disappointment of those of his critics who would prefer to see some real evidence of his deep, dark plot accorded to his "secret agenda" attributed to him and his party. The majority government that was voted into place has not yet embarked on the secret agenda.
But it can be amazing when it is revealed who the ignoramuses are. Some Members of Parliament, for example, representing the opposition parties who insist that Canada's current government is short-changing the country's cultural interests. Who cling to the belief, because it suits their agenda, and it is what they wish to believe, that the government has cut back support for Canadian publishers, for example.
The Association of Canadian Publishers annually sends a delegated committee to Ottawa to meet with Members of Parliament (lobbying, in other words). The 120-member of the Association of Canadian Publishers receive annual financial support from various government agencies like the Department of Canadian Heritage and the Canada Council for the Arts. In Ontario, the Ontario Media Development Corporation and the Ontario Arts Council also support Canadian publishing.
The funding, explains Matt Williams, vice-president of publishing operations for House of Anansi Press, has a distinct purpose: "It's going out to printers, it's going out to authors, to illustrators, to our staff, to freelancers. We would be in big trouble", he says, if those grants suddenly were cut off. Which dreaded potential impels the members of the Association of Canadian Publishers to embark on this yearly trip, to speak with as many Members of Parliament as possible, to advise them of the need to continue this support of Canadian literature.
"There are degrees to which they are informed about the programs and degrees to which to which they are informed about the industry", explains Carolyn Wood, ACP executive director. The value of the meetings is to explain why continued funding is vital, that 80% of books written by Canadians are published by Canadian publishers, and not, as many might assume, multinational publishers.
"The support has been steady. We had meetings with opposition MPs who said, 'I can't believe you guys are getting whacked'. And we had to say as a matter of fact we're not", said Mr. Williams. And the ACP executive director Carolyn Wood explained further: "This government has been very supportive of the publishing industry in most respects. Funding levels remain constant, which she characterizes a "remarkable support during these [economic] times."
A reality that shatters all those dearly-held slanders of a Conservative-philistine government.
Despite a belief to the contrary