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PromArt Program Cancelled

From August 16, 2008

When news broke that the Conservatives had cancelled the PromArt program, the question that most Canadians asked was, "What's PromArt?" This was a reasonable response, for the influence of the PromArt program, designed to spread Canadian culture and values in other countries, would likely not be felt within the country's own borders.

The next question asked: "Why are those bureaucratic pencil pushers giving money to some left-winger to fly to Cuba?"

As it turns out, Mr Gwynne Dyer went because Harper's Ministry of Foreign Affairs asked him to. It wasn't even Dyer's idea. The Canadian government wanted someone to speak to influential Cubans about "how things work in free societies" and about "civil-military ties in a democracy", so they contacted him. And Dyer did the bidding of his government.

As for the Canadian director, Avi Lewis, whose travel to Australia to promote his film was paid by PromArt: "In market terms, it was a no-brainer - the proceeds of the Australian sale went straight to the National Film Board, defraying the public money that had helped to make the film."

Tal Bachman, who performed for children at an orphanage in South Africa, hadn't even known what PromArt was when he was asked by the Canadian embassy to get on board.

Before issuing a press release complaining about 'abuses' within a program that is about to be cancelled, Harper's government ought to do some background work. The program clearly advanced Canada's influence on the world stage and, in Cuba for example, it advanced the Conservatives' anti-Castro interests too.

So, was all the deception necessary? Or did the left hand not know what the right hand was doing?