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The Department of Culture is advocating for anyone but Harper this election year

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The Arts Community Plays Strategically

GERALDINE CAHILL, TRNN: This Canadian election year, there are many groups advocating strategic voting. Rather than going with your heart, voters are being asked to vote with their heads. Many advocates of this system are running anything-but-Harper campaigns, distinguishing little between the NDP, the Liberals, and Green Parties in an attempt to avoid a Conservative majority. One such group is the very newly established Department of Culture. What started as a group of ten artists protesting the proposed cuts to arts funding across Canada has now grown to include over 700 volunteers in every province. Promoting their message through online social sites like Facebook and hosting high-profile fundraising events between musicians, opera singers, and filmmakers, the group aims to educate people on how to avoid unknowingly voting in a Conservative candidate. The Real News spoke with the Department of Culture’s founding committee member, Izida Zorde.

IZIDA ZORDE, DEPARTMENT OF CULTURE: The Department of Culture, initially it came out of a press release that three organizations sent out, where we wanted to have a town hall to talk about a bunch of budget cuts that have come down from the Conservatives. So we didn’t know what we were going to do. We sent out a press release. And then this core group of ten people came together in response to the press release. And in our first conversation we talked about the fact that while, as artists, we were very concerned about the cuts to the arts and what that means for the different organizations that we work for, and for us as practitioners, we were also responding to the crisis that we have in funding in Canada and Stephen Harper’s active dismantling of the social safety nets that we have in place. So we quickly realized that we were as much concerned with cuts to women’s groups, to youth programs, to immigrant-serving agencies, to harm-reduction programs, health research, food inspection. I mean, it’s amazing that there was a listeriosis outbreak during the election, ’cause I think that listeriosis is one of—like, it’s a really physical, visceral manifestation of what deregulation is and what it can mean for Canada.

CAHILL: So really it’s much more than just a group of artists coming together to say, “We need more funding for the arts.”

ZORDE: It is much more than funding for the arts. I mean, I think it’s interesting that Stephen Harper tried to pit ordinary Canadians against artists, ’cause artists are very much ordinary Canadians. And as an ordinary Canadian, I am very concerned about, you know, having health care in the future, or being able to send a child to daycare, or, you know, having food and water that’s safe to consume.

CAHILL: Do you think there is a disconnect between what Harper might call the artists and ordinary Canadians?

ZORDE: I think that these are artificial constructions. You know, like, I come from a working class, immigrant family. Like, I feel like I am as ordinary as anybody else. And anybody who works in arts organizations, anyone knows, like, I work for, you know, fairly low wages in a small office that’s understaffed. And I think that the way that most artists live is akin to the way many people live.

CAHILL: Are you looking to move people away from the Conservative vote? Are you campaigning on behalf of any other political party?

ZORDE: I’m not campaigning on behalf of any political party. We’re running an anyone-but-Harper campaign.


Please note that TRNN transcripts are typed from a recording of the program; The Real News Network cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.

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Izida Zorde is the Editor of Fuse Magazine, based in Toronto. Fuse is an arts and culture magazine for readers in need of in-depth coverage of innovative and alternative art practices. She is one of 10 Founding Committee members for the Department of Culture.