While members of the cultural community are fighting to reverse cuts to budgets that are crucial to their ability to function, Stephen Harper is involved in his own cultural crusade, the fight against crime. He won’t ban hand guns, won’t administer the gun registry, which is the law of the land, and he only pays lip service to the idea of social policies that deal with the root causes of crime. But once a crime has been committed, he’s Clint Eastwood.
Criminologists know that locking up fourteen year olds for life and publicizing their names will not cause youthful violent offenders and gang members to curb their offences. That’s not the point. For Harper, this is pure theatre, his version of the Stratford Festival. The Conservative leader loves to deliver soliloquies on behalf of crime victims.
But one crime victim he didn’t want to hear about was eighteen-year-old Hayder Kadhim, who received two bullet wounds in the head, during the Dawson College shooting in Montreal in 2006. The young man challenged the prime minister to a debate on the issue of gun control, something "Make-My-Day" Harper would not do.
The Conservative government’s $45 million cuts to cultural outlays amounts to a cut of one fifth of one per cent of the federal government’s budget. It’s a sum of money that would run the federal government for about two hours.
He didn’t make the cuts to trim government spending. He did it to poke the artistic community in the eye. This week he’s showing his target voters that he has no use for criminologists in ivory towers–he called them that yesterday–and he’d rather stigmatize artists as latte drinkers than recognize them as vital members of society who happen to contribute considerably to the GDP.
As Harper might have said: "False face must hide what false heart doth know."