Putting culture back in culture

Citizen-artist and longtime culture critic Andrew Terris likes the realignment of culture portfolios in Tuesday’s cabinet shuffle. In addition to explicit cultural entities, the new Department of Communities, Culture, and Heritage will be responsible for the Nova Scotia Archives and Records Management, and the provincial library system. It will administer the offices of Acadian Affairs, Gaelic Affairs, and African Nova Scotian Affairs.

Over the years, culture has regularly been batted around within the bureaucracy, often ending up with dubious partners. First there was Culture, Recreation and Fitness (we used to call it Cult, Rec and Fit), then Tourism and Culture, then Education and Culture, then back to Tourism and Culture, with Heritage belatedly added. Mostly culture was an afterthought. Many in the sector longed for the day when government would recognize the overriding importance of culture and, like many other jurisdictions, create a standalone Department of Culture.

Well, guess what? By all indications, that’s exactly what the Dexter government has just done. Every single aspect of the new department – culture, heritage, archives, libraries, and the aforementioned “offices” – has a direct link to our sector. This is nothing short of revolutionary… a seismic shift in the way that the Nova Scotia government views culture.

Support our men in… Lucknow?

Arts activist and New Democrat Andrew Terris questions the province’s decision to rename the Hantsport Connector after William Hall, VC, the first African Canadian, and the first Canadian sailor, to receive the Victoria Cross. The son of slaves who escaped the American south during the War of 1812, Hall earned the honor for his exceptional bravery during the Siege of Lucknow in the Indian Rebellion of 1857.

On Monday, Terris wrote Premier Darrell Dexter:

The Indian Rebellion of 1857 was also known as India’s First War of Independence, so in essence Nova Scotia’s social democrats are memorializing a black man who helped white imperialists subjugate the brown men of India. Perhaps you could enlighten me as to exactly what is being celebrated here.

HallHere Terris is making a mistake more often encountered among those on the opposite end of the political spectrum: that of conflating support for the young men and women who fight our wars with support for the political decision to go to war. How often have we heard right-wing demagogues invoke the rallying cry, “Support our boys” as a way to bully opponents of war into silence?

Terris also has the advantage of a sesquicentennial lens through which to view the morality of Britain’s efforts to retain her empire. If he wishes to redress these historic wrongs, perhaps he could start with a campaign to remove the Spring Garden Road statue of Sir Winston Churchill, who committed all manner of atrocities in pursuit of colonial control over South Africa and Ireland, instead of picking on a remarkable Black Nova Scotia farmer-shipbuilder-able seaman whose life played out in the age of sail.

And speaking of begrudgery – updated

In response to this, someone called Peter Watts or perhaps Paul Buher, writes from a cryptic email account:

You, sir, are a pig, and no different than Darrell Dexter.

You hide under the guise of a political blog during the day, only to be writing for the NDP at night. A $15,000 pay cheque isn’t too bad I suppose. Good for you.

I have news for you. Anything you write on that virulent blog from this day forward is tainted with the stink of NDP orange, corruption, and self-serving interest. As I said, you sir, are a pig.

I wonder how Mr. Whateverhisrealnameis would feel to learn that Rodney MacDonald’s Tories hired me to write that government’s energy strategy.

Andrew Terris chimes in:

15K for 26 pages of text with lots of white space?


On the other hand, an erstwhile Daily News colleague writes:

That was a breathtakingly shoddy piece in the Herald this morning. Seems like Dan et al have made up their minds about the Dexter government.

I’ll leave it to others to decide whether the Herald’s shoddiness was breathtaking in this case, but I do think Judy Myrden’s story falls into a category of invidious reporting sensible people can see through without knowing much about the topic. She calls it a $42,000 press conference, but cites only $11,000 in costs (including transportation, catering, audio-visual, and event-management) related to the event.

The other $31,000 was part of the process of producing the plan, an effort that included several government departments, and discussions with interested companies, organizations, and individuals. Myrden falsely conflated production costs with news conference costs to make the latter appear four times larger than they were.

The sad thing about this is that if Myrden, or any other Herald reporter, would bother to read the energy plan, they would find it choc-a-block full of issues vital to Nova Scotia’s future—questions that could use robust discussion, debate, criticism, and even, dare I say it, investigation. Alas, that would take time, effort, imagination, and intelligence. Unlike finger-wagging.

Perhaps all provincial announcements should take place in Halifax, the centre of the known universe. Perhaps government should aways communicate with one hand tied behind its back, issuing reports written in bureaucratese and printed in gray ink on newsprint, Enver Hoxha-style.

[Update:] Stan Jones writes:

Sorry, Parker, but when you are sucking $15,000 from the same tit as the MLAs I really don’t think your opinion is going to sway me.

Perhaps Mr. Jones, who bills himself as a consultant specializing in social, health and educational research, is too pure to take government money. I’m not. About a quarter of my consulting work is with government. I relish these assignments because they give me a chance to work on the most important and difficult public issues facing our society, and to interact with thoughtful, energetic, well-motivated people.

The cynical assumption at play here is that doing government work automatically makes one corrupt. If that’s true, then it stands to reason that the most important and difficult decisions of our time will be worked on only by corrupt people, while all the good people (like Jones, Terris, and Watt) stand on the sidelines. Enjoy your purity, folks. Some of us want to tackle these issues.

Less pure readers can check out the Energy Plan here. They tell me it’s a pretty good read.