Comics / Comics News

Travelling Grants Cuts To Comic Book Artists

By Hervé St-Louis
October 1, 2008 - 22:05

In early August 2008, Heritage Minister, Josée Verner announced a series of cuts to existing arts programs funded by the Canadian Government after an internal review of the programs. The cultural community, parts of the media and many Canadians have since rallied against the Conservative Government headed by Stephen Harper to denounce the cuts and ask for their reinstatements. Will any of the cuts affect Canadian comic book creators and publishers and will they be detrimental to the Canadian comic book industry?

One of the main programs that has been cut is the travel allowance that allows Canadian artists to travel in foreign countries, attend conventions such as the Small Expo or the San Diego Comic-Con and have parts of the fees of a booth at a convention paid by a Government grant. The Comic Book Bin has asked three Canadian comic book publishers about whether or not the cuts would affect them. Vancouver-based Arcana was not aware that such program existed and thus, never used it. Toronto-based Udon Comics does not use this program to travel and pay for convention expenses at comic book conventions. Montreal-based Drawn & Quarterly declined to answer our questions.

The Case against Funding

The Case against the funding of travel expenses for Canadian comic book artists and publishers abroad is strong. First, comic book arts are hardly a mainstream art form and only matter to a minority of the public. Why should the Canadian Government spend money on such endeavours? Second, why should the Canadian Government pay for the promotion of arts outside its borders that essentially reach non Canadians? Wouldn’t that money better spent in Canada? Do Canadian comic book artists really need the money to travel abroad to attend a convention like the San Diego Comic-Con? Is there a decent return on the investment when the Canadian Government funds such trips? Are Canadian comic book artists just going on holidays paid by Canadian taxpayers? Is the funding of Canadian comic book artists giving them an unfair advantage against their American competitors who have to fork the money to attend comic book conventions out of their own earnings? Shouldn’t Canadian comic book publishers learn to be solvable and financially stable on their own and not rely on the Government for help? Is the Canadian Government keeping companies alive artificially by extending them grants for travel?

The Case for Funding

Because the world is becoming a smaller place, the market for comic books is increasingly international and perhaps Canadian comic book artists and publishers need all the help they can get to compete in that global market. Culture was also never included in the North American Free Trade Agreement between the United States, Canada and Mexico, thus the promotion of Canadian comic books by the Canadian Government is not an anti-competitive measure that is against trade rules between the countries. Other countries, in Europe also fund the foreign promotion of their comic book creators because they recognize this as a gesture to increase their international footprints, similar to what the Olympics and hosting them, does for a country. Germany has long promoted the Goethe Institutes around the world to increase knowledge about its culture, its customs, and institutions.  The Goethe Institutes are responsible for the large numbers of foreigners learning German and visiting Germany every year.  China is set to create a similar network of institutions called the Confucius Centres around the world to increase knowledge about Chinese culture, its language, and fostering its economic influence. Hence, culture becomes a weapon to compete in the world. So at a time when cultural imperialism is increasingly seen as an economic means, is it wise for the Canadian Government to cut the founding and cancel the network of Canadian trade representatives and cultural experts that can assist Canadian comic book artists and publishers to be heard across the world and promote Canadian values and culture abroad?

As a Canadian who understands the value of culture, I am torn by the decision of the Harper Government. On one hand, the arguments for the cuts are justifiable, although they were poorly presented to the Canadian public. They seemed done in pettiness and part of that Government’s social conservative tendencies and populist approach to policy. At the same time, I ask myself if it’s not time for Canada to take its culture seriously as a source of economic development and invest more in the future. The Americans have long proven that culture – through popular music, film and comic books are a viable way to ensure the cultural hegemony of the United States worldwide.

This is a question that voting Canadians will decide for themselves and choose to vote for the political party that best represent their values on this issue.

Last Updated: September 6, 2021 - 08:15

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