Musicians and Canadian politics!

The Canadian election show started again, invading our lives with or without our acceptance. Should we as musicians care about it? I bet most don’t care, and normally I would understand. But I am looking at how thinks are moving, and, for the first time, I have some questions and concerns, and I would really like to hear the politician’s opinion about these issues. And I think these issues are of interest for all involved in Music industry in Canada.

The actual government doesn’t actually care too much about the artists… yeah, they say they do…. I say they don’t. I don’t expect any handouts from them, but I do expect the government to ensure a policy that is fair to everybody, not only to some…

On May 16/2014 the Copyright Board of Canada came out with the royalty rates for the non-interactive (like CBC music) and semi-interactive  (like Pandora) music streaming. These rates are 10 times smaller than the rates in States. There was a petition signed by many artists to change Tariff 8, but the Minister of Industry James Moore disregarded the petition and nothing was done. What does it means: well, simple, the corporates owning all these services are making more money, period, while the artists get less and less. The tariffs are low all over the world, but in Canada are the lowest! It’s a shame: in a time when everybody downloads for free, a time that calls for certain regulation as the music business model is in permanent change, the government is more concerned about the corporation’s income than helping its musicians! And let me be clear: Canada has so many great musicians, respected all over the world, unlike the actual government!

A few days ago a clip was launched, where Steven Harper talks in front of a Netflix screen, telling us how much he enjoys, like everybody else, the movies. And he goes on to say that if you vote conservatives, there will be no tax. Like they promised for income trust funds and ended up taxing them, like the iPod and the likes! That’s good, but here is the thing: the Canadian streaming services – like Shomi – are paying taxes. They do have offices in Canada. They do employ people in Canada. Netflix doesn’t have either. This is not fair. How is the government keeping the balance? It seems to me that generally there is no help for our arts!

The problem is deeper. We’re in the brink of another recession, as the Harper government made sure the oil and mining companies were maximizing their profits, while the lack of support for the rest of industries was incredible. The only exception was the automotive bailout, where it was also quite some pressure from the Americans (interesting enough, I’ve been told that actually the government made tons of money, as the interest on the loans was over 20%!).

Except oil and mining, there was no significant support shown by the actual government toward the other areas of economy. I felt like laughing when I heard about 100 million dollars for Toyota (which actually was shared with Ontario government 60/40!), announced like a major event by the media!

When there is no disposable income, the first to be affected are the artists! People spend first on rent, food, energy, clothes, vacations, music and generally the arts are not a priority. We can debate why is that, and if we start an argument, we will be told you can’t eat music or paintings! It may has something to do with the way the education system works!

I may be naïve, but I always wanted to government to protect its citizens (and not with Bills like C51!), and make sure the economic activity is balanced, looking at the particularities of different provinces. When I am looking for a model, I am looking at countries like Norway and Sweden, where governments are encouraging the capitalism when it comes to economy, but do not mix the idea of capitalism efficiency in economy with the way its citizens are treated! I still have yet to see this government being bothered by the huge hourly paychecks of their CEO friends, the same way they’re bothered when they are asked to increase the minimum wages. Make no mistake: guys like Steve Jobs, Dell and the likes deserves to be rich, as they managed to build something relevant, employing so many people, and I am all for competition and creativity! What I am against is when the government is favoring those that helped them to get in power, denying actually their so loved idea of free market!

So, all in all I think these guys are bad news, and it’s time for a change. Do I hope the others are much better? No, but at least they will encourage other areas, and reestablish some balance. After so many years of a right government, I feel like I trust more the social democratic side. Do I expect them to fix the economy? No, but I bet they will do much better than the actual government which proved they do not have the competency- the worst record since WWII! I do expect them to revive the social aspects, and I don’t care about this myth of “balanced budget”! It would be nice to have it, but, in tough times, it is government job to interfere, to spend money in infrastructure, to help people getting jobs! And, in good times, get the budget back and even put some money aside! That would be good music to my ears! 

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