November 13 1978


November 13 1978


Art for profit’s sake

Peter Newman’s editorial, What is Canada Profited If It Saves a Fist Full of Dollars and Loses Its Soul? (Oct. 16), is spot-on in its sentiment. Culture, more than politics or economics, is at the true centre of our national crisis. But what the editorial missed, and governments are slow to recognize, is that cultural investment pays, and pays handsomely. The 1.6 per cent of the federal budget spent on culture triggers a larger economic benefit than any other comparable expenditure. It’s time we looked at what we get back in employment, sales, taxes, exports and services, and not just at what we save. If we did that, perhaps there would be less reluctance to invest more heavily in the one area that nurtures our sense of identity. What’s more, the artists of this country represent one of the few renewable resources we have, and cultural institutions attract more Canadians than sports does. Cultural activity not only enriches the Canadian spirit, it makes all Canadians richer.


The People oinked

So, Ava Gardner is “looking slightly doughy around the middle,” and “she was so nearsighted she couldn’t read the cue cards without her glasses,” as well as being dubbed “a femme fatality” (People, Oct. 9). If I was written about in this manner, I would not be in love with the press, either. Believe me, if I look that good at 56, I’ll be very happy.


‘Seductio ad absurdum’

Professor K. D. McRae of Carleton University takes issue with my statement that “there is no jurisdiction that I know of in the world which makes it a crime to erect billboards, street signs, point-of-sale literature or even menus in any language but the majority language of the country” (Letters, Oct. 16). He cites Switzerland, where he says,

“Italian has had legal priority over other languages on public signs in the Canton of Ticino since 1931,” and Flanders in Belgium, which he says “has been officially and legally unilingual since 1932.” But he does not make clear the distinction between the language situation of these jurisdictions and the one in Quebec. It is not illegal anywhere in Switzerland for people to use other than one language. You can, if you wish, put up a sign in three languages or more and nobody is going to complain or take you to court. The same applies to Belgium where bilingualism is not illegal. But even the most casual reading of the terms of Bill 101 in Quebec makes it clear that in various areas the use of any language except French is illegal. Bilingual signs are to be illegal. There are exceptions, but the law is clear. It is this form of authoritarianism that I object to. I am sorry to see that people like McRae have been seduced by Parti Québécois propaganda which is clearly intended to play down this authoritarian aspect of the language bill.


Wimpo phobia

After reading William Casselman’s column, Where Are the Males of Yesteryear? ... (Oct. 9), it seems clear that he is infected with the same disease that is becoming widespread among men: wimp-paranoia. To suggest that because of two television shows—which may actually depict men as human beings— men are being castrated, is absurd.


Spendthrift in power

Peter Newman makes an attempt to deify John Turner in his editorial, Prince Charming at the Comer Table . . . (Oct. 9). One statement, however, cries out for comment: “The decade he (John Turner) spent in cabinet opposing higher federal expenditures has suddenly made his brand of politics popular again.” Surely even as charitable an observer as Newman must see that Turner presided as finance minister over an unprecedented federal spending binge during the 44 months he held office, which saw our budget go from approximately $16.6 billion in the fiscal year 1972 to $32.2 billion in the fiscal year 1976—an increase in excess of 94 per cent, on main estimates. If Newman has any convincing evidence to substantiate his statement that Turner did, for 10

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years, oppose higher federal expenditures, one tends to reach the conclusion that he was probably a singularly ineffective and weak advocate for financial responsibility.


For Russia with Love

In her column, How to Live with Cuts in the Arts . . . (Oct. 16), Barbara Amiel writes: “Without their great artists, Russia might be recalled only as a country of half-drunk murderers and Germany as a country of very sober ones.” Even within the context of poetic licence the intelligent reader can divine the true intent of such vituperative expression: to slander, malign and vilify an entire people.


The French Line

I wonder if the doom and gloom of David Thomas’ and Graham Fraser’s obituary for bilingualism, The Noble Experiment that Did Not Work (Oct. 16), is, like the news of Mark Twain’s death, somewhat exaggerated. What is really at issue here is not a vision, doomed to failure or otherwise, but a set of realities. Even Richard Joy does not predict the demise of sizable minority populations in the bilingual belt from Moncton to Sudbury. Even Léon Dion does not deny the need for “official bilingualism at the federal level” in the midst of his “two unilingualisms.” As for the internal workings of the federal public service, perhaps your writers should make up their minds. Is the effort to make French a normal language of work a complete flop, or have we progressed from the bad old days to a point where, as they themselves put it, “now it is taken for granted in many departments that civil servants can file reports—and be evaluated—in their mother tongue?” Don’t get me wrong. There is no room for complacency in this business, and there is a long way to go before any of those involved will have any cause for self-satisfaction. However, I think the article does a disservice by seeming to suggest that there is a magic solution, which Canadians have failed to find. Such simplistic answers ignore the human aspect of the problem and undercut those individuals across the country who are working to develop mutual respect between the two language groups.