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Liberal leader Dion defends importance of arts and culture

Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion visited a film studio in North Vancouver today to shore up his cultural credentials on a day when Canada’s arts war got really heated.

“I don’t know a strong economy in the world that does not have strong arts and culture,” he said, restating he would increase the television and film tax credit from 25 to 30 per cent at a cost $160 million over four years.

His stop at the North Shore Film Studio coincided with competition from NDP leader Jack Layton and a political gift from the prime minister. Layton also promised more support for the arts while Harper, already under fire for cuts and a bill that would deny funding to material the government deems objectionable, dismissed the arts as a “niche issue.”

“We need to stop this man,” Dion said, stressing the importance of music, film and television to ordinary Canadians. “He wants to pit everyone against everyone. Canadians against their artists.”

Film and television alone account for 36,000 jobs in BC, Dion said, including carpenters and electricians, and the average Canadian artist’s salary is $23,000 a year, none of which jibes with the image of a snooty elite suggested by Harper’s “rich gala” comment.

Dion also slammed Harper for not repeating his swipe at artists when asked to do so by a French speaking reporter.

“He didn’t have the courage to repeat what he said in French, which says a lot about the lack of courage of this man.”

But even though Harper seemingly played straight into Dion’s hand on Tuesday, the Liberal leader also struggled with a question asked in French.

A new ad campaign in Quebec features supposedly ordinary people talking about the issues that concern them most. The Liberal website stresses that the ads highlight the differences between their campaign and the “stage-managed” nature of Tory messages.

Given this claim, a reporter wondered why half of those who appear in the ads are professional actors.

“I think they’re ordinary citizens,” Dion answered. “That’s what I was told.”

Or perhaps it is simply proof of the Liberal commitment to supporting Canada’s acting community.

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