Posted by: nancykenny | February 8, 2012

You Spin Me Right Round

Please note: the views expressed here are completely my own.

Little known fact: when I grew up, I wanted to be the first female Prime Minister of Canada. I remember watching the news with my Mom and absolutely devouring my social studies classes to learn how our government worked. I won public speaking contests and I was always the one my family went to when they needed something read in church.  My Mom was encouraging.  I think she always thought I’d end up in politics or maybe journalism, and I didn’t initially disagree – in fact I long debated between Communications and Political Science as my minor before settling on the latter.  I saw politicians as public figures whose job it was to help people and make a positive difference in the world and I saw journalists as citizens in the purest sense of the term who collected facts, kept the public informed and politicians accountable.

Today, I was reminded why I bailed on all my political and journalistic aspirations.

I tweeted earlier this morning that “@nancykenny: Michael Healey was on CBC’s The Current discussing the controversy over his play Proud:” without fully reading the story breakdown on the CBC site. I hadn’t realized that this wasn’t going to be about Healey’s side of the story, but more of an attempt to create additional political fear-mongering in the arts community by dredging up the situation with Homegrown and the widely spread assumption that certain disapproving comments from the PMO’s office are what lead to cuts in the SummerWorks Festival’s funding.  To be perfectly clear, I have nothing to do with SummerWorks nor the Department of Heritage.  I do not know what exactly happened between the two, and I’m not going to get into all that here, because frankly, I am in the dark.

You know who else is in the dark about about the Homegrown/SummerWorks situation? Lucy White, executive director of the Professional Association of Canadian Theatres.  At best she has third party information, which clearly does not make her an adequate interview subject if this was the direction the CBC wanted to take with this story.  Throughout the interview she is clearly befuddled by the line of questioning, repeatedly says I don’t know and tries to change the subject to transparency in the Heritage granting process instead.  But Anna Maria Tremonti keeps pushing her angle.  Heck, at one point Ms. Tremonti even says “did something change in your funding because of Homegrown” like she thought Ms. White was directly involved in some way (unless she was speaking of PACT’s funding, but I doubt it).

Do I think it’s a stretch to lump Healey’s show into the same box as the SummerWorks situation? Maybe. Maybe not. Depends on how you go about it. But if that was the argument you wanted to put forward, why not bring in someone from the festival itself? 

All this did was make me agree with James Moore, which full disclosure: I’m sure you’re all shocked to find out I did not vote for this government.

Don’t worry, that didn’t last for very long.  The Honorable Mr. Moore started revving up his engine and spinning his wheels deeper and deeper into the muck all on his own.  You know what? As someone who has experience with granting agencies, I completely understand that they receive lots of funding requests and can’t accommodate them all, but if that is your story and you are sticking to it (and by the way, I am so very sad for you that you are getting “pilloried” because you are “too much in support of the arts and culture”), you might not want to work so hard when you fling your self-righteous poo back at them – and I quote: “they do all the time (when asked if it’s ok for artists to criticize his government through their art) and if somebody, for example, has a radio show on the CBC, funded by the tax payers of Canada through the Stephen Harper Government and wants to criticize us, you have your show.”

In the play in my head, a journalist, simply called “Reporter” reaches through the telephone wires and punches a political figure, simply called “Minister” on the nose. It is mildly satisfying.  Mr. Healey, please feel free to use that idea and include it in your own play. I’d appreciate a personal thanks at the GG’s when you win…

(Side note: That last bit is a fictionalized account – because it is physically impossible to reach through telephone wires –  and is in no way meant to promote violence against elected officials. I plead freedom of speech on that one, bitches.)

Honestly, I felt gross after listening to this thing.  I don’t think anyone except Michael Healey came out smelling clean (and this is only because Lucy White got caught in the crossfire).  All I know is that right now I am still jaded about politics, the media, and I would love to go for a drink with both Mr. Healey and Ms. White.



  1. Having gone one step further and actually graduated with a degree in journalism, this story reminded me of a lesson learned during that education. At the time, there had been a couple of incidents of violence breaking out at high school basketball games in Toronto, and I thought it would be a good story to find out if there was a similar problem at Ottawa high schools. So I called around to a few schools, and every basketball coach that I interviewed said they had heard these stories and were indeed very concerned that this sort of thing could happen there and they don’t know what to do about it. I put together what I thought was a well-sourced, well-written story, presented it to my editor/instructor who correctly called it out for the nonsense that it was; there was nothing demonstrable that had happened, just a media-created echo chamber of concern created entirely because people were reporting on it.

    What frustrates me greatly is that those of us in the arts community not resort to the fear-mongering that we condemn when it is used for, say, the introduction of an omnibus crime bill. We need facts and reason and serious arguments. We need to stop trying to force narratives when they aren’t there, by making vague imprecise implications. We’re supposed to be the storytellers, so let’s tell the better story. I think that’s what impressed me about Michael Healey in this interview.

  2. You just explained it better than I possible could, Brandon!

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