TORONTO — Tom Mulcair surrounded himself with members of Toronto's flourishing arts community Monday as he announced new funding for artists and film producers.
He promised enough money to counter previous Conservative culture and arts cuts, but appeared to fall short of pledges made by the Liberals.
The NDP leader was cheered by the likes of actor Gordon Pinsent and the folk-rock, husband-and-wife duo of Luke Doucet and Melissa McClelland, known as Whitehorse, as he took to the sound stage at 99 Sudbury in the gallery district.
Heralded by Whitehorse playing "Devil's Got A Gun," Mulcair announced a New Democrat government would provide $60 million over four years to Telefilm Canada, the National Film Board and the Canada Council for the Arts, while loosening rules for artists who seek council grants.
An NDP government would also allow self-employed artists to average their income, a move that would make tax filing fairer and more predictable, said Mulcair.
"It's long overdue," Mulcair told the gathering that included dozens of NDP supporters and eight Toronto-area candidates who hope to retain or take seats in the region.
The measure was applauded by the Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists, according to a statement released by the NDP.
Cultural attaches would be named to Canadian embassies to help artists promote their work internationally.
And the NDP would create a new, $10 million digital content fund to support celebrations of Canada's 150th anniversary in 2017, said Mulcair.
The Liberals under Justin Trudeau announced late last month that they would double funding for the Canada Council for the Arts, to $360 million annually.
They also promised to restore international cultural promotion programs that were axed by the Conservative government and increase funding for Telefilm Canada and the National Film Board, although it was unclear by how much.
The Liberals also pledged Sept. 22 to provide the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation with $150 million in additional annual funding.
Mulcair wouldn't go that far Monday, instead reaffirming his party's promise from earlier this year to reverse $115 million in cuts made by the Conservative government to the CBC.
His comments were welcomed by the Canadian Media Guild, the union representing the majority of CBC employees.
"We are encouraged the NDP is listening to Canadians and calling for better funding and a better process for appointing the CBC board and president," CMG national president Carmel Smythe said in an email.
"It's a crucial cultural institution and generations of Canadians will thank people with vision who are now standing up for public broadcasting."
Although not as prominent in this campaign, past elections have seen artists and cultural groups become very vocal in denouncing program cuts made since the Conservatives came to power in 2006.
The NDP's arts announcement Monday was overshadowed by other issues that have dominated headlines in the past few days, including the signing of a 12-country international trade agreement known as the Trans Pacific Partnership, which the NDP warned could negatively affect cultural and arts industries.
Mulcair received his strongest applause at the event — including a standing ovation — when he repeated his party's rejection of the Harper government's wide-ranging anti-terrorism legislation, Bill C-51, which critics say endangers free expression.
The NDP campaign heads to Vancouver on Tuesday.
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