The way the debate was set up was as a sort of round-table discussion, with the moderator taking pre-selected questions from "ordinary Canadians" on the major issues facing Canada today (our media is so saturated with US goings-on, that I'd forgotten we have our own issues!) and each party leader had a certain amount of time to answer on behalf of his/her party.
A brief aside so you know what's going on: The way the Canadian system works, briefly, is that whichever party gets the most members of Parliament elected, gets to put their leader in charge as the Prime Minister. De facto, we have the Conservatives and the Liberals as the major parties, but the Bloc Quebecois (a separatist party), and the New Democratic Party (the even more socialist version of the Liberals) were also there, though they likely won't be the Opposition party. Surprisingly, the leader of the Green Party, who have less than a handful of seats in the Parliament at the moment, was also invited. Her participation was actually boycotted by the PM, who said she was irrelevant at first, but then there was such a hoohah, that they had to invite her anyway.
The (Conservative) Prime Minister has gone on a bit of an anti-arts rampage recently, saying that he was trying to appeal to the working classes, not the "ivory tower" people who go to "gala events". (The sentence that launched a hundred Facebook protest groups, hah!) His administration also cut a massive amount of funding to the arts, although he counters that they added a certain amount of money to other programs. So naturally, all the other party leaders jumped on this as soon as the topic turned to the arts. the Green Party leader particularly singled out the cut to a program that subsidized art transportation costs for galleries and museums, and actually understood that such a cut meant that there was no longer opportunities for people across our (enormous - second largest nation in the world territorially) country to have their horizons broadened by new and different perspectives in culture.
Our PM smugly replied that his government only cut the "ineffective" programs - to which the Bloc Quebecois leader surprisingly cleverly retorted that if so, why wouldn't the government account for which programs were seen as ineffective, and exactly why? As you can probably guess, this quickly degenerated into name-calling, partisanship, and empty promises on behalf of all the leaders, but the question was still a good one: what makes certain arts programs "effective," and how is that to be measured? Most importantly, who gets to decide?
It's not just a rhetorical question, aimed at making us all feel warm and fuzzy inside about what we do and what we believe in (I assume that despite occasional wobblings, most of us are still pretty optimistic and enthusiastic about the arts and culture). In the weak global economy, with governments adopting protectionist, reactionist accounting policies, its a question the answer to which could determine all our futures in the museum profession. What do you think?