Canadian band Billy Talent criticizes Ontario culture minister for arts funding

TORONTO — Canadian rock band Billy Talent distanced itself from Ontario’s government and, in particular, its controversial tourism, culture and sport minister after she posted a photo the band says “misrepresents” a meeting they had.

Lisa MacLeod tweeted a photo — that appears to have since been deleted — of herself sitting behind a drum kit, joined by the band.

“Many thanks to @BillyTalentBand for having me play drums today as they record their new album! As @ExploreON Minister I’m proud the Ministry supports the Ontario Music Fund!” MacLeod tweeted.

Billy Talent wrote in a statement Friday that their record label asked them to meet with MacLeod to discuss recent cuts the government has made to the Ontario Music Fund and the negative impact it has on artists.

“Unfortunately, a photo of us with the minister was posted without our knowledge or consent that completely misrepresents the purpose of the meeting and has been misinterpreted by some as our support for the current administration,” the band wrote.

“While we recognize that Ms. MacLeod was attempting to be funny, the fact is that what the provincial government is doing to artists in Ontario is anything but.”

In its spring budget, the government slashed the Ontario Music Fund from $15 million to $7 million. That cut doesn’t hurt established artists as much as it makes it hard for younger artists to make a living, Billy Talent said.

“We thought that by engaging directly with her, we could make a difference,” the band wrote.

“However, based on Ms. MacLeod’s mischaracterization of the purpose of our meeting and her misrepresentation of the government’s ‘support’ for the OMF, we realize that our appeal has likely fallen on deaf ears. For the record, we do NOT support the (Premier Doug) Ford administration and what they are doing to the arts. And we’re very happy with our current drummer, Lisa.”

A spokesman for MacLeod said she was invited to meet representatives from Music Canada to discuss the industry and the Ontario Music Fund.

“During her visit, she was asked to stay late to meet the Billy Talent Band and offered the opportunity to play the drums, which she shared on social media through a light-hearted tweet in support of the band,” Derek Rowland said in a statement.

“She appreciates their feedback and will continue to support them, as well as all Canadian artists, in her role as minister of tourism, culture and sport.”

The Progressive Conservatives are attempting to trim an $11.7-billion deficit and are cutting spending in a number of areas. That includes lower spending on tourism, arts and culture.

Culture programs are budgeted at $235 million this year, down from nearly $295 million last year, including cutting “arts sector support” from $18.5 million to $6.5 million.

Additionally, the Ontario Arts Council, which awards grants, is receiving $10 million less from the government this year. And a $5 million Indigenous Culture Fund that the council administers, and was only established last year, has been discontinued.

MacLeod also recently came under fire after reportedly hurling a profane tirade at Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk at a Rolling Stones concert. MacLeod later said she apologized for being “blunt.”

MacLeod was demoted this summer from the Children, Community and Social Services portfolio after her handling of the autism program sparked outrage.

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