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Ludwig Van
Toronto Montreal

INTERVIEW | TSO Timpanist David Kent On Running For The PPC

By Anya Wassenberg on July 31, 2021

David_Kent-PPC-Interview
David_Kent-PPC-Interview

Most people associate musicians with left-leaning politics. But, there may be more right-leaning musicians that we think. Some surprising examples include:

  • Moe Tucker from The Velvet Underground is a proud Tea Party Republican;
  • Johnny Ramone publicly supported the Republican Party;
  • Kanye West publicly supported Donald Trump;
  • Pop singer Gary Barlow was a fan of David Cameron and the Conservative party;
  • Ian Curtis from Joy Division voted for Margaret Thatcher.

David Kent, Principal Timpanist and Personnel Manager for the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, can be added to that list. Kent has announced his candidacy in the next federal election, running for the People’s Party of Canada. He’ll be running in the University-Rosedale riding where he lives.

What leads a career musician to run for office? “Another musician comes to mind — Anton Kuerti,” Kent says. “At least it’s not without some precedent.”

“It’s been a huge issue with the orchestra, that we should get out in the community,” he continues. “The ironic part, is that playing music has been restricted, to put it mildly.”

But, that’s not all there is to it. “The second is my general concern with my direction of this country.”

Why the People’s Party of Canada — a party whose chances for election, judging from past elections, are slim?

“To me […] politically speaking, I would say I respect what I call classical liberalism,” he says. “The question for me is, what has happened to the country with respect to those values? And, is there a party that represents these values. The PPC was the only party that represented those values.”

What is Classical Liberalism?

“I’m a big history nut. [Their] platform struck me as centrist, common sense classical liberalism.”

Classical liberalism” is a philosophy generally accepted to have been founded in 18th century Europe by those who looked to free the public from the constraints of the aristocratic system, and strict religious conformity.

How does “classical liberalism” translate into policy? Specifically, the PPC’s platform includes, among other policy points, reducing immigration by a minimum of about 55 percent, and up to 70 percent, along with healthcare reform that would dump responsibility on the provinces, and introduce “the more efficient and less costly mixed universal systems of other developed countries” (aka a mixed public/private system).

When it comes to Canada’s First Nations, the PPC’s plan is to repeal the Indian Act, while asserting the federal government’s jurisdiction when it comes to First Nations and natural resources, and to actively promote individual property rights on reserves, the lack of which the party claims as being the root cause of social ills. There is no mention of residential schools or the horrifying legacy that is unfolding still.

“The other parties have moved so far into the other spectrum, they’re all crowding each other, in my opinion, of course,” he says.

He’s also a fan of PPC’s leader, Maxime Bernier. “Max is obviously very experienced. He’s been a cabinet minister,” he says. “He’s the one who has been espousing these values of classical liberalism, and frankly, being honest and consistent. And he’s a hard worker.”

Bernier’s current pre-election tour of Western Canada was recently interrupted when he was arrested in Manitoba for failing to self-isolate in the province, and assembling in a large gathering in contravention of Public Health laws.

Kent, who is running against popular Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland in his riding, is realistic about his chances of a win.

Multiculturalism

Part of the PPC’s explicitly stated policy is to repeal the Canadian Multiculturalism Act. What exactly would that mean?

“It’s a good question,” Kent says. “Here’s the thing, first of all, this riding, is arguably one of the most multicultural and diverse. The fact is that Canada is an established multicultural society. It’s part of the Canadian fabric,” he adds. “One of my hobbies, ironically, is studying Mandarin.”

According to a 2014 article in the Toronto Star, Kent studied with noted Indian percussionist Trichy Sankaran, at the time on the faculty at York University’s Department of Music. As part of his Master’s recital at UofT, Kent played a mridangam solo.

“Canada is multiracial,” he explains. “It’s a little bit of an insult to all Canadians to think that they need this nanny state. I think Canadians are more sophisticated than that. We can stand on our own as a multicultural country, and we don’t need government mandates.”

As a point of fact, funding from Canadian Heritage officially designated for multiculturalism currently provides financial support for a wide range of projects, from the multiracial and multi-ethnic music festivals that are held at communities across the country, to events for Black History Month and Asian Heritage Month, and contributions to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, among others. Available funding has dropped by about 60 percent over the last decade.

As Kent sees it, when the federal government provides funding, it also claims influence. “The piper calls the tune,” he said. “I could give you a lot of examples — the CBC for one. The CBC is an excellent example. It used to be a source of creative energy.”

Context: In 2012, the federal government cut $115 million from the CBC’s budget, an amount that was spread over three years. Funding has not kept pace with inflation for the last decade, as noted in a 2020 financial review of the organization, leading to attrition and contraction throughout the entire organization.

“But, where is the money going?” he asks.

“Programming is done by committee, it’s done by quota. The emphasis has shifted to expressing the government’s agenda,” he claims. “They have virtually no support of the classical industry,” he added. “I’m disappointed in that.”

“We have to be very careful about government mandates in general, and certainly, in the cultural industry. Beethoven and Shostakovich — they were dissidents. Musicians have to hang on to that tradition.”

Canadian Identity

In repealing the Multiculturalism Act, and in its immigration policies, the PPC’s platform is focused on the idea of Canadian identity. The specific wording reads: “Repeal the Multiculturalism Act and eliminate all funding to promote multiculturalism. Emphasize instead the integration of immigrants into Canadian society.”

The PPC website accuses both the Liberals and Conservatives of “using mass immigration as a political tool to buy votes among immigrant communities.” Specifically, they advocate, “Our immigration policy can benefit Canadians only if we welcome the right kind of immigrants. It should prioritize Canada’s economic interests and be calibrated in a way that does not jeopardize Canadian values and the maintenance of our national identity.”

Ironically, Canadian Heritage, in allocating funding under the Multiculturalism Act, lists among its criteria: increasing awareness of Canadian values, Canadian history and institutions, and increased respect for core democratic values, among other stipulations.

Whose version of Canadian identity and values? Whose version of Canadian society?

Those seem to be the fundamental questions at stake.

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