Top Canuck film and TV thesps rallied Wednesday in Toronto to condemn the government’s C$45 million ($43.4 million) arts funding cuts and to urge political party leaders to make culture a hot topic on the federal election trail.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s minority Conservative government cut arts funding in August, and its proposed legislation to withdraw tax credits from productions deemed “contrary to public policy” has rattled the Canuck film and TV community. The government was dissolved Sept. 7, and Canucks head to the polls Oct. 14.

The media conference stage was crammed with a veritable who’s who of leading Canuck players, including Colm Feore, Wendy Crewson, Gordon Pinsent, Wayne Robson and Maria Del Mar. Thesps also slammed Harper’s recent announcement that his government, if re-elected, would relax foreign-ownership rules.

“We watch with particular interest those stories that are about us, that speak to who we are,” said Feore, who argued that supporting the arts community and businesses is key to maintaining a strong Canuck identity.

“Fundamentally, who we are as Canadians is differentiated by everyone else in the world and if we lose that, and lose sight of the value of that, it’s going to be gone forever.”

The Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists, which reps the interests of 21,000 English-language performers, has issued a questionnaire to each party to gauge their commitments to the arts and plans to publish the results just days before the election.