Comparing the major party platforms on culture

There are a lot of issues at play in this federal election but we know that readers of TV, eh? are particularly interested in federal government support of Canadian culture and specifically Canadian television.  The following outlines and compares the major party platforms (to the extent they exist at the date of posting) on Canadian culture.

Note that I have pulled the platform promises from the party announcements (with links) and added any additional information that I could find.  I’ve added in clarifications from the NDP and Liberals (no response to my enquiry to the Conservatives) and as well things that were said by Andrew Cash (NDP) and Stéphane Dion (Liberal) at the Screen Industries Debate held October 7, 2015 in Toronto (there was a last minute cancellation from the Conservative representative). I have submitted a few follow up questions to the Liberals and the NDP and will update this post when I receive answers.

Conservative Party

There have been no party platform announcements on Canadian culture from the Conservative Party.  The closest thing to a platform announcement was Stephen Harper’s video promising to not tax Netflix or similar streaming services and claiming that the Liberals and NDP would do so.

Fact Check – neither party has taken the position that Netflix should be taxed but have at the federal Heritage Committee supported Netflix providing more data such as the number of Canadian subscribers and number of Canadian programs in their catalogue (the data they refused to give the CRTC).  This was repeated by Stéphane Dion at the debate and Andrew Cash raised the need to ensure fair payment to creators from OTT distribution as an issue but neither went so far as to endorse a ‘Netflix Tax’.

NDP

The NDP recently released their culture platform.  It is not fully costed but includes:

  • $60 million over 4 years to Telefilm and NFB and Canada Council
  • loosen rules to obtain Canada Council
  • income tax averaging for artists and cultural workers
  • promote work internationally through cultural attaches at embassies
  • $10 million digital content fund to fund content to celebrate 2017
  • reverse $115 million cuts to CBC and guarantee multi-year stable funding for the CBC (five years was suggested by Andrew Cash) and an independent process for appointing board members
  • Review the Broadcasting Act as part of a National Digital Strategy (this is not in the platform but was mentioned by Andrew Cash in the debate and by my recollection is the first and only time anyone has mentioned National Digital Strategy during this campaign)

Questions:

  • What is the breakdown of the investment in Telefilm, NFB and Canada Council?
  • What kind of rules need to be loosened to increase access to Canada Council?
  • Why is there no increase in the federal government contribution to the Canada Media Fund, which funds television, convergent and digital content. The CMF has not had an increase since its predecessor was founded in 1996 (other than digital content funds being reallocated from Telefilm to CMF in 2010).  Note that when asked this question, Andrew Cash mentioned looking at decoupling the digital media requirement from television funding through the CMF, which could potentially have a significant negative impact on the Canadian digital media industry.
  • What is the logic behind income tax averaging for artists and cultural workers and not all freelancers?
  • Why is the digital content fund limited to content to celebrate 2017 and not a permanent or ongoing fund?

Liberal Party

The Liberal culture platform has a bit more detail as culture has been included in their fully costed plan:

  • reverse $115 million cuts to CBC and top it up an additional $35 million per year, create a new strategic plan that incorporates the new funding and takes into consideration the new digital world, the CBC board to have merit-based and independent appointments
  • double Canada Council from $180 million to $360 million
  • Telefilm and NFB each receive an additional $25 million per year
  • Restore Promarts and Trade Routes cultural promotion programs and increase funding to $25 million each year
  • Increase funding to Young Canada Works for the next generation of museum staff
  • Invest in cultural infrastructure
  • Review the Broadcasting Act to update it for new technologies
  • Ensure that the mandated Copyright Act review takes place in 2017 (there is a concern that the Conservative Party will not implement the review or may short change it)
  • Allocate some of the promised funding for training to mid-career training for media professionals to help them adapt to new technologies
  • Advance 75-80% of the tax credit payments to improve cash flow and reduce interest costs

Questions:

  • The last 4 points were from Stéphane Dion at the debate. I am trying to get clarification (and confirmation) of the last point in particular as it would be a huge cost savings benefit to the Canadian film and television production industry.
  • Why is there no increase in the federal government contribution to the Canada Media Fund, which funds television, convergent and digital content. When Stéphane Dion was asked this question at the debate, his response was that there had been no agreement by stakeholders appearing at Heritage Committee hearings on what the CMF needed.  It could be more money but it could be guideline changes.  He felt the need for more industry consultation before making a proposal.  It could be that the parties are waiting for Heritage’s internal review of the CMF before making any commitments.  I was also advised by a party spokesperson that the focus was on replacing Conservative budget cuts and the CMF had not been cut.
  • Does the Liberal Party have any plans for a National Digital strategy?

Green Party
The Green Party culture platform has a lot of ideas but no costing associated with it:

  • Increase funding to all of Canada’s arts and culture organizations including the Canada Council for the Arts, Telefilm Canada, orchestras, theatres, and publishers. The goal will be to make increases in this sector commensurate with increases in support over the years for other sectors such as transport, energy, and health care;
  • Provide stable base funding for the CBC so it can continue to provide quality Canadian content television and radio programming in both official languages to all Canadians;
  • Restore CBC international short-wave service;
  • Reverse the CBC application and CRTC approval for commercial advertising on CBC Radio 2;
  • Reverse cuts to suppertime news and local programming in CBC and Radio Canada;
  • Ensure that the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) reserves more bandwidth for independent and non-profit stations;
  • Enact legislation that requires cinemas and video chains to have at least 20% Canadian content;
  • Restore and improve arm’s length principles in the governance of arts and cultural institutions and agencies under federal jurisdiction. In keeping with such a position, we believe that the heads of Canada’s cultural organizations such as the CRTC, Canada Council, CBC, and Telefilm Canada should not be appointed by the political party in power but by an arm’s length committee made up of competent people representative of the various diverse stakeholders in Canadian society;
  • Seek greater support and adequate resources for arts grants programs;
  • Seek increased funding incentives for artists and art events to tour Canada’s rural regions;
  • Provide protection for indigenous intellectual and artistic property rights;
  • Increase support for community arts programs and facilities across Canada by establishing stable base funding at a set percentage of the federal budget;
  • Equalize federal funding for arts and culture among provinces, territories, and municipalities to make it consistent with the provinces and municipalities that have the highest current standards;
  • Provide incentives to all provinces and territories to restore and improve arts and culture components in schools and extra-curricular activities, not only in urban but also in rural areas;
  • Extend income tax relief and incentives to artists (on the very successful models established by Ireland and the city of Berlin).

Questions:

Well, lots of questions starting with a costing but in particular:

  • Why is there no increase in the federal government contribution to the Canada Media Fund, which funds television, convergent and digital content. The CMF has not had an increase since its predecessor was founded in 1996 (other than digital content funds being reallocated from Telefilm to CMF in 2010).
  • Does the Green Party have any plans for a National Digital strategy?
  • Will increases to CBC funding make up for the service cuts that the Green Party wants to reverse?
  • How will increased bandwidth for independent and non-profit stations (whatever that means) ensure more independent and non-profit stations exist?
  • Some provinces use provincial funding to incent productions to come to their province instead of another and therefore develop a local industry. The Green Party equalization strategy will prevent that.  Was that intentional?

It is interesting to compare the language of the NDP and Liberal platforms.  The NDP platform emphasizes artists:  “In this election, only the NDP can be trusted to invest in CBC, to invest in Canadian content, and to support Canadian artists.”  On the other hand the Liberal platform talks about culture as an economic generator of middle class jobs:  “A Liberal government will reinvest in our cultural and creative industries, to create jobs, grow the economy and middle class, and strengthen our rich Canadian identity.”

However, I despair that both the Liberals and NDP continue to think that a film and television industry cares about Canada Council grants since the Canada Council funds artists and specifically NOT “work created for the cultural industries of commercial film and television”.  I know that I’ve tried to explain this to MPs and party staffers from all parties and I haven’t been alone.

I would also like to point out that the Liberal Party appears to have relied heavily on Heritage Committee appearances and submissions to know what the industry thinks and is advocating.  It is easy to dismiss these committee appearances as a waste of time because little is done (particularly in the last couple of years) as a result of their hearings but clearly they are a significant way for parties (as well as the government) to gather information.

I will update this post as and if I gather more information.

UPDATE:  The Canadian Media Production Association compiled their own list of party promises including a lovely and handy one page chart here.  Also, the NDP have released a fully costed platform and you can find the costing for the cultural promises on page 70.

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Kelly Lynne Ashton

Kelly Lynne has over twenty years of experience on the business side of Canadian film, television and digital media as an entertainment lawyer.She took a slight departure to produce children’s digital media. When it was time for something new, moved back to business affairs but now in film, television and digital media. More recently she discovered that all along her true calling was as a Canadian media policy wonk. Now she assists clients with research projects, policy and strategy development, government and government agency submissions and social media consulting.
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5 thoughts on “Comparing the major party platforms on culture”

  1. While I think that it’s important to fund Canadian television for the purpose of making quality Canadian stories, the bottom line is that it’s just not as important an issue as others like healthcare and housing , etc and its not a big enough issue for me to consider when choosing who to vote for. That being said, like many issues I care about, the Conservatives continue to ignore it, and many people continue to support the Conservative Party for small things which are non-issues for me too. I’m in Saskatchewan now and the niqab issue is huge and is solidifying support for the Conservative Party and taking support from the NDP, the only other party that really has a chance here. The niqab, issue, at face value, is a lot less of an issue than the Canadian television industry. In my household, I’m going to vote for the NDP but my vote will be cancelled out by my husband’s because he still supports the Conservatives because they threw out the much-hated (here) gun registry and he has a fear the NDP will try to bring it back. Unfortunately, the Conservatives will pretty much win in my riding without much effort. I find it sad that the election will be won or lost by small wedge issues like the niqab and a long-gone national long-gun registry instead of important issues like healthcare, housing and the environment but that’s the way it will be.

    1. That’s funny because the position the conservatives are taking on the niqab is taking support away from them here in Calgary. Personally it doesn’t make any logical sense and is irrelevant to the oath, equality and the Canadian way. What matters is that, whatever she does, it is up to her to decide for herself. And as long as that doesn’t infringe on the rights and freedoms of others, she can do and believe whatever she wants. It’s a thinly veiled (no pun intended) debate on cultural domination and whether or not Canadians actually want equality among cultures. Bread completely out of ignorance and assumptions because they have no exposure to other cultures in their lives. They, therefore, make false associations and attempt to force assimilate them into what they selfishly perceive should be the prevailing culture out of comfort. How does infringing on a woman’s rights protect her rights? It’s nonsense and has no place in rational discussion, especially during an election. But the amount of support that mentality is getting throughout Canada is deeply troubling because it tells me that Canadians are in large part xenophobic racists. Not the Canada i grew up with and it’s starting to sound very republican. and gross. Only conservative minded people are perpetuating this debate, the rest like me would rather talk about real matters. As for the parties stances on culture, I don’t think people realize how important exposure to Canadian storytelling is to their worldview and in turn the perceived value of anything coming out of this culture, whether it be the arts or goods and services. We have become quite apathetic and have massive inferiority complexes about our own country because we would rather evaluate ourselves through the eyes of american media. It might be conducive to business people who sell out our opportunities for the sake of an easier dollar, but it has been very culturally degrading. Almost none of our broadcasters have any reason to exist so long as they don’t own their own content. We essentially have forfeit our ability to build a profitable industry. If you only spend a dollar on a show, you better expect a dollar for it. We need to get past the precipice into an atmosphere where investment is seen as worthwhile and then build on that momentum. The CBC doesn’t have to be a drain on our tax dollars if we give them the means to make a worthy product and build a name for itself worldwide like the BBC. Those are my thoughts on the matter anyway. Cheers

  2. You need only look at PBS within the last Fifteen or so years as a prime example of what happens when a public broadcaster is cut financially and having to be creative to survive.
    they got lucky with Downton Abbey.
    But,the kind of programming PBS once relied on such as cooking shows are entire networks in Food Network abd Cooking.
    plus online media sources,Youtube,netflix,hulu,amazon and so on.
    which is happening here as well in both languages.
    alongside the ever growing channel universe.
    it’s why strong public media is a must not a luxury

  3. Making decisions about all the important issues depends entirely on what our collective sense of national identity is. And that comes mostly from what we mostly see and hear about in media.

    Canadians need more than ever for the CBC to do what it was originally mandated to do, not what it’s been mostly doing since it began broadcasting television in 1952 – failing it’s original mandate.

    Personal identity, name; location; herd; is forged between birth and about age 12. After age 12 is usually too late to change it.

    I am 65, I have been a consumer, and ‘student’ of Television since 1954, when my father brought home the first TV in our Etobicoke neighbourhood, a tiny black and white un-enclosed potential killer, upon who’s white hot vacuum tubes behind the tv screen I only burned my fingers skin off once to learn never to do that again. If the tubes didn’t kill you the electrical wiring would. A steel small gauge wire out the window up the nearest tree was the antenna. Colour TV did not exist, most of the time all one saw was black and white snow, or the Buffalo, NY TV logo. There was no Canadian TV in Toronto in 1954, not till 1955 did the CBC show up. Broadcasting would stop every night no later than 11 pm, as it was deemed unsavoury for people to watch TV after 11 pm, when we should all be in bed getting proper sleep for the next day. But, even with the CBC-TV arriving to 66 percent of Canadians within a few years, 99 percent of what we got to see, aside from the usual snow, was all American. It wasn’t until I was about 12 that I finally comprehended sufficiently that I was a Canadian, living in Canada, not an American living in the U.S., though still confused about it for long after age 12. I didn’t know Canada has such a rich and dynamic history till in my 30s when I stumbled upon my first copy of “The Beaver”, now “Canada’s History Magazine”. In fact, I still am confused about my national identity, as are most Canadians, and more are so every year since 1989, because 99.9 percent of what we hear and see in Canada is “American”. That’s why we still don’t have a stable collective ‘Canadian Identity’. That proves the measure of the power of ‘content’.

    The Australian Broadcasting Corporation does everything the CBC was originally mandated to do, and more, for far less. The ABC is a success, the CBC is not. The CBC fails to fulfill it’s original mandate, always has. For a very bad reason. Americans own, control, and run everything in Canada, including the CBC, for their benefit, and the results are the denigration, disintegration, and destruction of Canada.

    The U.S. does not have an equivalent of the CBC, it is the only nation on this planet that doesn’t. It doesn’t have one because it does not need one to tell American stories and entertainment and news and educational and cultural content to Americans. Every broadcaster in the U.S. does that very very well.

    Only one Canadian broadcaster in Canada is mandated to do that in Canada for Canadians. That one broadcaster is the CBC.

    To have a ‘Canadian Identity’ we have to have our own ‘Canadian Content’. For that we MUST have the CBC, fullfilling it’s original mandate.

    1. Steve Hartwell
      Thing is most no matter the side agrees the mandate has to be changed that’s why I think if the Liberals win next Monday you will see them form a task force to work on upgrading the mandate.

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