After Thought: The “Three Pillars” of Creative Canada

There are a lot of unanswered questions about the future of Canadian content

Federal Minister of Canadian Heritage, Mélanie Joly. (flickr/Province of British Columbia)

Canada isn’t exactly known for being a hotbed of cultural activity—a fact that Canadian Heritage Minister Mélanie Joly vowed to change when she unveiled the government’s new Creative Canada plan in September.

The plan contains several elements that have the potential to help Canadian artists come together and break into international markets, but many of the ideas are not finalized. This is a problem.

The proposal is organized into three “pillars”: investing in Canadian artists, promoting Canadian Content (CanCon) “discovery and distribution” internationally and at home, and strengthening public broadcasting and supporting local news.

In the first pillar, $300 million will be spent on the development of Creative Hubs, or places where “creators can build their entrepreneurial skills, create, collaborate and innovate.” The document doesn’t really describe what these could be, or how they would be any different from the methods of learning and opportunities for collaboration that artists already use. Nothing about this initiative is new. It sounds like rehashing roles that libraries and social media already play in fostering the creation of art.

In addition, the government will increase investment in the Canadian Media Fund, a private-public partnership that already receives about $130 million per year.

In the second pillar, $125 million of new funding will be allocated over five years for a Creative Export Strategy to boost the sales of Canadian content around the world.

How is this supposed to happen? Is the government going to purchase 5,582,849 CD copies of Nickelback’s immortal magnum opus All the Right Reasons—which currently costs $22.39 on Amazon—and airdrop them into a bunch of different countries across the globe?

Not really. Apparently, a large part of this plan involves working with the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission to develop new models of content distribution that befit the digital age, but these models will not be revealed until June 2018. The Minister also hired “cultural and trade officers” to be embedded in countries abroad, ostensibly to promote CanCon and facilitate business connections. Exactly how Canadian creatives are supposed to utilize any of this is still unclear.

One of the biggest reasons that CanCon struggles to gain popularity in international markets is that, in many cases, nobody actually wants to consume it.

There must be a theoretical limit to how many reruns of The Beachcombers international audiences can stand to watch before they start to beg the government to take back its money and deport the cultural trade officers. How Creative Canada intends to focus on and evaluate television shows or music with actual export-potential remains to be seen.

The third pillar contains little in the way of financial support for local news publications, and instead is geared towards helping digital news media. This upset a lot of people in print news, who took issue with Joly’s declaration that the government was no longer interested in supporting broken business models.

The biggest jobs of all, reviewing the Canadian Broadcasting Act, Telecommunications Act, and Copyright Act, were basically put off to a later date. Despite all of the unanswered questions, Creative Canada will no doubt help Canadian artists, but its announcement would have been less underwhelming had the government waited until the legal policies regarding CanCon were being overhauled.

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