Ottawa has learned that artists want a big say in cultural policy changes, Mélanie Joly says

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Ottawa has learned that artists want a big say in cultural policy changes, Mélanie Joly says

Heritage Minister Mélanie Joly says the federal government heard "loud and clear" that artists want a say in how Canadian news, entertainment and culture can flourish in an increasingly digital world.

Canadian Heritage released a report last week after holding a series of public consultations across the country, which began last year, about concerns for Canadian culture. Currently, the government is reviewing its cultural policy.

In those consultations, members of the public were asked for suggestions on ways Ottawa can help create, promote and deliver digital content at a time when Canadians have foreign content at their fingertips.

"I think people are telling me that they want the government to adapt to how they consume information, how they search for content, and that they shouldn't be adapting to how government works," Joly told CBC's Metro Morning on Friday.

"What we also heard loud and clear is the fact that creators should be at the centre of our future policy, that we should address the issue of fairness to creators when it comes to how they can make a living in this digital age, and at the same time, that there's an incredible potential in our sector for growth, of investment and of jobs."

Joly said the Liberal government has made it clear that it is fully committed to nurturing Canadian culture.

In its 2016 budget, she said it earmarked $1.9 billion for cultural industries over five years, an amount for culture that is larger than budgeted by any G7 country. That includes doubling the budget for the Canada Council from $180 million to $360 million at the end of five years. 

The amount is the largest reinvestment in culture by a federal government in 30 years, she said.

"Why did we do that? Because we wanted, of course, to honour our social contract, to honour the importance of arts and culture to build strong communities. Also, we believe by investing in arts and culture, that will drive creativity, and that will lead to innovation and growth."

When asked how Canada can keep its artists from heading to the U.S. to make a better living for themselves, she said "exporting" Canadian content is part of the equation but it is important that Canada provides the "right support" for its artists to enable them to return if they leave.

It's not just about protecting Canadian content, in the face of Facebook, Netflix, Amazon and Google, It's also about promoting it, she said. The minister said the government doesn't support the idea of a so-called Netflix tax.

"We believe in the importance of exports. We believe in this day and age, because of technological changes, people are consuming information and entertainment differently. We need to really make sure we create great content and that we're not scared of exporting. And that it's okay if people go in other markets and come back."

Joly said she also heard from consultations that the government needs to take more risks in how it supports emerging artists.

"There's a need to innovate in terms of how we support new ideas. We heard that and understand that," she said. "We know also there are new creators that are outside of our system, and that are using our digital platforms and that are actually getting known. We want to modernize our policy toolkit in order to adapt to how people really work."

The minister did not mention any policy changes that might be arise from the consultations. 

When Joly launched the review of Canadian content in a digital world last April, she said everything was on the table for discussion, including broadcast regulations, copyright law, funding mechanisms that support the creation of Canadian content, the role of the CBC and the mandate of the country's broadcast and telecom regulator.

Joly has said she is studying the report and would respond in the coming months.

"I'm extremely optimistic," she told Metro Morning. "I think we are at an important historical threshold. That being said, we need to address the issue of fairness to creators, in order for them to be able to live," she said.

In the report, "What We Heard Across Canada: Canadian Culture in a Digital World," Canadian Heritage said: "Across Canada, there was broad support for the three principles that guided the discussions: focusing on citizens and creators; reflecting Canadian diversity and promoting sound democracy; and generating social and economic innovation." 

The report will guide the development of what the department calls a "modernized cultural toolkit" in 2017.