Guilbeault holds cards close to chest in town hall

Screen Shot 2020-09-15 at 12.23.34 PM
The Heritage minister said the federal government will prioritize contributions made by online broadcasting services when it tables new legislation, and suggested a second tranche of support could be forthcoming for the entertainment sector.

Those looking for concrete answers on how the federal government will move to address production insurance, diversity and legislative change likely didn’t come away with much additional intel following Canadian Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault’s town hall address Wednesday.

But potential clues were sprinkled thoughout the Zoom call with CMPA president and CEO Reynolds Mastin and AQPM president and CEO Hélène Messier. Namely that the government will prioritize the contributions made by online broadcasting services when it tables new legislation, and that a second tranche of financial support could be forthcoming for the entertainment sector.

In terms of updating the Broadcasting Act, Guilbeault said the federal government has thought long and hard about whether to table a “massive” bill that makes amendments to “everything under the sun,” or tries to “slice it up into smaller pieces to try and ensure we can get as many of those pieces through parliament.”

The conclusion has been that “we can’t do everything at once,” he said, adding that putting financial “oxygen” back into the system by forcing online broadcasting services to make mandatory contributions was the most logical way of doing that.

There could be broader legislative changes tabled in the future, but for now the focus is on bringing digital platforms into the Canadian regulatory tent. “I’m not saying the bill we table will only be about [the contributions made by online broadcasting services], but this is the main focus of what we want to get through parliament as quickly as possible.”

Guilbeault’s guardedness was perhaps to be expected, with the Heritage Minister noting on multiple occasions that he hasn’t tabled the bill yet and therefore couldn’t expand upon its contents.

As for additional support measures to help keep the industry afloat, Guilbeault said the government is considering a second round of support. Details were scant, however, with the Minister simply saying: “We have provided additional funds to CMF and Telefilm, and as said we are looking at a second tranche of support for the sector, and this is obviously something we would look at very closely.”

“We have provided $500 million of help to the Heritage sector. In my mind, and the mind of the prime minister, that was not the be all and end all of what we’ll do,” he added.

Broader economic support measures – in the form of a new iteration of the CERB benefit – may also be introduced and continue into 2021.

Elsewhere, those hoping Guilbeault would provide an update on the lingering insurance question weren’t in luck, with the minister simply offering that his department had been working “night and day” on resolving the issue. “We are quite conscious of how important this is, and of course insurance is not the usual government business. It may seem like a simple issue from the outside but …. we are working diligently in order to come up with a solution. We know time is of the essence, and are quite aware of that.”