Trudeau doubles down on campaign promises in Heritage mandate letter

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau Holds Election Night Event In Montreal
The letter, published on Thursday (Dec. 16), reconfirms the government's promise to table an amendment to the Broadcasting Act and increase funding for Telefilm, CMF and the Indigenous Screen Office.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has reaffirmed the Liberal party’s campaign promises to the screen sector in a mandate letter to Minister of Canadian Heritage Pablo Rodriguez.

Published Thursday (Dec. 16), the 38 letters – one for each cabinet minister – outline the prime minister’s agenda and expectations for each ministry for the newly formed government.

First on the docket for Canadian Heritage is to continue its pandemic recovery plan. The letter to Rodriguez includes two commitments not included in the Liberal party’s re-election platform: to ensure “sufficient compensation is available for media production stoppages related to COVID-19″ and to hold a national summit “to restart and position the arts, culture and heritage sectors for the future.”

The federal government introduced the short-term compensation fund in fall 2020 to financially support any productions without COVID-19 insurance that are forced to pause operations. The current fund is set to close on March 31, 2022, which was previously extended from its original 2021 deadline. The government has not explicitly stated whether the fund will be extended a second time as of press time.

Rodriguez announced plans for a hybrid summit to take place both virtually and at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa between Jan. 31 and Feb. 1, 2022, with details to be announced at a later date. There is no word on how the surging COVID-19 rates, fueled by the Omicron variant, will impact plans. The minister also announced plans for a cross-country tour to meet with members of the arts and culture sector during the month of January.

The letter also reiterates two campaign promises to launch an Arts and Culture Recovery Program to support cultural venues and a “COVID-19 transitional support program” for artists and cultural workers impacted by the pandemic.

The prime minister also included the government’s ongoing commitment to reintroduce legislation to reform the Broadcasting Act, though it did not include the campaign promise to table the bill in the first 100 days. The bill will need to be tabled by Feb. 3, 2022, 100 days after the cabinet was sworn in, to meet the deadline.

The previous Bill C-10, which included plans to bring digital giants such as Netflix and Disney into the regulatory system, died on the Senate floor when the fall election was called.

The letter also contains the government’s previous commitments to increase the funding for Telefilm Canada, the Canada Media Fund (CMF) and the Indigenous Screen Office; to modify the proportion of French and English-language content from one-third French and two-thirds English to 40% French and 60% English; and modernize funding institutions to be platform-agnostic.

The Liberal election platform included promises to increase Telefilm’s budget by $50 million and double contributions to the CMF over the next three years. Similarly, while the party’s election platform stated the government intended to provide “$400 million over four years to CBC/RadioCanada so that it is less reliant on private advertising,” the mandate letter includes a commitment to “provide additional funding” toward the goal of eliminating advertising during CBC’s news and public affairs shows.

The federal government’s 2021 economic fiscal update, released on Tuesday (Dec. 14), did not include any budget increases toward CBC, the Canada Media Fund, Telefilm or the Indigenous Screen Office. It did re-confirm the government’s plans to enact a digital service tax, which would see large-scale digital companies that use or rely on Canadian data and content pay a 3% tax on their revenue, set to go into effect in January 2024.

Other commitments around CBC were reiterations from the election platform, including updating its mandate to “ensure that it meets the needs and expectations of Canadian audiences,” increases representation of Indigenous voices and cultures and brings “Canada’s television and film productions to the world stage.”

Additional reiterated campaign promises are plans to create a “cultural diplomacy strategy” with Minister of Foreign Affairs Mélanie Joly, issue a mandate “to the Business Development Bank of Canada and Export Development Canada to support the growth of creative industries in existing and new markets,” and support “productions led by people from equity-deserving groups in the Canadian audiovisual industry.”

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