Tag Archives: government relations

Ontario’s Culture Strategy Consultation

The Ontario Ministry of Culture launched a consultation back on September 24, 2015.  Sorry – life got in the way or I would have posted earlier.  I appear not to be the only one slowly realizing that this consultation is out there.  I hear few members of the cultural industries have been attending the town halls around the province.  It’s never a good thing to miss an opportunity to be heard by a government so here’s what is going on and how you can participate.

This consultation is aimed at providing the government with input on the development of a culture strategy that will guide the government in its priorities and policy development and in particular guide the allocation of the government’s spending on culture. The Ministry of Culture has released a Discussion Paper that outlines the size and characteristics of the arts and culture industries in Ontario and the questions that it wants answered.  A series of town hall meetings are being held around the province to hear from both individual members of the public and those who work in the arts and culture sector (if you live in Markham, Toronto, London, Kingston, Mississauga or Windsor there are still dates coming up).   There is also a discussion board where people are encouraged to post ideas and vote other people’s ideas up and down the list (which is a format that the Ontario Liberal Party has used to implement grassroots policy development).  Few cultural industries (mainly just music) are showing up in ideas on the discussion board – you might want to think about throwing a few out there.  Finally, anyone (members of the public and stakeholder organizations) are encouraged to file a submission addressing the questions by December 7, 2015.

The Discussion Paper asks the following questions specifically about the cultural industries:

  • What is the Ontario government doing well to support the cultural industries sector?
  • What would you like to see changed?
  • Are there best practices that Ontario could learn from and adapt?

Through the OMDC the Ontario government has been very supportive of the cultural industries with tax credits, the IDM Fund, Export Fund, Research Grants and programs like Digital Dialogue.  Yes, there are tweaks that could and should be done (I think specifically about the OIDMTC preventing co-production with other companies in Ontario and/or other provinces or countries, and the OFTTC expanding to web video) but this is the time to think about new ideas.  What could help the sector, or your part of it, expand, grow, adapt to change, become sustainable?  Yes, more funding but what kind of funding?  Are there gaps in training or skills development?

You might also want to look at the other sections of the Discussion Paper and see to what extent the cultural industries can address those questions.  Can Ontario film, television and digital media be a tool as well as an end in and of itself?  For example, how can the cultural industries be used to inspire youth to create, participate in and consume Ontario culture?  Can the cultural industries help the other cultural sectors better respond to digital challenges and opportunities.  How can the cultural industries help the Ontario government serve the various regions, communities and populations?

You can’t win if you don’t play (which probably quotes a lottery ad but that seems appropriate).

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Federal Pre-Budget Consultations – Is There Any Point?

As part of the usual budget development process, the federal government launched pre-budget consultations June 6, 2014. The public has until August 6, 2014 to submit written submissions on what they would like to see in the budget. As the press release says, “Suggestions made by Canadians and the pre-budget report compiled by the Committee will be considered by the Minister of Finance in the development of the 2015 federal budget”.

After several years of a majority Conservative government, I believe that a few stakeholders, particularly those in the cultural industries, may be wondering if there is any point in participating in this process. Does the government listen to suggestions from the public or just do their own thing? Is there any point in going to the effort of writing a submission and trying to get on the witness list for the Finance Committee hearings?

I think so. Here’s the thing. The government may not listen. In fact, it probably won’t. I think that the government is looking to the 2015 election now and the upcoming budget will have that in mind. It will be about votes and I do not think that this government sees many votes for them in this sector. In film, television and digital media we got copyright reform (whether we are happy with it or not) and the Canada Media Fund made permanent. I do not think that we can expect anything else in the coming year. So what’s the point?

First, parliamentary committees are always a good way to raise the profile of an issue for government bureaucrats and provide them with data and resources. When the parliamentary committee system is dysfunctional, as it can be argued it is today, this can be the greatest value in participating in a committee process. Many issues take years to work their way through government departments, regardless of who is in power. Annual pre-budget consultations are a good way to keep publicly saying that an issue needs to be resolved and providing up to date data.

Second, there will be an election at some point in 2015 and now is a good time to let all political parties know what your top issues are. You can directly lobby them to try to get in to the party platform but a well-reasoned submission followed by an articulate presentation and well-answered questions will be noticed. There is no guarantee that your issues will fit within any party agenda but in my opinion attempting to influence party platforms in your favour is better than sitting back and complaining afterwards that you were ignored.

Besides, the Finance Committee has limited submissions to 2000 words so this really will not be a big effort on your part. Come up with the top 2 or 3 budget issues, describe them briefly and submit away. Hearings will be over the fall in Halifax, Montréal, Toronto, Winnipeg, Edmonton, Yellowknife and Vancouver as well as in Ottawa. What do you have to lose?