Saturday, May 15, 2010

Creating a marketplace framework for Canada’s digital content advantage

The Government of Canada is asking Canadians our views on how to improve our country’s digital advantage. Arguing that Canada is only in the ‘middle of the pack’ in terms of adopting and exploiting the value of digital technology, the federal government states that “we need to do better”; hence, the launch of the digital economy strategy, first announced in the March 2010 Throne Speech and Budget. At the Canada 3.0 conference in Stratford Ontario earlier this week, Canadian Industry Minister Tony Clement released a consultation paper to solicit Canadians’ views. He also promised key stakeholder roundtables, though details aren’t yet available.

Canadian Heritage Minister James Moore is playing a key part in the development of this strategy from the perspective of digital content and creation. Acknowledging the innovation of Canadian creators, the consultation paper states that “With the right framework, digital media entrepreneurs have the ability to create Canada’s digital content advantage with vision and boldness to unleash the potential of content to capitalize on our investments … and drive more innovation”.

For Canadian Heritage Minister James Moore, the framework focuses on the marketplace. The chapter on Canada’s Digital Content Advantage emphasizes the responsibility of the government to ensure the right polices and measures are in place for digital entrepreneurs to succeed: “The Government of Canada’s role is to put in place a marketplace framework in which our creators, inventors and entrepreneurs have the incentives to innovate, the confidence to take risks and the tools to succeed.”

The paper does not discuss the role of digital media of sharing Canada’s diverse cultural voices with each other, or bringing the Canadian cultural perspective to the world, although Minister Clement’s speech did make reference to this.

The consultation is open until 9 July 2010. For more information, go to

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Canada Prize in Arts and Creativity -- now it's time to contribute to good public policy

In the January issue of The Arts Advocate Report, MP Gary Schellenberger, Chair of the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage, noted how slowly the wheels of government turn. This became readily apparent this week with news from Canadian Heritage Minister James Moore that the Canada Prize for Arts and Creativity will be administered by the Canada Council for the Arts, its parameters yet to be worked out though. Regardless, the Minister was emphatic in stating that he expects the first prizes to be awarded next year, 2011.

Originally announced in the 2009 federal budget, it became evident that the Government did not have clear plans and objectives for the Canada Prize. Moreover, the rumoured roll out of it, centred in Toronto, became divisive within the cultural community. This presented the feds with significant problems particularly in Quebec. With speculation running rampant as to the genesis of the prize, the Canada Prize was a good example of how public policy should not be developed.

Recognizing the firestorm that developed around the Canada Prize, it makes sense to go back to first principles to see that the new prize becomes sought out by all artists, and is respected throughout Canada and around the world. With this week’s announcement, Minister Moore re-asserted ownership of the Prize. The appointment of an advisory panel to “generate a series of recommendations and options regarding the parameters of the Canada Prizes” will provide everyone with an opportunity to have their views heard. Chaired by Canada Council Chair Joseph Rotman and including Vice Chair Simon Brault, the 5-member panel will make recommendations on how to “recognize outstanding Canadian artistic achievements and will help brand Canada as a centre of excellence”.

Notwithstanding the controversy that has dogged the Canada Prize for Arts and Creativity, its proponents should be credited for convincing the Government of Canada to recognize excellence in the arts, something this government, and minister in particular, have not been identified with: The ‘i-pod minister’s focus has seen to be on consumer demand and access -- important factors in artistic decisions, but not in isolation from excellence.

Now it behooves Canadians, particularly those in the cultural sector, to give the advisory panel good and creative ideas on how to make the Canada Prize for Arts and Creativity work for all Canadians.

To make your views known, go to You only have until 21 May 2010.