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A twice-elected member of parliament from Saint Boniface, Minister of Heritage Shelly Glover inherits a budget-sapped. (Dave Chan)
A twice-elected member of parliament from Saint Boniface, Minister of Heritage Shelly Glover inherits a budget-sapped. (Dave Chan)

Who is Shelly Glover, Canadian culture’s new federal cop? Add to ...

Since the 2011 campaign, Glover has been in a dispute with Elections Canada over her expense returns from that election, and until last month faced suspension from the House of Commons. She has since submitted a revised return, which Elections Canada accepted, but her campaign could still face a penalty for exceeding its spending limit.

As a rookie in cabinet, she inherits some difficult issues. The CBC, in particular, is in some disarray following the Conservative government’s $115-million budget cut, the surprise departure of English services head Kirstine Stewart this spring, and the contentious Bill C-60, which critics say threatens the arms-length relationship between the federal government and the public broadcaster. The CRTC, which falls under Canadian Heritage, is launching an extensive review of the broadcast system this fall, with head-spinning changes in technology having a deep impact on the TV business.

There’s also a controversial move afoot to change the name – and mandate – at the Canadian Museum of Civilization to the Canadian Museum of History, a change initiated by Glover’s predecessor. Many arts institutions and organizations across the country are struggling as funding stagnates. On the west coast, the Vancouver Art Gallery has its hand out, asking Ottawa for $100-million for a new purpose-built facility.

Moore was able to distinguish himself in the portfolio despite the fact his government was perceived by some to be hostile to the arts. Instead, he was thought of as an ally, someone who was into it, tweeting often about Canadian music, films and museums. Glover’s describes herself as having been “very involved” in arts and culture when she was younger. Her mother worked at the Winnipeg Folk Festival. Glover took dance lessons for 12 years and still loves the ballet, she says. She sent her kids to the Manitoba Theatre for Young People; now, her 25-year-old son is an actor who is performing at the Winnipeg Fringe Theatre Festival and is doing voice work for an upcoming animated series.

When asked about the last ballet she attended, Glover thought it was “probably the Nutcracker.” She has not yet seen the Winnipeg Art Gallery’s summer blockbuster 100 Masters: Only in Canada, which opened in May. The last theatre performance she attended was something her son was in, but she couldn’t remember the name of his Fringe show. She did, however, visit the National Gallery in Ottawa before the parliamentary break, and she spoke at length and with great enthusiasm about the Festival du Voyageur, an annual winter cultural festival in Saint Boniface. She is also a supporter of Le Cercle Moliere theatre in Winnipeg.

When asked about the CBC, Glover said her government has always been committed. “We’ve said many, many times – and I believe very, very strongly – that we need a broadcaster that is fair and that is balanced, and CBC is so intricately important to my Francophone communities, particularly those that are in minority situations.”

To constituents who wrote to her about the Conservative government’s support of the CBC before the 2011 election, Glover responded in a letter, saying in part: “Although I am a big supporter of a strong, national, public broadcaster, I am very concerned about accountability within the CBC and I continue to monitor that situation with great interest.” The letter was obtained by Friends of Canadian Broadcasting, which passed the contents on to the Globe.

Friends spokesperson Ian Morrison says he has concerns, not about Glover but with the appointment of a novice to the post. “We’ve gone from a Heritage Minister with clout to a neophyte person who has never been in cabinet before,” says Morrison, adding: “The A Team has left the Minister’s office.”

But Moore was a cabinet rookie when he was named Heritage Minister in 2008, although like Glover he did work as a parliamentary secretary, and he had some experience in private broadcasting.

“We worked really well with James Moore, so we’re grateful for what he was able to do for the arts community,” says Melissa Gruber, steering committee member with the Canadian Arts Coalition. “He has been a pretty strong minister, so it could be exciting to see what she brings to the table. It’s not necessarily a drawback if she’s new – as long as she’s sensitive to the priorities of the community.”

Glover says her first order of business is learning her portfolio, immersing herself in briefings, meeting stakeholders and hiring staff. It’s a lot of work – but the first words out of her mouth over the phone from Ottawa involve her excitement over the tremendous opportunity.

“We live in the greatest country in the world, where you can make mistakes and still have a dream and work hard and succeed,” she says. “And here I am.”

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