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Canadian experts unite for cultural policy advisory group

Heritage Minister Melanie Joly answers a question in the House of Commons on June 16, 2016.

Adrian Wyld/THE CANADIAN PRESS

The federal government is appointing a dozen outside experts as a "sounding board" to help steer a sweeping review of Canada's cultural policies that is aimed at redrawing a system of support some federal officials feel is broken.

The advisory group's mandate gives few clues as to which issues will be at the forefront of the consultations, but helps map an ambitious process that is expected to stretch into next year. The group has no decision-making power, placing final say squarely in the hands of Canadian Heritage Minister Mélanie Joly, and there is no expectation that the group members will draft a formal report.

The group, which should be officially announced on Tuesday, includes an array of expertise for Ms. Joly to draw on, and all members will have equal status. They are:

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  • Rob Blackie, a producer whose credits include the CBC TV series Republic of Doyle
  • Katie Boland, an actor, writer and producer
  • Catherine Cano, chief executive officer of public affairs channel CPAC
  • Loc Dao, chief digital officer at the National Film Board
  • Lisa de Wilde, CEO of public broadcaster TVO
  • Michael Donovan, executive chairman of DHX Media Ltd.
  • Charles Falzon, dean of Ryerson University’s faculty of communication and design
  • Philippe Lamarre, owner of production house Urbania Media
  • Jean La Rose, CEO of Aboriginal Peoples Television Network
  • Monique Savoie, president and artistic director of Société des Arts Technologique
  • Justin West, founder and president of Secret City Records
  • Kenneth Whyte, senior vice-president of public policy for Rogers Communications Inc.

The group will meet for the first time later this month and participate in up to six workshops held across the country in September and October. In addition, the members will be expected to attend five meetings with Ms. Joly as they "provide ongoing feedback and act as a sounding board for the minister to test ideas throughout the consultations."

They will be able to claim expenses of up to $25,000, but will not be paid for their time.

Canadian Heritage wants to help players in Canada's cultural industries adapt to constant technological changes that have upended long-standing business models, leading to job cuts and lower paycheques for many people.

"With these technological changes happening at a very fast pace, it is important for the government of Canada to understand how we can seize the opportunities provided by this digital shift to grow our creative economy at home and abroad, best position our artists, journalists, cultural entrepreneurs and creators to succeed, and ultimately deliver on Canadians' expectations to have access to great content in their communities and across platforms," the department said in a consultation document.

Canadian Heritage is working to create a framework to steer the rest of the consultations, and the process will lead to the creation of a document called the "What We Heard Report" in December or January.

"Given the importance and the breadth of these consultations, I am pleased that I can count on a group of creative and innovative experts with a diversity of skills to provide me with key feedback throughout the process," Ms. Joly said in a statement, adding: "Stay tuned for the next steps – the conversation is just getting started."

When pressed for specifics about the review in recent months, Ms. Joly has repeatedly stressed that "everything is on the table."

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The review came as a surprise to many in the industry when it was first announced in late April. Since then, lawyers, lobbyists and creators have all been trying to gear up for the consultations, but many of them still are not sure where the review might lead.

The panel could play a key role in distilling vital issues from a host of competing viewpoints that are sure to surface. Canadian Heritage has put no fewer than eight federal acts up for review, along with the mandates guiding organizations such as the CBC, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission and the Canada Council for the Arts.

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