Earlier this year, I posted on the cultural implications of the TPP, noting that the agreement represents a departure from trade deals by creating restrictions on Canadian cultural policy. Assuming services such as Netflix argue that any mandated Cancon contribution is discriminatory if they do not also receive the benefits accorded to established broadcasters or broadcast distributors, the TPP will effectively ban applying Cancon contributions to exempt entities.
Now it appears that the implications of the TPP for Canadian cultural policy are beginning to attract attention. Question period in the House of Commons featured the following exchange this week:
Mr. Pierre Nantel (Longueuil – Saint-Hubert, NDP): Mr. Speaker, the trans-Pacific partnership also raises concerns for cultural industries. The TPP explicitly prevents the government from developing policies to support Canadian content on digital platforms. On one hand, we have a Minister of Canadian Heritage holding consultations on digital media, and on the other hand we have her government signing a treaty that will limit its own capacity to intervene online. Despite all her fine words, the minister’s hands will be tied. However, she promised to protect our cultural diversity in these trade agreements. How will the minister defend such an absurdity to our cultural industries?
Hon. Mélanie Joly (Minister of Canadian Heritage, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, Canadian content and support for creators of content are a priority for our government. For years, our approach during trade talks has always been to maintain our capacity and to support cultural and creative industries. That remains unchanged today, especially during our talks on the TPP. We also want to seize the opportunities offered through our various trade talks. That is why our government is determined to listen to Canadians on the issue and that is why the Minister of International Trade is –
Minister Joly may have run out of time to respond, but the issue remains a major problem for a government that has focused on the need to update Canadian cultural policy in the digital age. Such a policy initiative will be difficult when the TPP creates limitations on the scope of potential policies, including clear restrictions on the extension of Canadian content contribution requirements.