The recent decision to shift Bev Oda out of the Canadian Heritage portfolio was one of the cabinet shuffle's worst kept secrets. While the current conventional wisdom is that Oda's replacement – Quebec City MP Josée Verner – will be a stronger voice for culture around the cabinet table, my technology law column this week (Toronto Star version, homepage version) argues that a change in Minister may not be enough. While Oda had her shortcomings, the reality may be that the problem lies less with the identity of the Minister of Canadian Heritage and more with the department itself.
Few doubt the importance of the cultural sector from both an economic and social policy perspective, yet that status is not reflected in the Department of Canadian Heritage, which has gradually morphed primarily into a granting agency for various cultural initiatives. Increased funding for festivals, films, museums, and other culture industry programs may be worthwhile, however, the problem with the grant approach is that it has locked Canadian Heritage into the status quo at a time of dramatic change.