TIFF by Trish Thornton (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) https://flic.kr/p/pb25Bb

TIFF by Trish Thornton (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) https://flic.kr/p/pb25Bb


The TPP’s Impact on Canadian Culture Emerging as Political Issue

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.


  1. What an oh-so-typical non-answer from Minister Joly.

    None of these politicians ever answer the actual questions asked of them. They dance around their government’s position in regard to the question, but they never actually answer the damned question.

    I could never work in the press covering these slimy people, or be one having to ask questions I know I would never get the answers to. I’d end up punching one of them in the face in frustration of never getting my questions answered with actual useful answers instead of the same old rhetoric.


  2. Brent Beach says:

    Prof Geist:

    The minister in the recently elected Liberal government said: “For years, our approach during trade talks …”
    Who exactly is “our”?
    Since there has been a change of government, it cannot mean the Liberals.
    The only people who have been there for years are the people in the Ministry. People who have spent 10 years executing Harper policies, probably hired by Harper, perhaps even Harper ideologues.
    Is policy being determined by left over bureaucrats, or by the Liberals?
    Have the Liberals cleaned out the stables yet?
    Is it time to refresh the trade negotiation team?
    It would be tragic is the Liberals were the last man standing supporting the ISDS and IP provisions of CETA and TPP based on advice from Harper era negotiators.


  3. Wayne Menor says:

    What Canadian “culture”? I support the tpp for the same reason I supported Netflix and their opposition to Canadian content regulations. Canadian culture is non-existent and establishing trade barriers to protect it amounts to nothing but a tax grab for special interests. I hope we see some movement towards privatizing the CBC from the tpp as well, as a public broadcaster is an anachronism in the age of the internet.

    • Brent Beach says:

      Wow – we could not be farther apart on media ownership and the RPP if we lived on different planets.
      Big media in Canada is owned and follows the whims of very large corporations and a US Hedge Fund.
      In today’s world, someone like Murdoch could buy all Canadian newspapers for a pittance, and control editorial opinion.
      Television could go the same way.
      Having a national broadcaster which is not controlled by a foreign corporation is an essential part of any country’s national interest.
      Current market conditions – extreme concentration of ownership in almost every category – require a very strong government hand. The invisible hand, one thought to be the best way to control markets, is now owned by a very small number of very rich people who are concerned only with their own wealth and power. Countries around the world will have to work together to eliminate this menace to civilization.
      A free media, uncontrolled by the oligarchs, is an essential part of that.

    • I hope you realize that this is one SMALL part of the TPP Wayne. To support the TPP based on this alone is very narrow-visioned.

  4. Great article.Especially the depth in which it discuses the legal aspects.