New NED, New Helpline, Next Government

As your National President, I am pleased to welcome Marie Kelly as our new National Executive Director and Chief Negotiator. Marie brings to us years of leadership expertise in the labour movement and a strong vision for our future as unionized professional performers. Marie is a labour lawyer who possesses strategic foresight in the areas of bargaining, promoting gender equity and fighting for workers’ rights. She comes to ACTRA after six years at the Ontario Nurses’ Association (ONA) where she represented more than 65,000 nurses and most recently held the role of CEO/CAO. Prior to ONA, Marie worked for the United Steelworkers where, over the course of 22 years, she became the first woman in North America to be appointed Assistant Director.

Marie replaces Stephen Waddell who, for almost 40 years, helped lead our union in the creation of some of the most ground-breaking collective agreements in the world. We thank Stephen for his devotion to ACTRA. He will stay with us to share his knowledge in the role of Executive Advisor for the next 17 months.

I hope you each have an opportunity to meet Marie over the next few months as she travels to attend branch AGMs and award celebrations. I thank the members who stepped up to be a part of the Succession Planning Committee: National Vice President Keith Martin Gordey, National Treasurer Theresa Tova, National Past President Ferne Downey, National Councillor Jan Skene and National Councillor Francine Deschepper. It was a pleasure to lead such a knowledgeable and responsible team. We should all thank them and our staff advisors, Anna Bucci and Stephen Waddell, for their strong insights and wise council. With Maire’s guidance, our member-led union will continue to set the industry standard for performer rights and respect anywhere in the world.

‍New leadership opportunities for our country are also on the horizon. We’ve been to Ottawa many times over the last three years asking the Trudeau government to consider real changes to the Broadcasting, Telecommunications and Copyright Acts along with new directives for the CRTC. While the Liberal government did hold consultations, Canadians are now being told any possible changes stemming from these consultations will not be initiated until after the upcoming election. It’s disappointing… but, it’s also motivating. Make sure you seek out your local candidates from every party; ask them where they stand on a strong Canadian film and TV industry, on a well-funded CBC/Radio-Canada, and on a level playing field for Canadian domestic and over-the-top content providers. Our Public Policy and Communications Director Lisa Blanchette’s article on how to lobby is a good starting place!

Our cultural businesses are complex. Governments can make or break our industry. We flourish when supported and can be devastated in an instant. Let’s flashback to 2015 when the Nova Scotia Liberal Government blindsided the industry by cutting the film tax credit, which undid the province’s production industry in just 20 minutes… a high-functioning industry that had taken 20 years to build. ACTRA member Jonathan Torrens noted in his “Demolished Film Communities” ACTRA Magazine article, “In the blink of an eye, in one ill-conceived budget, we were rendered non-competitive by a group of people I’m still not convinced could explain how the system even worked.”

Let’s use this pre-election window as our opportunity to both educate and interview candidates. ACTRA is not affiliated with any one party so when you meet with a Liberal, NDP, Conservative or Green party candidate, I encourage you to ask them if they agree that a strong Canada depends on a strong cultural sector. Ask them if they realize our Canadian entertainment industry is an economic driver with huge potential. Let’s face it, if they haven’t included these answers in their campaign platforms, maybe they’re not ready to lead our country.

In June, we’ll be rolling out our new national joint ACTRA-DGC helpline. We’ll be offering 24/7 critical incident reporting as well as confidential counselling services for our members. I encourage you to read Theresa Tova’s story, “Creating a cultural shift one step at a time.”

I am also excited to report we recently launched! Our new website was created specifically for advertisers and advertising agencies to work ACTRA with ease. This will support the popular ACTRAonline Opportunity Pilot Project (AOPP), negotiated in the last National Commercial Agreement (NCA), which was created to entice the digital commercial jurisdiction to “go union”. Non-union commercials – or any non-union work in our jurisdiction – is simply not acceptable. We have stood by SAG-AFTRA during its strike against advertising agency Bartle Bogle Hegarty, Inc. for this very reason.

‍We’ve saved trees this year starting with the launch of our first digital-only edition of ACTRA Magazine (if you haven’t already, check out our Winter 2019 issue). And… we’ve decided to move from two to three digital issues per year! Watch for member e-blasts, visit and follow ACTRA on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube! I encourage you to get involved and stay informed about what’s happening across your favourite union.
In solidarity,

David Sparrow