Keep Canada on our Screens
Our call to action for 2020

Your union has spent years lobbying governments to get more Canada on our screens. Our efforts, and those of our industry partners, have been successful, resulting in nationally and internationally acclaimed CanCon shows like Trailer Park Boys, 19-2, Schitt’s Creek, Frankie Drake Mysteries, Workin’ Moms, Letterkenny, Wynonna Earp, Some Assembly Required, Murdoch Mysteries, Heartland, Orphan Black and so many more. And, although foreign, the amount of service work and co-pros across the country continues to grow each year as our dollar, stable tax incentives and talented cast and crew continue to attract productions from around the world.

So, why then, is this year’s call to action Keep Canada on our Screens? Because we not only need to build on the success of our industry but also address the shifting technologies and distribution methods that are changing how we negotiate our contracts and our industry’s funding and business models.

There is no ignoring the huge decrease cable providers are seeing in subscriptions as streaming services are experiencing exponential growth. (It seems there’s a new digital service provider launching every month.) We’ve been lucky to have strong and supportive regulations here in Canada. It’s thanks to these regulations that domestic broadcasters are required to make an investment in Canadian talent. And it’s because of this investment we have lead and large supporting roles for Canadian performers in film and television – roles that allow us to build a career and earn a living as an actor in Canada. If those opportunities are to be protected, these regulations need to be adapted to the digital age. This is why it’s so important for ACTRA, along with our domestic producers, to continue asking our government to hold streaming services to the same standards as Canadian broadcasters.

It’s time to ensure any company earning revenue from delivering content to Canadians, whether through broadcast television or your internet connection, to pay their fair share.

We all know this is not a new concept. Canada has always charged content providers for access to our marketplace. There is no reason foreign over-the-top (OTT) streaming services should not be required to collect HST, pay taxes and contribute to the creation of homegrown content through the Canada Media Fund the same way our domestic broadcasters do. Further, OTTs should also be regulated to make Canadian Content accessible on their service and discoverable on their site. If it is inevitable that streaming services are the future, then we must work doubly hard to ensure Canada has a voice in that future and that our stories can be found by Canadian and international audiences.

Okay. So, what has been the response from our government? We are grateful the previous Liberal majority government was quick to listen and set up public consultations during its mandate to explore changes to the Broadcasting Act, the Telecommunications Act and the Copyright Act, the underpinnings of our domestic industry. But, we were disappointed to hear the report from the Broadcasting and Telecommunications consultation would not be released until January of 2020… after the federal election. The good news is the Liberals were re-elected with a minority government so this means we have a good chance of seeing action on these files. And we hope cultural supporters in other parties will work alongside the Liberals and our industry to act quickly to implement the changes needed to strengthen the production sector.

In fact, the Prime Minister has already delivered a strong mandate to Canadian Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault, instructing him to “introduce legislation by the end of 2020 that will take appropriate measures to ensure that all content providers, including internet giants, offer meaningful levels of Canadian content in their catalogues.” This will be an important first step. Minister Guilbeault even met with industry leaders in Toronto during his first week on the job. We look forward to seeing the report, mentioned above, released in the next few weeks. We hope it will help build our industry into the future.

So, what can you do to help secure a future for Canadian artists? Remind your Member of Parliament, regardless of their political party, how important culture is to Canada and to the voters in their riding. We can all be proud of the $9 billion industry we’ve built across Canada that employs 85,000 Canadians. This shows the arts matter.

In other matters, I want to thank every member who stepped up to run for a local ACTRA Branch Council last fall and to congratulate each of you who was elected. We’ll also be negotiating the National Commercial Agreement later this spring (make sure you read our NED Marie Kelly’s article, which touches on upcoming negotiations). There are so many important files to watch in 2020. In challenging fiscal times, it can be difficult to maintain our focus and to support our shared priorities, but I am pleased to say ACTRA members from coast to coast always work together to find a way.

I’m glad we’re all in this together.

Keep Canada on our Screens!

In solidarity,

David Sparrow