Evidence of meeting #51 for Canadian Heritage in the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was council.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Simon Brault  Director and Chief Executive Officer, Canada Council for the Arts

4:40 p.m.

Director and Chief Executive Officer, Canada Council for the Arts

Simon Brault

I'm sorry.

4:40 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Hedy Fry

Now we're going to move into a second round of questions. This is going to be a five-minute round.

We will begin with Mr. Waugh for the Conservatives.

4:40 p.m.

Conservative

Kevin Waugh Conservative Saskatoon—Grasswood, SK

Just quickly, I'm going to pick up on this.

You make sound investments in initiatives that use digital technologies. Explain that. Who makes the decision? What is the sound investment?

4:40 p.m.

Director and Chief Executive Officer, Canada Council for the Arts

Simon Brault

The first thing is that when we talk about investments to help the transition to digital, it's not necessarily investments in technology that we mean. Sometimes the solution is completely analog, but it's to adapt to the disruptions created by technology. If you merge three organizations, there is nothing technological about it, but maybe the scale they will have after the merger is exactly what they need to face digital disruption.

With an investment that has a technological component, we will still work with peer assessors—juries—but we will bring in scholars and experts on digital, because we don't necessarily have the expertise at the Canada Council or within the sector. We want to work with these people to make sure that the decisions are sound.

The last thing I want to say is that the investments we are making are all project-driven. An institution or an individual can apply, but it's always for a project, because this fund is there for five years, and after that we'll see whether it's needed.

4:45 p.m.

Conservative

Kevin Waugh Conservative Saskatoon—Grasswood, SK

Okay.

Mr. Maguire.

4:45 p.m.

Conservative

Larry Maguire Conservative Brandon—Souris, MB

Thanks to my colleague.

I was going to ask you a question about your digital technology and how you use it, but you've answered it. Thank you.

I have a question regarding your strategic plan from 2016 to 2021, which I see here. You have the four commitments that you have made, one being, of course, to raise the international profile of Canadian arts and artists, which is great. How we are doing that would be one straightforward question.

Just to throw an idea in here, one way I've seen it—we've had some sports analogies here in our study—is that there has been a pretty successful program for our Olympic athletes; we're top end, and this is what we're looking at here, to enhance everyone in the arts community. The Own the Podium program has been a fairly large success, I think they would say.

Have you thought of implementing anything like that, or is some of the funding you have used for those types of projects already?

4:45 p.m.

Director and Chief Executive Officer, Canada Council for the Arts

Simon Brault

That is an excellent question. We have another kind of approach. The reason is that the Canada Council is not producing or commissioning the work. We get proposals from the artists and from the artistic community, and we are evaluating and ranking them in terms of their capacity to succeed. When we support something that goes on the international stage, it has already been created. It has been workshopped and presented in Edmonton or somewhere; it already has some kind of potential for success, so that we can see whether it can go up on the international stage. Someone doesn't come to us and say, I will create that work.

One way we are trying to work right now is not only to respond to the demand—and the demand for international...is very high now, especially from the young generation. Young Canadians create and do their work and now want it to go as soon as possible onto the international stage. It's very different from when I was young, when you were an artist and practised and showed your work over 20 years, and only then wanted to go international. It's a different world.

But the danger here is that you need to make sure that the work is mature enough and that there is a demand for it on the international stage. For example, we see right now that in terms of artistic content, Canadian literature is very strong. We also see huge interest in indigenous art, and that is very truly, profoundly Canadian.

We try to make sure, then, that we support the work when there is real potential. We also try to have a stronger partnership with Canadian Heritage and Global Affairs to see when an artistic presence could also coalesce with interests around cultural exports or the geopolitical interests of Canada, to make sure that we get as much mileage as we can from what we support.

We have doubled what we do. It will still remain only at around $20 million of grants out of $310 million in year five, so it's not the biggest program, but it's really important, and we think we can do a lot with it.

4:45 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Hedy Fry

I like that. That's fine.

Thank you, Mr. Maguire; we've ended your time.

Now we're going to go to Mr. O'Regan.

4:45 p.m.

Liberal

Seamus O'Regan Liberal St. John's South—Mount Pearl, NL

I want to build on what my colleague mentioned about international exposure and creating exportable product. Based on a statement by colleague Gudie Hutchings in the House today, at the musical Come From Away, which just premiered on Broadway on Sunday and which the Prime Minister visited on Wednesday, there were many Newfoundlanders present. I believe the Canada Council was involved in it.

I'm just wondering, is this among your criteria? I imagine everybody has to be happy when a Canadian product sells well on the international stage and gets such limelight and good reviews.

4:50 p.m.

Director and Chief Executive Officer, Canada Council for the Arts

Simon Brault

We're happy, for sure.

4:50 p.m.

Liberal

Seamus O'Regan Liberal St. John's South—Mount Pearl, NL

Is it purposeful?

4:50 p.m.

Director and Chief Executive Officer, Canada Council for the Arts

Simon Brault

When we look at a product or a show like that, Canada Council is somewhere, because we supported the writers, we supported the actors.... Those things don't happen overnight; they happen because we have an ecosystem that is strong enough, mature enough, and diverse enough to be able to create them.

The purpose of the Canada Council is not first and foremost to make sure that we export viable products. Our role is to make sure that there's an ecosystem that is qualitatively and quantitatively strong enough to be able to produce such shows, because when we invest in something, we never know what will happen with them.

When we started to fund Robert Lepage, I was at that time a member of the juries, because I was in the theatre world, and there were endless discussions on whether it was theatre, because there's no text—it's not text-driven—and all that. He's one of the best-known Canadians around the world. Everybody thinks now that he's a genius, but the first time I was on a jury and we supported his first project, it was not obvious.

Our role is to make sure that we invest and have the infrastructure to produce those incredible successes. Some of them will have an international life, and some of them will never have an international life, but when it happens, it needs to be celebrated and to be supported. Usually when it happens at that scale, you also need to have the right partnerships in terms of public-private funding, and they can happen.

Yes, it's a great success, and there will be more to come, I'm sure.

4:50 p.m.

Liberal

Seamus O'Regan Liberal St. John's South—Mount Pearl, NL

You mentioned “not the usual suspects”. Could you illustrate that for us? You were referring to—

4:50 p.m.

Director and Chief Executive Officer, Canada Council for the Arts

Simon Brault

Do you mean when we had the applicants?

We committed to having 25% of the new money—which is a lot of money, roughly $137 million—go to first-time applicants to the Canada Council, because we exactly wanted to address the question of its being an old boys' club. It's a huge proportion of the new money, so it means that we are now inviting many artists and many collaborations between artists and organizations that are not usual. This sector is quite used to being very competitive, and we realize that if we want to score high in the digital era and on the international stage, we need to work less in silos and more through cooperation.

We are encouraging this, and digital is the only way. We will not succeed by continuously trying to get a crumb from the cake, but more by trying to cook together a better and more interesting cake.

4:50 p.m.

Liberal

Seamus O'Regan Liberal St. John's South—Mount Pearl, NL

That's an excellent stretching of the metaphor, sir.

4:50 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!

March 21st, 2017 / 4:50 p.m.

Director and Chief Executive Officer, Canada Council for the Arts

Simon Brault

I know—-especially in English, for me.

4:50 p.m.

Liberal

Seamus O'Regan Liberal St. John's South—Mount Pearl, NL

No, it's very good.

4:50 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Hedy Fry

You have a minute left.

4:50 p.m.

Liberal

Seamus O'Regan Liberal St. John's South—Mount Pearl, NL

Let me ask this. My colleague Mr. Waugh brought up technology. It's true that our nightmare would be that you buy crates of Windows '97. What you're saying is that sometimes the best answer is analog, and we're dealing with that in various reports we're working on. There are pluses and minuses to technology, and certainly accessibility can only be increased through technology, but I'm sure there are some liabilities as well.

Perhaps you could just—

4:50 p.m.

Director and Chief Executive Officer, Canada Council for the Arts

Simon Brault

Yes, I think what we see now is that the digital transformation of an organization or a sector need not be technology-specific. The transformation is about how we think, how we work, how we engage, how we create, how we share. Technology is [Inaudible--Editor].

We're trying to caution the sector about that.

4:50 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Hedy Fry

Excuse me, we're having a technical problem here.

4:50 p.m.

Director and Chief Executive Officer, Canada Council for the Arts

Simon Brault

Talking about technology...

4:50 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!

4:50 p.m.

An hon. member

You're right on cue.