Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise again in the House to talk about some of the initiatives that our government is taking with respect to arts and culture and, more specifically, to Library and Archives Canada.
As I said in question period, our government understands the importance of arts and culture to the Canadian economy. That is why, as part of our economic action plan, we made a conscious effort and decided that, while other governments around the world were cutting funds to arts and culture, it was important to the Canadian economy that we continue to invest in arts and culture. We understand how many jobs that represents and how much economic activity it generates. It generates literally hundreds of thousands of jobs and some $80 billion worth of economic activity.
Our economic action plan not only increased the budget for arts and culture but we worked with our provincial and municipal partners across the country to make significant investments in the sector. In my own riding, I just had the good fortune on Saturday to work with my mayor, the town council of Stouffville and the provincial MPP to cut the ribbon on the expansion of the Stouffville Museum. It was a wonderful day. The entire community came out to celebrate the expansion. It followed on an earlier ribbon cutting of the expansion of the Markham Museum, another initiative that came through Canada's economic action plan.
We have announced investments in the Markham Theatre. Investments were made in the Richmond Hill Centre for the Performing Arts. On every matter that counts, be it supporting artists or the Canada Council for Arts, we have continued to support that community because we have always understood how important it is to Canadians that their government support their artists and do everything in its power to preserve, protect and enhance its heritage. Our government will continue to do that into the future.
Library and Archives Canada has been mentioned in the motion. A lot is happening at Library and Archives Canada. It is moving forward with its modernization initiative that will improve and expand access to Canada's documentary and cultural heritage for all Canadians, regardless of their interests, profession or location. In fact, just last week, Library and Archives Canada announced the launch of its portrait portal, which showcases the largest collection of portraits in the country, including works acquired since the 1880s. This collection, made up of paintings, drawings, prints, photographs, caricatures, medals and other works, represents historical figures who played an important role in Canada's development as a nation. This digitization initiative makes available to Canadians across the country many thousands of works by renown Canadian artists, ranging from portraits by Yousuf Karsh to those of William Topley. Hockey fans across Canada can even find rare hockey cards from around 1910.
The portrait portal gives Canadians the ability to access their national portrait collection at the time and place they want, wherever they are. For millions of people across the country, this will be an exciting first step in the discovery of the wealth and diversity of Canada's documentary heritage.
Library and Archives Canada is committed to posting over 2,000 digitized portraits every month for the coming years. This project illustrates its commitment to adapting to the new digital environment by making the national portrait collection more accessible to all Canadians from coast to coast. This is important because in communities across the country people want to have access to the collections, which we sometimes take for granted as members of Parliament, that we have right here at our doorstep.
It is not just Library and Archives Canada, of course. I know my community museums are doing a heck of a lot of work in order to digitize their own collections. We are very proud of that. Across the country, small and local museums have very impressive collections. We will continue to work with them to ensure those collections are preserved and protected.
Additionally, the government has sought to move forward with commemorations for the War of 1812. It is, of course, the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812, which, as we have said, was an incredibly important war in what was the foundation and creation of Canada.
The War of 1812 helped preserve the French facr here, and it led to a unified Canada. We are very proud of Canada's participation in that with our allies, the British and our first nations people. I know that people in communities across Ontario to Quebec to New Brunswick will be celebrating their local contributions to the War of 1812. Library and Archives Canada is also doing a part. Members will be interested to know that it will provide access to over 73,000 new images of the War of 1812. That is an incredible opportunity for Canadians to learn more about the War of 1812, a war that was so fundamentally important to the foundation of this country.
Last year, Library and Archives Canada also launched the Canadian feature film index. This index was created in 1972 and is now available as an online database that provides information on over 4,300 Canadian feature films produced from 1913 to 2009. This database is an important resource for filmmakers, students and researchers, as well as those who are interested in Canada's cinematic history. It ensures that this key part of Canada's documentary and cultural heritage is accessible to everyone.
We can trace Library and Archives Canada's commitment for enhanced accessibility to 2010 when it decided to expand the Lest We Forget workshop program to include students from across Canada. Military service files were selected from the vaults where they were stored. They were digitized and made available online, along with a step-by-step teachers' guide to organizing a workshop.
In the first year of this online program, Library and Archives Canada began with 200 military service files and the participation of our public library systems. This year, in the second year of digital outreach, students will be able to access more than 5,000 military service files of Canadian soldiers, doctors, nurses and chaplains who served during the First World War or who were killed in action during the Second World War. The number of participating public library systems doubled so that now LAC's Lest We Forget workshops are offered from coast to coast to coast. In the first six months, approximately 20,000 downloads of military service records were conducted by the Lest We Forget section of the Collections Canada website.
Our latest example is Library and Archives Canada's development of the new digital projects to help Canadians access their documentary heritage online. Library and Archives Canada recently launched discover blog. It contains information on military and genealogical records where Canadians can discover their family connections. These new initiatives showcase what great work Library and Archives Canada has done to enable Canadians to become more knowledgeable and to experience our historical and documentary heritage.
Again, this is good for Canadians. They will be able to access historical content regardless of their interest, profession or location. The modernization initiative means LAC is becoming an institution that promotes democratic access to Canada's documentary heritage for all. It means changing LAC's points of access to reflect the tremendous opportunities that advanced information and communications technology provide.
Library and Archives Canada has made some strategic choices to ensure that funds invested will yield tangible, sustainable results for Canadians.
It is clear that Library and Archives Canada's long-term plan to modernize and virtualize services in order to reach the greatest number of Canadians more easily and to provide Canadians with better service is actually working. More services in historical content are available to Canadians from coast to coast to coast.
Library and Archives Canada's long-term plan includes the introduction of video conferencing tools, like Skype, to extend front-line services to clients across Canada. Clients will be able to book an appointment on site or by using Skype or the telephone. This allows the right experts to be at the appointment and it allows the experts to prepare, therefore providing better services.
Additionally, Library and Archives Canada is using social media. The use of social media has been working to achieve a comprehensive presence on the web in five key areas.
First, in 2008 Library and Archives Canada launched its Flickr account to provide systematic images around the institution and from the collections. To date it has approximately 400,000 views.
Second, Library and Archives Canada has a Twitter account. It was launched at the end of February and is gaining new followers every day. It provides information to stakeholders and citizens, allows the organization to reach new audiences and facilitates access to Library and Archives Canada's services and collections.
Last week Library and Archives Canada also launched its streamlined YouTube channel in order to raise awareness about its holdings and activities. Also last week, Library and Archives Canada launched its official Facebook account. In addition to institutional messaging and news about events and new products, Library and Archives will initiate original features to engage with Canadians, such as “Today in History” and “What Have We Here?”
The fifth element of Library and Archives Canada's expanding web presence is the release of podcasts that highlight significant collection items and share expertise and knowledge. Each podcast episode will feature different content and will maintain a common focus on engagement with the collection and accessibility.
Podcasts have recently been launched on Project Naming, which enables Nunavut youth to connect with elders and to better understand their past. It also helps bridge the cultural differences and geographical distances between Nunavut and more southern parts of Canada.
Upcoming podcasts will feature the War of 1812 and the “Double Take: Portraits of Intriguing Canadians” travelling exhibit. This new way of promoting our heritage will facilitate discovery, access and engagement among Canadians, Canadian users and their collections.
In addition to the modernization initiative, Library and Archives Canada has also created a broad pan-Canadian network for the preservation of the country's documentary heritage. This emerging network now involves a wide range of stakeholders from the library and archival fields from across Canada. In so doing, Library and Archives Canada continues to serve communities across the country, but in a more efficient and effective manner, using partnerships with the documentary heritage network.
As I mentioned earlier, we on this side of the House have consistently understood the importance of arts and culture. Unfortunately, we have been placed in a position such that each time we make an investment in this sector, the opposition has voted against it.
As part of our economic action plan, we said quite clearly that we wanted to invest not only in arts and culture but also in a wide range of activities that are important to the Canadian economy. Of course, that included investing in roads and bridges. It included working with our provincial partners to make sure we could invest in colleges and university campuses across this country. Unfortunately, what happened? Again, the opposition voted against that.
What did it mean for my community? What did the opposition actually vote against in my community? It voted against the Stouffville museum. It voted against the expansion of the Markham museum. It voted against an emergency operations centre for the town of Markham, this following what was a terrible summer tornado in Vaughan, where the need for an emergency response system became clear and evident. It voted against improvements to our sports facilities.
For the town of Markham in the riding for the hon. member for Markham—Unionville, it meant voting against a skating rink, the largest outdoor skating rink in the GTA. It meant voting against tennis domes for the community that the hon. member for Markham—Unionville and I share.
One of the things that has been so important about the economic action plan is that it invested in communities across this country. It invested in all of these communities. Back in 2008 and 2009, we sat down with our provincial and municipal partners and asked, “What do we need in order to get the economy moving?” They told us we needed to invest in infrastructure, so that is what we did.
How did the opposition respond? It voted against.
Every single time the opposition members get up in this House, they consistently talk about an initiative they would have liked to see the government do as part of our economic action plan. They talk about infrastructure; we have already talked about how they voted against that. They talk about a national housing strategy. This government invested in housing for our seniors and for those who are less advantaged as part of the economic action plan. How did they vote? They voted against it.
When we talked about seniors and expanding opportunities for our seniors, the first thing we did was allow for income splitting for seniors. How did they vote? They voted against it.
They talked about increasing the supports for our vulnerable seniors. What did we do? We increased funding for GIS—