Creative Canada: A Critical Look at a "New" Cultural Policy Framework
Author: Mariane Bourcheix-Laporte
Home university: School of Communication, Simon Fraser University
Education level: PhD Student
In September 2017, the Department of Canadian Heritage launched Creative Canada, a new policy framework that positions the creative industries at the core of Canada's cultural identity and economy. Produced as an outcome of the 2016-17 #DigiCanCon consultations (Canadian Content in a Digital World), which polled Canadians on the future of the cultural and creative industries in a context of digital disruption,Footnote 1 the Creative Canada Policy Framework (CCPF) provides a preliminary roadmap to revise the federal cultural policy toolkit in light of policy gaps created in the wake of the digital turn in ICTs and an expressed mandate to anchor the creative sector at the heart of Canada's immaterial economy. In an introductory video posted on the federal government's Creative Canada webpage¾it is not incidental to note, via YoutubeFootnote 2¾Honourable Mélanie JolyFootnote 3 presents Creative Canada as a national cultural policy review that promises to remix the ways in which culture shapes Canadian identity and contributes to the national GDP:
Over the last 18 months, we’ve embarked on a unique, pan-Canadian conversation about an issue that affects nearly every country in the world – the fate of our creative industries in the digital world. Why take this on? […] Because Canadians understand the value of diverse voices at home and abroad. And because Canadians care deeply about our culture. It is a reflection of the different places that we’ve come from, of our stories and identities, of who we are.Footnote 4
As hinted at above, Creative Canada recycles much of the identity-based discourse that has served as political bedrock to justify the state subsidy and regulation of the cultural industries in Canada from the mid-twentieth century onwards. Effectively, as will be discussed below, in some regards the CCPF testifies to a continued use of pro-Canadian discourses to frame new initiatives undertaken under the Creative Canada umbrella. However, as will be argued, this new framework crystalizes a neoliberal turn in Canadian cultural policy that has been taking place since the 1980s. As such, it testifies to an ideological shift in the valorization of culture¾one that emphasizes culture's potential to bolster economic growth by harnessing the promises of digital and creative economies. This shift has significant implications for "market-failure" cultural activities that have historically developed under protectionist policies, and which find themselves nested within the creative industries in the context of Creative Canada. Bearing in mind the larger implications of the Creative Canada Policy Framework and the doors it has opened for research in the area of Canadian cultural policy studies, this paper aims to trace the historical developments of the CCPF through an analysis of the parallel emergence of neoliberal ideology and creative industries discourse. Further, it offers a critical analysis of the CCPF in light of contemporary communication and media scholarship concerned with studying the present digital culture. Doing so, this paper contributes to existing scholarship documenting the gradual neoliberalization of Canadian cultural policy by considering the implications of this shift in light of the correlation drawn between creativity and digital culture in the CCPF.
Creative Canada Policy Framework
The Creative Canada Policy Framework positions the creative industries as centrepiece of Canada's creative economy, which it correlates with Canada's future economy.Footnote 5 The first sentence of the sleekly designed 38-page document sets the tone and leaves little room for doubt as to the framework's intentions: "Creative Canada is a new vision and approach to creative industries and to growing the creative economy by the Government of Canada."Footnote 6 Rather than presenting a new set of policies and regulations, Creative Canada outlines key principles and elements of the federal government's response to the digitally disrupted environment in which Canadian cultural and creative industries find themselves. Much like a strategic plan, the CCPF maps a course for action to be undertaken over the coming years premised on a set of assumptions about the current digital climate, the value of culture, and the foundation of Canadian identity:
Creative Canada charts the course for federal policy tools that support our creative industries. It strengthens our existing cultural policy tools, sets out a path to renew the ones that require updating, and introduces new initiatives that will help Canada’s creators and creative industries succeed in a global, digital marketplace.Footnote 7
Effectively, the CCPF is built along three pillars (1. Invest in Canadian Creators, Cultural Entrepreneurs and Their Stories, 2. Promote Discovery and Distribution at Home and Globally, and 3. Strengthen Public Broadcasting and Support Local News)Footnote 8 that support a vision of culture, broadly defined, as engine of economic growth. In this approach, an equally broad definition of the term "creator" is positioned as conduit for the exploitation of digital markets, at home and abroad¾"the talent, skill and imagination of our Canadian creators and cultural entrepreneurs is the raw material [sic] of our creative industries."Footnote 9 The use of terms such as "creative industries" and "creators" as opposed to "cultural industries" and "artists" is not benign for, as argued by Ira Wells, "the problem with Creative Canada is not that it devotes money to artists. It's that it treats those artists as tech entrepreneurs."Footnote 10 Effectively, it can be argued that this discursive shift is symptomatic of a larger socio-economic project that re-signifies the meaning of culture by positioning creativity as a pillar of the immaterial economy. In this context, we may be tempted to ask if the CCPF is only paying lip service to Canada's "creators" to the benefit of the "new economy's" ideological project.
The repurposing of culture, under the tentacular guise of creativity, can be read as a symptom and cog of the neoliberal reorganization of the social, with correlating impacts on the conception of labour and of the role that artists play in this reorganization.Footnote 11 On this note, following Michel Foucault's ideas, Aras Ozgun posits: "neo-liberalism[sic], as the ideological component of post-Fordism, is not merely a corrupt economic formula but an advanced form of governmentality that re-negotiates the social field through biopolitical interventions."Footnote 12 Considering the fact that artistic labour has historically been characterized by precarity and that, in the "new economy," artists have been positioned as post-Fordist workers par excellence, the normalization of precarity as feature of participation in the creative economy has significant biopolitical implications,Footnote 13 which Creative Canada anchors as part of official governmental discourse.
The CCPF unequivocally positions itself as a response to the disruptions brought about by the digital turn in ICTs, which has changed the ways in which Canadians create, consume, and distribute cultural assets. Broadband Internet, social media, accessible prosumer technology, and "24/7" digital lifestyles have necessarily altered the national cultural policy toolkit's playing field and the effectiveness of walled-garden-oriented cultural governance strategies. In the Canadian Content in a Digital World consultations' framing document, the Department of Canadian Heritage notes that "times have changed and the tools the government uses to support Canada's creators and cultural entrepreneurs must keep up with consumption habits and technological change."Footnote 14 Effectively, few would disagree that the national cultural policy toolkit needs a facelift to address the realities of contemporary digital culture. In an early version of a forthcoming publication, Charles H. Davis and Emilia Zboralska, note the necessity of revising national policy instruments, particularly with regard to broadcasting, in response to the shakeup exerted upon the cultural industries by the global domination of a small group of digital capitalist firms and the advent of the audience-as-producer:
Online content distribution is growing by leaps and bounds, audiovisual consumption is shifting away from conventional broadcasting, and foreign digital platform firms have become powerful new gatekeepers in the content distribution space. It has therefore become urgent to revise national cultural policy goals and the instruments to attain them in the context of the digital shift.Footnote 15
Changes in the digital media landscape have preoccupied Canadian policy-makers for some time and, given the extent to which the pervasive qualities of digital culture have effected change upon the social, it is not surprising that the Department of Canadian Heritage has launched a review of its policies. In 2011, in a report titled Emerging and Digital Media: Opportunities and Challenges, the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage noted the extent of changes effected by digital technologies upon the cultural industries landscape and their implications in relation to, among other issues, preservation of digital heritage in the face of information overload, media convergence on the Internet, the increased importance of interactive media, and the urgency of copyright reform.Footnote 16 In many ways, this report foreshadowed the CCPF and set the stage for an established need to revise the federal cultural policy toolkit. On this note, it is not incidental to highlight the report's 19th recommendation which "encourages the Government of Canada to proceed as quickly as possible with the development of a national digital economy strategy."Footnote 17 In this sense, the CCPF can be qualified of "post-digital" in as much as the adjective, Florian Cramer posits, "refers to a state in which the disruption brought about by digital media has already occurred."Footnote 18 In the CCPF, there is no question as to the fact of digital culture as dominant form of culture and economic engine; the question is how can Canada grab "a bigger piece of the global pie"Footnote 19 that digital culture represents. In this framework, creativity is positioned as a tool that can help ensure that Canadians participate in digital culture and therefore don't "miss out" on its promises¾in this particular case, economic vitality, reinforced democracy, access to global digital citizenship, and a revitalized Canadian identity.
The CCPF's development is itself demonstrative of adherence to the ethos of the present-day participatory condition, which Darin Barney et al. posit is a defining element of contemporaneity, whereby participation “has become a contextual feature of everyday life in the liberal, capitalist, and technological societies of the contemporary West.”Footnote 20 As noted above, the CCPF framework came out of the #DigiCanCon consultations, which the CCPF describes as "the most transparent consultation process ever undertaken by the Department of Canadian Heritage."Footnote 21 Effectively, the document states that "thousands of Canadians took part online, in events in cities across the country, through social media, and in expert roundtable discussions. Hundreds submitted detailed policy proposals that have helped shape the thinking behind Creative Canada."Footnote 22 The government's broad strokes efforts to include the Canadian public in the revision of its national cultural policy may be laudable in as much as the idea that "our culture reflects who we are and is one of the powerful ways that we share our identities and values with each other"Footnote 23 is a connective thread that runs through the Canadian Content in a Digital World document and the CCPF. This vision of Canadian culture is coherent with the "'whole way of life'¾or anthropological¾concept of culture," which as Zoë Druick has proposed, "refers to all meaning-making, symbol- and text-producing enterprises, many of which have become central to a digital economy based on information, knowledge, and creation."Footnote 24 If culture is all encompassing¾and recuperable under (digital) capitalism¾democratic consultation of the population that exerts culture through its way of life appears to be a given. In fact, not consulting the population that produces the culture that will be affected by Canada's new cultural policy framework could have been considered a terrible faux pas, especially given the ease with which the population can be consulted in the era of Twitter, Survey Monkey, and Facebook polls. However, upon investigation, the #DigiCanCon consultations appear to be in line with what Mark Andrejevic has termed the "pacification of interactivity" or "the ways in which participation is redoubled in the form of interactivity when it generates information about itself that can be construed as feedback but not collaboration."Footnote 25 Comparing Creative Canada's consultation process to the development of Québec's Plan culturel numérique, which was developed and launched prior to the commencement of the #DigiCanCon consultations, Jonathan Roberge et al. note a lack of scientific rigour in the former:
"fact-checked or evidence-based policymaking […] is a proven way to solidify the ground on which to decide the best way forward. But Joly’s ministry appears to have decided to eschew this time-consuming method."Footnote 26 When further compared to the exhaustive process that the 1949-1951 Royal Commission on National Development in the Arts, Letters and Sciences entailed,Footnote 27 the #DigiCanCon consultations appear to have served an interactive, rather than iterative, purpose in the development of Creative Canada's framework, fulfilling their role as "leading tools of policy justification."Footnote 28
All that Shines is Not New
In the English version of the Creative Canada Policy Framework, the word "new" appears 82 times on 26 of the document's 38 pages.Footnote 29 The word "digital" is also used on 26 pages and boasts 99 appearances throughout the document. Combined, "innovation" and its derivativesFootnote 30 come up 39 times and are present on almost half of the document's pages. Apart from suggesting that the Department of Canadian Heritage would benefit from using a thesaurus, this quick overview of some of the CCPF's key words points to a deliberate effort to anchor Creative Canada within a framework that embraces "newness." In the CCPF, the abstracted concept of "the digital" stands in for "the new" and is portrayed as imbued with unharnessed cultural and economic potential. The CCPF's one-sided embrace of digital culture's ideals¾advocating for the harnessing of its potential through active participation in the creative economy¾is exemplified in the following statement:
Today, we have an enormous opportunity in Canada: our creative industries can be a vital part of our future economic growth and our identity as a country. To achieve this, we must act, just as deliberately as we have in the past, to ensure our policies remain relevant in an ever more interconnected and digital world.Footnote 31
However, contemporary communication and media scholarship provides ample documentation of digital culture’s “failure” to uphold the utopian ideals of non-hierarchical, direct, and self-organized democracy, for which technologically mediated participation has stood-in as a means and ends. Least of which is the paradoxical nature of the very concept of new media that, following Wendy Hui Kyong Chun's arguments, involves built-in redundancy for “to call something new is to guarantee that it will one day be old; it is to place it within a cycle of obsolescence, in which it will inevitably disappoint and be replaced by something else that promises, once again, the new.”Footnote 32 Following this logic, the self-proclaimed "newness" of the Creative Canada Policy Framework might be understood as counterproductive and as self-prophesising as a policy framework in a perpetual state of becoming-obsolete. Effectively, Chun reminds us that “anticipation coupled with knowing disappointment drives new media’s ephemerality and its endurance”Footnote 33 and further discourages the use of the epithet "new" as she observes:
To call X "new" is to categorize it, to describe and prescribe it, while at the same time insisting that X is wonderful, singular, without opposite or precedent. This insistence more often than not erases X's previous existence (as a case in point, the "discovery" of the "new world").Footnote 34
The CCPF claims that it builds upon the foundation set by the cultural policy developments of the last decades, but it simultaneously rejects these by labelling them "of the past" and labelling itself "of the future." This rhetoric diminishes the gradual build-up of contextual and policy developments that have shaped the environment in which cultural production currently finds itself. The present paper is concerned with studying the ways in which this framework solidifies the process whereby Canadian cultural policy has, over the last few decades, taken a neoliberal turn. This is particularly evident in a discursive shift that positions culture as a constitutive element of the creative industries, which are themselves seen as constitutive elements of the creative economy. An investigation of the development of this paradigm allows us to question the validity of Creative Canada's positioning as a "new" and "innovative" approach to cultural policy. Rather, Creative Canada may best be understood as the most recent development within a continuity of cultural policy discourses and measures that have gradually positioned culture as part of the economy, rather than in abstracto of it.
Neoliberalization of Canadian Cultural Policy
It should be noted that, while Creative Canada was launched in late 2017, few scholarly analyses of its implications have been produced to date. This is likely due to the fact that many of Creative Canada's policy reforms are in their initial developmental stages or have yet to be implemented. Further, as Davis and Zboralska propose, critical reception of the CCPF as a whole has in part been eclipsed by public outcry over the framework's reinforcement of asymmetrical responsibilities imposed on international and domestic digital content distributors:
A controversial issue concerning the so-called "Netflix tax" has cast a shadow over public response to the CCPF, focusing attention on a highly contentious aspect of Canadian cultural policy: partition of the domestic media ecosystem into a regulated conventional sphere and an unregulated digital sphere.Footnote 35
Effectively, this issue has monopolized much of mainstream media's coverage of the CCPF announcement and has notably ignited anxieties about the extension of francophone linguistic and cultural sovereignty to the digital sphere. As a result, the province of Québec has retaliated with an announcement that it would implement sales tax on foreign-owned digital distributor products.Footnote 36
Much could be written about the implications of asymmetries between traditional broadcasting and digital distribution that have been exacerbated, rather than alleviated, by the CCPF. For the purposes of the current paper however, it suffices to say that the federal government's refusal to regulate the digital infosphere and the public's subsequent reception of this decision testify to two interconnected ideas. On the one hand, the potential threat to Canadian digital content producers and distributors posed by international firms with a monopoly-like grip on online content distribution highlights the necessity to update the national cultural policy framework, which is arguably ill-equipped to respond to the now ubiquitous platform capitalism, the emergence of which constitutes a major milestone of the digital turn in ICTs.Footnote 37 On the other hand, the federal government's approach to the revision of the national cultural policy toolkit, as outlined in the CCPF, testifies to an extent to a neoliberal ethos denoting a free-market approach to culture. Laissez-faire ideology is evidenced by the CCPF's positioning of platforms such as Netflix and Facebook as "new players and new partners" that will "[help] grow our creative industries with investments in production and distribution,"Footnote 38 and play a role in "promoting informed digital citizenship."Footnote 39 It can be argued that this stance demonstrates allegiance to David Harvey's definition of neoliberalism: "a theory of political economic practices that proposes that human well-being can best be advanced by liberating individual entrepreneurial freedoms and skills within an institutional framework characterized by strong private property rights, free market, and free trade."Footnote 40 Within this context, Harvey notes that "the role of the state is to create and preserve an institutional framework appropriate to such practices," and that "state interventions in markets (once created) must be kept to a bare minimum."Footnote 41 It appears that the federal government's approach with regard to free enterprise online and focus on marketability of Canadian content, i.e. "not attempting to regulate content on the Internet, but focusing on how to best support Canada’s creators and cultural entrepreneurs in creating great content and in competing globally for both Canadian and international audiences,"Footnote 42 is attuned to Harvey's definition of neoliberalism. Of course, it would be unjustified to qualify Creative Canada, in its entirety, as a neoliberal enterprise based solely on the controversial decision not to even out the digital content distribution playing field by submitting international firms to the same restrictions as those faced by their domestic counterparts. In fact, Creative Canada introduces a number of interventionist measures¾namely important subsidies to the cultural sector¾, which complicates a reading of the CCPF as strictly aligned with free market capitalism. This effectively points to the fact that the Canadian context, as far as cultural industries are concerned, is not one of complete political economic laissez-faire. Nevertheless, the CCPF stands in as evidence of the influence of neoliberal ideology on Canadian cultural policy.
In a recent article on the role of artistic labour in the "new economy," Marc-James Léger notes the global neoliberal tendency in contemporary cultural policy, which testifies to a shift from protectionist to market-driven approaches to culture:
After the Depression and the Second World War, Western governments began to integrate the arts into the welfare state and to develop cultural policies based on the belief that culture should not be sacrificed to free market principles. Since the 1990s […] the idea of protecting culture from market forces has been almost completely reversed, with creative industry policies now leading the way in the development of new markets."Footnote 43
Léger's analysis provides an overarching narrative that situates culture as part of the shift that has occurred, in the global North, from Keynesianism to neoliberalism. This account is coherent with that of others who have traced changes in the conception of culture, as far as its contributions to social life and to the economy are concerned, with a discursive shift from "cultural industries" to "creative industries."Footnote 44 Susan Galloway and Stewart Dunlop have argued that this shift coincides with a parallel process whereby "culture is abandoned as elitist and exclusive, [and] 'creativity' is embraced as democratic and inclusive."Footnote 45 In this light, the CCPF's deliberate use of the term "creative industries" as opposed to "cultural industries" is notable for it anchors the policy framework within a particular ideological mindset that obscures the distinctive¾symbolic and meaning-producing¾qualities of culture.Footnote 46 Effectively, the CCPF states:
Our vision of a Creative Canada is based on this expanded view. It starts with heritage, the arts and the cultural industries – books, magazines, newspapers, audiovisual (film and television), music. In our vision, we move deliberately to using “creative industries” to include a wider range of industries that contribute to the creative sector: design, fashion, architecture, video games, digital media and multiplatform storytelling – transmedia. The intent is to recognize their role as employers and producers in the creative economy.Footnote 47
As demonstrated above, and consistent with Galloway and Dunlop's aforementioned assessment, in the CCPF, the economic valorization of culture becomes associated with a broadened definition of the activities that produce culture.
In "Continuity and Change in the Discourse of Canada's Cultural Industries," Zoë Druick asks scholars to consider the changing definitions of key terms encompassed under "the cultural industries" and how they "have taken shape over time in relation to numerous economic and discursive struggles around common-sense notions of the nature and value of creativity."Footnote 48 Effectively, the very development of the creative industries discourse¾which post- Creative Canada, has officially replaced that of the cultural industries in Canada,¾is demonstrative of a shift in the valorization of culture. In his analysis of the advent of creative industries discourse in the UK, Terry Flew posits: "creative industries policies differed significantly from traditional cultural policy in their stronger focus on economic wealth generation, and the significance given to creative entrepreneurs and the private sector rather than publicly funded culture."Footnote 49 Creativity, as must-have quality for the post-Fordist immaterial worker,Footnote 50 finds a natural ally in creative industries discourse that dilutes the concept of culture as it transitions from an anthropologically driven to an economically connoted definition.Footnote 51 Effectively, as Galloway and Dunlop have argued, "conflating culture with other creative activities […] fails to recognise the distinctive aspect of symbolic culture"Footnote 52 in addition to flattening culture as "just one more 'knowledge economy asset.'"Footnote 53
As its name indicates, the concept of creativity is front and centre in Creative Canada. The same can be said of other creative industries policies that have been produced since the term was first coined under Britain's New Labour government in the late 1990s and subsequently exported.Footnote 54 Compared to its counterparts in the global North, Canada appears to have lagged behind in terms of promoting a unified vision of a creative industries policy. In a 2008 Fuse Magazine article, Kirsty Robertson noted Canada's reluctance to refer to the term "creative industries" in its cultural policies even though the economic potential of culture had long been recognized and embraced. Robertson located the root of this reluctance to an internalized association of culture as an essential element of Canadian identity that the government, through its policies, is meant to protect. This view, she posited, clashes with the market-focused approach to culture that is characteristic of the "creative industries" mindset:
To privatize culture creates a rift directly through the state-funded culture that is often referred to as separating Canada from the United States and giving Canada an identity in the global sphere. This isn't to say that culture and nationality aren't increasingly privatized in Canada. Rather, where information technology and intellectual property meet notions of a protected national culture, the discourse of creative industries collapses under its own weight.Footnote 55
Ten years after the publication of this article, Creative Canada has marked a shift within Canadian cultural policy discourse; it is now full steam ahead for the creative industries. This said, if we consider that "the concept of creative industries is trying to chart an historical shift from subsidized 'public arts' and broadcast era media, towards new and broader applications of creativity,"Footnote 56 we can follow the trail of the developments of a creative industries discourse in Canada through breadcrumbs left behind by the influence of neoliberal ideology on cultural policy.Footnote 57
Druick traces the development of Canadian neoliberal cultural policy back to the mid-1980s when, under the Mulroney government, the "Department of Communication (DOC) undertook a full review of its mandate and embraced the principle of free flow information," which led to the development of parliamentary acts that "worked to converge telecommunication infrastructure and cultural industries with a set of shifts to market-driven strategies for the cultural sector, opening up the possibilities for the free trade agreements that followed."Footnote 58 Discussing the aforementioned changes enacted at the level of the Department of Communication, Druick notes: "this neoliberal direction offered to collapse cultural policy into the development of the cultural industries themselves. This marked a shift from an earlier view of Canadian cultural institutions and industries as serving the common good as well as particular national policy goals."Footnote 59 This ideological shift is also noted by Sabine Milz in her study of the rise of neoliberal discourse in Canadian cultural policy. Citing David Throsby’s Economics and Culture, Milz proposes that "the separation of autonomous high culture and the industrial aspects of culture that shaped postwar Canadian cultural policy discourse started to weaken in the 1970s as the focus of cultural policy-making 'began to shift towards a more functional view of culture with the emerging recognition of the cultural industries as engines of economic dynamism and societal transformation.'"Footnote 60 Arguably, Creative Canada represents the culmination of parallel discursive and ideological shifts that have taken place since the middle of the 20th century from high art, to cultural industries, to creative industries, and from walled-garden to free flow information. On this note, it is important to highlight that, from the onset, Creative Canada rejected the protectionist mind frame that characterized developments in cultural governance post Massey Commission.Footnote 61 As noted by Robertson, this mindset continued to mark the popular imaginary well into the 21st century even though neoliberal approaches to culture had in effect started to erode protectionist ideals. Creative Canada marks a clean break from this ambiguous position. The document issued by the Department of Canadian Heritage as a way to frame the Canadian Content in a Digital World consultations is unequivocal on the matter. Recognizing that the 21st century digital conjecture calls for a renewed cultural policy mindset, the document states:
Our thinking is evolving from:
- protecting Canadian culture [sic] promoting and supporting Canadian culture
- focusing on growing the domestic market [sic] capturing a greater share of global markets
- seeing culture primarily as a social phenomenon [sic] embracing culture’s unrealized potential as a driver of economic growth, both in the creative sector and more broadly Footnote 62
Indeed, we have come very far from the expressed need to "defend" Canadian ideals through culture advocated by those at the helm of the Royal Commission on the National Development in the Arts, Letters, and Sciences.Footnote 63
However, it is important to note that protectionist-like rhetoric still lurks in the background of Creative Canada. On this note, the following statement included in the Creative Canada Policy Framework is of particular relevance: "Creative Canada affirms the core responsibilities of the Government to protect and promote Canadian culture and identity in a digital environment."Footnote 64 It is interesting to highlight the continued use of a pro-Canadian identity discourse within the Creative Canada framework given that, as remarked above, it is illustrative of neoliberal ideological tendencies. Effectively, while the CCPF discourse prioritizes marketable culture, as opposed to the market-failure orientation of post-war Canadian cultural policy, Creative Canada goes hand in hand with the Trudeau government's announcement in 2016 of $1.9 billion in new funding to the creative sector.Footnote 65 These subsidies may appear at odds with the neoliberal free market ethos but, as Sabine Milz's study of the emergence of neoliberal discourse in Canadian cultural policy demonstrates, are coherent with an ideological shift from the valorization of culture for its intrinsic worth, to the valorization of culture as an agent of economic growth:
In the context of “Canadian culture,” policy attempts to create a strong national culture by means of an interventionist system have protected domestic cultural industries from direct market dependency while creating dependency on the state, whose itineraries at present are neoliberal and oriented in particular toward competitiveness with the United States. Canada’s protectionist cultural policy approach is now part of the discourse of Canadian neoliberalism, of the latter’s attempt to profitably incorporate the ideological and aesthetic potential of culture and cultural production into its economic potential while simultaneously decreeing as “public interest” the commercialization of cultural goods, policies, and functions.Footnote 66
The economic justification argument for the support of arts and culture is not new. In fact, it has arguably been on Canadian cultural policy's radar from the onset of neoliberal discourse, which Monica Gattinger and Diane St-Pierre have linked to "emphases on the economic dimension of culture and the cultural industries."Footnote 67 While usefulness and adequacy of approaches to justifying cultural subsidies based on economic impact models are questionable,Footnote 68 it remains that measuring culture's economic benefits has been, and continues to be, a much used discursive and ideological method to push the cultural subsidy agenda forward.Footnote 69
As a cultural policy framework, Creative Canada is in its early days and it is too soon to empirically study its impacts. However, given the significance of discursive and ideological changes enacted through the Creative Canada Policy Framework, it will be an essential task of cultural policy scholars to monitor the impact of the revisions to the federal cultural policy toolkit that it entails. This monitoring is particularly relevant given the fact that the CCPF is overtly driven by neoliberalism's embrace of creativity as panacea of the immaterial economy. As this paper has demonstrated, the shift from protectionist to market-driven approaches in Canadian cultural policy, paralleled by a transition from cultural to creative industries discourse, has been in the works for decades and has only been solidified by the CCPF. As such, we may question the extent to which the framework offers a "new" approach to cultural governance and highlight the fact that it adopts a single-sided perspective on digital culture's potential. While it is not surprising that, in this framework, culture is instrumentalized as vector of economic growth, there are significant implications of its subsumption under the neoliberal cult of creativity and its reorganization as contributing not to the social but to the economy. In this context, it will be particularly important to monitor the effects of the CCPF on the various fields of cultural activity that, whether traditionally or not, now find themselves folded into the creative industries. Effectively, the extent at which market-failure cultural activities are compatible with creative industries policies is an open question. This brings to light the necessity to pay attention to dynamics of failure in the revision of Canadian cultural policy frameworks, which have historically been tied to the support of market-failure activities. In the digital age, cultural policy measures might similarly be understood as serving a counterweight function; that is, as a way of addressing digital culture's "failed promises."
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