With TIFF in full swing and stars from all over sashaying along the red carpet, arts and culture are top of mind. The pop-media is all over it. Hopefully, at least some mention will be made of Canadian culture – because our culture is our brand.
The culture we project across the planet is our best and greatest brand statement. It drives our economy here at home and in the global marketplace. It shines a light on this exceptional country and the fantastic people who inhabit it. Promoting that culture makes good business sense, because the Canadian attributes we almost all take for granted – peace, freedom of speech, social responsibility, the rule of law, democratic government, gender equality, gun control, public healthcare, affordable education, room to move around and a seemingly endless supply of fresh clean water – are things the rest of the world finds incredibly attractive. And that means people and companies want to visit here, move here and do business here.
Last year, 37 million people visited Canada. That’s the whole population of Canada visiting Canada. They came because we’ve been advertising with programming, movies and cultural content. Take a show like Little Mosque on the Prairie. It is seen in more than 100 countries around the world and the story it tells about Canada is that, in Canada, Muslims and Christians get along, famously. That’s a powerful message about Canada that defines us as a place of inclusion, peace, diversity and trust.
Creating, supporting and promoting Canadian culture and art is also big business. It’s responsible for 7.4% of GDP, more than mining, forestry and fisheries combined.
The Arts employ 1.1 million Canadians in direct and ancillary jobs.
In 2015, Ontario saw over $1.5 billion dollars in film & television production alone. $700 million dollars of that was domestic production, Canadian creators telling great Canadian stories about everything from turn-of-the-century detectives to lupine zombies to international clone conflicts.
Our shows attract audiences and fans from all around the world. Some shows even end up in primetime slots on American carriers while still unabashedly placing themselves in Toronto or Vancouver or Letterkenny. That’s important because, in the same way most of us can name New York’s five boroughs or five major streets in Los Angeles, TV and film are great cultural educators when it comes to all things Canadian.
To remain relevant and competitive in the expanding global marketplace we must each become champions of Canadian culture, supporting governments who see the value added by Canadian creators, and celebrating the success of artists who choose to build their careers right here at home.
Just this summer, the power of our stories, our music brought us together from coast to coast to coast, as our public broadcaster aired the Tragically Hip’s final concert… commercial free and without interruption. We feted Gord Downie as a Canadian icon while people watched online all across the planet. Even American media commented on the spectacle because it was so unique, so socialist … so Canadian.
Our culture is essential because it does more than just define as Canadians. It inspires to embrace being Canadian and to share our passion for this great country with the world. Because the world needs a stronger, more robust and growing Canadian brand community. And that makes our culture the most important file.
Note: Letterkenny is an actual Ontario ghost town, population zero, brought back to life by Jared Keeso and Nathan Dales in “Letterkenny” the first original series produced for CRAVE, a Canadian streaming service that, unlike Netflix, pays Canadian taxes through it’s parent company, Bell Media. Go Shamrocks!