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Actors want, fear, change

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TORONTO - Canadian actors, writers and directors are demanding that Canada's political parties speak out about arts and culture.

A press conference last week organized by ACTRA (the Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists), and attended by the likes of Wendy Crewson, Ken Finkleman, Paul Gross, Peter Keleghan, Mimi Kuzyk, Sarah Polley, Mag Ruffman and Sonja Smits saw the actors in full-on protection mode (even though they aren't really all that happy with the current state of the industry).

There has been little said directly about the Canadian cultural front by any of the political parties, but the creative community mainly fears a Conservative government because certain party documents have said that a Tory government would dramatically limit the power of the CRTC, and open up the borders to increased foreign ownership and American programming.

As reported by, the CAB and other groups, including ACTRA, have also responded with a demand for a cultural platform statement from each of the various parties. Those statements have been sent along by the parties, but the CAB and the other cultural groups are still sifting through what they have been sent.

"Canada is facing cultural integration into the U.S. at an alarming rate and our next government needs to take immediate steps to stop this situation," said Smits at the press conference.

The performers and other artists are concerned about the potential for foreign ownership of Canadian broadcasters "and the steady decline of Canadian drama programming on our television screens and Canadian content in our theatres," added the press release.

"We need to reflect Canadian diversity and tell Canadian stories. It makes economic sense. Yet, our own regulator - the CRTC - has allowed private broadcasters to replace Canadian drama with U.S. programming," said actor Gary Farmer.

"We're opposed to any further loosening of rules governing foreign ownership of our media industries - a plan that's already been proposed by a government committee," added Keleghan.

"Canadians who want to live in a society that is culturally distinct from our neighbours to the south need to make their voices heard during this election," added director John Greyson.

Culture is a $26 billion dollar industry that provides more than 700,000 direct jobs for Canadians, according to the release. Performers and others in our cultural industries are frustrated that such a part of our country's economy and sovereignty is being ignored by politicians.
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