Michael Ignatieff on the importance of Canadian culture and knowledge-based markets.

Q: What is the role of government in ensuring Canadian universities have the resources to continue making meaningful contributions on the national and global stages?

A: World leading economies have world leading universities and Canada needs to do its part to ensure that research at our universities is supported. Research and innovation spur the development of new technologies, new enterprises and the jobs of tomorrow, all of which add to Canadas competitiveness in the global economy. The federal government must play a central role in fostering a successful research and business environment, which includes investing in research funding, facilities, students and researchers. By prioritizing investments in Canadian universities, we are helping our country succeed in an increasingly competitive world where our creativity and scientific expertise will set us apart.

Q: Our communications sector, among others, has positioned Canada as a global competitor in the knowledgebased market. In light of increasing competition amongst other knowledge-based economies, do you feel adequate attention is being paid to research and development funding in Canada?

A: No, I believe there is much more that can be done. Over the past decade, companies like Research In Motion and Nortel were not only business giants in the global economy, they were ambassadors for Canadian innovation. But global competitors have upped their game. In an increasingly competitive world, the Conservative government has fallen short by failing to facilitate a competitive business environment or foster Canadian innovation. This is a missed opportunity to help Canada succeed in an increasingly competitive world. To create the jobs of tomorrow, a federal government that understands and appreciates the role of research and development needs to work with both academic and business sectors to create the right climate for investment in new and emerging fields. This is something a Liberal government would do.

Q: Economically, Canada relies primarily on the manufacturing and natural resource sectors. Given sustainability issues, is there any compelling argument to be made for expanding our global presence within knowledge-based markets?

A: Canada cannot be a nation overly dependent on primary resources if it is to sustain itself in the twenty-first century global economy. However, our expertise in these sectors can help us lead the development of energy saving technologies and renewable energy capabilities in addition to other investments in high-tech fields, and genome and health research. These are the markets of the future and the fruits of this research will make all Canadians more prosperous for generations to come.

Q: With regards to arts and culture, Prime Minister Harpers funding agenda is a matter of public record. What role do you feel Canadas arts and culture communities play in enriching the fabric of our national identity across the country and abroad?

A: The arts are at the heart of our national identity. The artistic community enriches the fabric of our daily lives but they do much more than that: they tell the Canadian story, both at home and abroad. It is vital that the government ensures that a wide range of Canadian voices are heard at home and around the world. Prime Minister Stephen Harpers cuts to arts and culture funding were shortsighted and ideologically driven. But he got it wrong and his government was out of step. As Canadians demonstrated when this issue came to light, Canadians do support the arts, and so would a Liberal government.

Q: Cuts to Canadian Heritage funding have largely been targeted at regional arts and cultural programs, leaving youth, sport, identity and other initiatives of national scope relatively untouched. Contrasting that trend, some of our European counterparts have instead chosen to decentralize funding and place it back into the hands of local and regional arts and cultural interests. Do you feel that Canadas cultural footprint is better informed through regional or national cultural programming?

A: There is no question that we need both regional and national funding for arts and culture. Its true that Canadas multicultural and multi-ethnic fabric must be promoted at the local and regional levels, as that is the best way to promote rich and vibrant communities. At the same time, we enjoy a national history and common experiences that can be promoted and shared through national cultural programming.

Q: In 2007, The Conference Board of Canada estimated our national cultural footprint at $84.6 billion, or 7.4% of Canadas total GDP. If we assume strength in the cultural sector as an informer of success in a knowledge-based economy, rather than a consequence of it, do you see this as an opportunity for Canada to compete more openly in the international information market?

A: The prevalence of cultural goods in a society speaks to the value placed on creative, imaginative and innovative endeavours. Our support for these endeavours will not only help Canadians compete in the knowledge-based economy, it will also draw talent to Canada. As such, there is definitely a role for the federal government to do more to foster achievements in these areas, including the scientific and technical achievements of those who work in cultural communities, which are often overlooked.

Q: Aside from funding, what can the federal government do to nurture local and regional laboratories of cultural capital?

A: Funding should not be underestimated as a powerful tool of public policy. The key is ensuring that government funding leads to long-term support for cultural industries. For example, funding of cultural infrastructure can provide a home for cultural industries and a showcase for cultural achievements and events. As well, effective use of tax policy can drive significant investment that would go elsewhere.