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Oda out as Canada’s heritage minister

Entertainment world reacts positively to change

MONTREAL — Canada’s heritage minister Bev Oda, who is unpopular with many in the film and TV biz here, is being replaced by entertainment newbie Josee Verner.

Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper reshuffled his Cabinet on Tuesday, naming Oda minister of international co-operation.

Initial reaction to the change from the entertainment world was positive, particularly in Quebec where Verner is well known as an aide to former Quebec Premier Robert Bourassa and where Oda often clashed with bizzers.

Last year she refused to bail out the province’s under-funded film biz and this summer she turned down requests for coin from some of Montreal’s festival bosses, including the Montreal Just for Laughs festival prexy Gilbert Rozon.

The Union des Artistes, the country’s largest union for French-speaking thesps, welcomed Verner’s appointment and said it hopes she will vigorously defend the country’s culture. Union president Raymond Legault said he wants Verner to maintain the rules that ensure that Canadian broadcasters remain Canuck.

Meanwhile Richard Hardacre, prexy of English-speaking actors union the Alliance of Canadian Cinema Television and Radio Artists, said Verner must take action to fix what he sees as the crisis in the production of homegrown drama.

“Minister Verner must make it clear to the (federal broadcast watchdog) CRTC that private broadcasters must be required to show real Canadian programming,” Hardacre said. “We are being inundated with U.S. productions.”

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