Kids in the Hall founder Mark McKinney, Nicholas Campbell of Republic of Doyle and Flashpoint lead Enrico Colantoni are urging fresh thinking from all of Canada's political parties on cultural issues.

They were among nearly 20 performers who held a news conference in Toronto on Tuesday to encourage Canadians to vote for federal candidates who will protect the arts.

Among the main concerns for the ACTRA, the union representing Canadian actors that organized the event, are Canada's digital strategy and updating Canadian copyright laws, said ACTRA spokeswoman Heather Allin.

"Digital media is the new reality," Allin said, pointing to the advent of Netflix, Google and other online providers of film and TV shows.

"Our kids are watching hours and hours of content daily on these new platforms daily. An eyeball is an eyeball, a screen is a screen and we want to make sure that Canada has a piece of that," she said, adding "If we don't have rules, there's a very good chance  we won't have Canadian content."

ACTRA has called on all parties to rescind a CRTC exemption on Canadian content for web-based services.

'If you don't think that getting behind Canadian culture…is an important thing to do, you're not only abdicating your responsibilities to preserve our culture and give us a sense of Canadian identity, you're also abdicating your responsibilities to the economy' — Mark McKinney

Attempts to update the Copyright Act have been stalled for years, with the most recent bill failing to pass through Parliament ahead of an election call.

The union also posed eight questions on arts issues to each of the political parties and has posted replies on its website in an effort to catapult arts issues into the election debate.

The questions centre around issues ACTRA has raised in the past, including Canadian content, limits on foreign ownership of Canadian media, stable funding for the CBC and support for film and TV production credits.

McKinney, producer of TV comedy Less Than Kind, says the Canadian film and TV industry is an important source of cultural exports and would create many more well-paid jobs if the conditions are right.

None of the parties had forward-looking policies that will address the new digital realities, he said. The Liberals, NDP and Green parties are "old school" in their approach, McKinney said.

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ACTRA president Ferne Downey is backed by stars who urged Canadians to 'Vote Culture.' (Patrick Morell/CBC)

"The Conservatives did not respond," he added. " You know, it's only eight questions Mr. Harper. There's only eight questions —please respond."

"Because if you don't think that getting behind Canadian culture…is an important thing to do, you're not only abdicating your responsibilities to preserve our culture and give us a sense of Canadian identity, you're also abdicating your responsibilities to the economy, 'cause we're a big part of it. "

ACTRA estimates the arts contribute more than $85 billion to the GDP and 1.1 million jobs.

Flashpoint actor Enrico Colantoni said it is important to keep Canadian arts jobs in Canada — so young talent does not have to leave the country.

"I'm a patron that believes what I do is important  I need a government that sees what I do as important, so I can keep doing what I'm doing, which is reflecting the beauty and honesty of this country to the world," he said.

""We provide seven per cent of the GDP of Canada. That's more than forestry and the auto industry combined. And it's time that the government and the leaders of this country step up and realize that this is a necessity, that this is something that is what makes us Canadian," he added.

Other stars who came out include Adamo Ruggiero of Degrassi: TNG, Jayne Eastwood of Little Mosque on the Prairie, and Colin Mochrie of She's the Mayor.

ACTRA is not the only cultural group to attempt to assess the parties' cultural policies: The Canadian Conference of the Arts also has an online election kit with a list of questions for candidates and outlines of each party's arts policies.

In a March survey of Canada attitudes toward the election conducted by Nanos Research for The Arts Advocate, only one in 10 Canadians said a party's position on culture is very important in how they vote. The same sample of 1200 voters found about one quarter of Canadians believe that federal cultural funding is inadequate. The survey is accurate to within 2.8 percentage points, plus or minus 19 times out of 20.

Canadians head to the polls May 2.

With files from The Canadian Press