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Long-awaited digital strategy close to release, says industry minister

OTTAWA - Industry Minister James Moore says the Conservative government's long-awaited digital strategy is coming soon — he's even showing off the cover page.

"When we put forward the policy there will be some policy initiatives, some investment initiatives and some new things that I think will be well received in terms of a true, comprehensive and effective digital policy," Moore told reporters following a speech at the Manning Centre's networking conference on Friday.

The promise of a digital strategy has taken on mythical qualities over the years in Canadian technology circles, as two of Moore's successors repeatedly promised action but never delivered.

Former minister Tony Clement even undertook a public consultation on building a digital economy in 2010, but no policy emerged from the process.

Moore appears to have breathed new life into the initiative and is putting his own mark on the project. He said he spent a "very long weekend" reading through all the submissions that were made during the Clement consultation.

He says the digital strategy will not only focus on economic issues, but also delve into the cultural realm with measures to expand Canadian content. Moore held the Heritage portfolio for many years and introduced the Canadian Media Fund that supported Canadian production, as long as it could also be distributed digitally.

"Digital economy strategy was the language used by Minister Clement because it made sense then, back in 2010 coming out of the recession," Moore said.

"But now that things are different, the context is different, I'm talking about a digital strategy which include the economic aspects but it will be broadbased, it will be substantive..."

He also noted that the strategy will ensure that Canadians are able to properly connect with the federal government digitally.

This month's federal budget included a number of measures that fit within the digital heading, including $350 million for extending broadband to rural and remote areas.

It also set a target of 2019 for ensuring the entire country has access to high-speed Internet of at least 5 Mbps. The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission had originally proposed a goal of 2015.

Moore framed the policy in nationalistic terms. Its title is "Digital Canada 150" according to a slide he showed an audience Friday. He said Conservatives have always been nationbuilders, going back to the construction of the national railway.

"An effective digital strategy is the missing piece," Moore said.

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