OTTAWA, Ontario, November 22, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – Canada's left-leaning Liberal government is dangling before news organizations a whopping $595 million in tax breaks for media deemed to practice “professional journalism” by an as-yet-to-be-formed independent panel created by the government.
Justin Trudeau's government said the package aims to help what it called “trusted” news organizations.
Conservative news outlets like The Rebel Media and LifeSiteNews are alarmed that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's scheme may amount to a conflict of interest.
LifeSiteNews' vice-president and managing editor, Patrick Craine, says government funding of the media is a bad idea.
“The bottom line is this: a free press cannot be truly free to criticize bad government policies when it has been bought out by the government,” said Craine. “We at LifeSiteNews are against this media bailout package. It's bad for the media. It's bad for tax-paying families. And it's bad for Canadian democracy.”
The Rebel Media founder Ezra Levant shared similar concerns on the conservative news outlet's website.
“There’s an election next year. And if you are a journalist who wants in on Trudeau’s $595-million slush fund, he has to know that he can trust you,” he wrote.
“No tough questions for Trudeau or his cabinet, no matter how incompetent. No embarrassing investigations. You have to demonize any Trudeau critics as 'bigoted' or 'homophobic' or 'Islamophobic.' And you have to promote Trudeau’s policies on everything from the carbon tax to open border mass immigration,” he continued.
“Trudeau wants to turn Canada’s newspapers and private TV stations into little replicas of the CBC. He’s buying their loyalty,” he added.
This isn't the first time Trudeau has offered Canadian media outlets taxpayer dollars ahead of a federal election.
During the last federal election campaign in 2015, the Liberals promised to increase the annual budget of the country's public broadcaster, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation/RadioCanada, by $150 million.
At The Rebel Media, Levant has already vowed to refuse money from the federal government.
“We take no government money at all. Zero. And we never will. Which is the reason we can say [we] report honestly about Trudeau,” wrote Levant. “It’s why he doesn’t 'trust' us. Because we answer only to you, our viewers.”
It's clear, though, that many news organizations in Canada are already eagerly awaiting that government media bailout which is to start in January next year.
The president of Unifor, the union that represents almost 12,000 workers in the media, has reportedly called on the government to help out the media sector.
“We've closed over 200 local newspapers in Canada so there has to be a mechanism in which to fund them. There needs to be some dramatic changes,” Unifor president Jerry Dias reportedly said earlier this month.
And News Media Canada, an industry association representing roughly 800 daily, community and weekly newspapers, has also reportedly called on Ottawa to pony up $350 million for a Canadian Journalism Fund.
Finance Minister Bill Morneau claimed in a speech in the House of Commons on Wednesday that the government's plan will strengthen the country's journalism sector.
“To protect the vital role that independent news media play in our democracy and in our communities, we will be introducing measures to help support journalism in Canada,” said Morneau.
Under the Liberal government's proposed media bailout plan, it would create “an independent panel of journalists” that will purportedly define what “professional journalism” is and determine who is eligible for the government tax breaks for the production of original news.
The independence of that panel of journalists is already being questioned.
Spencer Fernando, who publishes a Canadian news website of the same name, agrees.
“The big problem is that, beyond the waste of taxpayer dollars, the government will be picking which media companies end up getting bailed out,” wrote Fernando.
“The Trudeau Liberals are trying to hide the true nature of the program by saying it will be ‘independent’ from political interference, but everybody who understands life knows that’s a total joke,” he wrote. “Whoever picks the ‘independent panel’ has the power, and it’s easy to pick people who will do exactly what you want them to do.”
On Twitter, the Conservative Member of Parliament for the riding of Carleton, Pierre Poilievre, chided the prime minister Wednesday, suggesting the Liberal leader would demand each news media sign a “values attestation.”
That was a reference to the political fiasco Ottawa unleashed earlier this year when it demanded employers hoping to get Canada Summer Jobs Grants to hire summer students sign such a values attestation, essentially stating they support abortion, transgenderism and homosexuality. Many employers, including Christian churches and organizations, refused to sign and lost out on that funding.
Planned Parenthood-affiliated organizations in Canada, though, did get funded to the tune of more than $88,000 through the Canada Summer Jobs Grant program last summer.
The government's plan to bail out the media industry includes a refundable tax credit on the labour costs of qualifying news outlets whether they are non-profits or for-profit companies. Ottawa is also planning to allow for tax receipts to be issued to people who give to qualifying non-profit news organizations. Online news media outlets deemed eligible will also enjoy, at least temporarily, a non-refundable, 15-per-cent tax credit for qualifying subscribers.
Those measures are expected to cost Ottawa $595 million over the next five years, with more details promised in the 2019 federal budget.
In addition to this, the Liberal government is also planning to plunk down $14.6 million over the next five years to create a digital, francophone platform with TV5Monde.