Madam Speaker, the fact is, we are here in a Parliament where the opposition is supposed to be able to propose things and take a constructive approach. I have been fighting for the media for eight years now, and the NDP has been working tirelessly to protect our stories and our journalism, to ensure a level playing field for everyone. It is not happening. We are not the only ones. In January 2017, a report entitled “Shattered Mirror” recommended the following:
Recommendation No. 1: Enhance Section 19 and 19.1 of the Income Tax Act
We have talked about this. It is completely unacceptable that, in a wealthy, western democracy like ours, we are incapable of amending a section of an act that online advertisers are shamelessly exploiting. Basically, if a company pays to place an ad in an American magazine, it cannot include it as a deduction for its advertising expenses. It cannot put it in an American or Canadian magazine, because it is not an eligible expense. However, placing an ad on Google or Facebook is an eligible expense. It is completely ridiculous.
The Conservatives were no better. That loophole has been around for a long time but the Liberals let it be because they are afraid of being taxed. They have spent four years doing nothing even though this is such an important issue, an issue so crucial to our identity. Our stories are disappearing along with our journalism and possibly even our democracy. A number of us have pointed out that many of the weekly papers that cover local politics in every one of our ridings are closing. They are closing because advertisers can jump on that kind of outrageous advantage. That recommendation I just quoted was the first one in the January 2017 report. That was two years ago, and it came from an expert. The heritage minister requested the report. Two years have passed, and nothing has been done. The government has not done a thing about it even though that was the first recommendation.
Here is another recommendation from the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage's June 2017 report:
Recommendation 1: The Committee recommends that the Minister of Canadian Heritage explore the existing structures to create a new funding model that is platform agnostic and would support Canadian journalistic content.
That was two years ago. Let me point out that both the heritage minister and the Prime Minister summarily dismissed the report.
Here is the second recommendation from the other report from January 2017:
Extend GST/HST to all digital news subscription and advertising revenue for companies not qualifying under new Section 19 criteria. Rebate GST/HST for those that do qualify
Nothing was done. That was in the January 2017 report published by Mr. Greenspon, a distinguished journalist and expert. The Liberals did nothing.
Now, a little like the huge boondoggle they made of the SNC-Lavalin affair, the government decided once again to improvise. It slipped a line somewhere in the omnibus bill, thinking no one would noticed, but they were wrong. The government should have consulted everyone. It would have been nice if it had not tried to hide this in a huge bill the size of an Eaton's catalogue. What happened as a result? Many jobs were lost in Quebec. People might be in difficult situations, but it is not the government's problem. It is, however, a serious problem for Quebec.
Once again, a committee was thrown together at the last minute. It smacks of conflict and does not look good on the members opposite. They have always known just how much the unions hate them because they are always saying they do not care about the news or the situation facing our media here in Quebec and Canada.