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Results: 1 - 8 of 8
View Randy Boissonnault Profile
Lib. (AB)
View Randy Boissonnault Profile
2019-06-03 12:50 [p.28392]
Madam Speaker, the opportunity to provide insight on how the government values a healthy democracy through a free and independent press is why I am here today. Voices must be heard in a democracy: diverse, dissenting and dynamic voices. Those of us who have a seat in this place must speak up for the voiceless, even when said voice sounds like it could use a little TLC.
No one will dispute that a healthy democracy requires a solid, independent news media industry, and we all agree that with today's technology Canadians now consume information differently and through various media forms. Many readers are changing their consumption habits and getting information online.
If we look at the 2018 Edelman Trust Barometer, 65% of Canadians worry about false information or fake news being used as a weapon. These are the new realities we face here in the House and as a government, and the advent of fake news has prompted our government to act to ensure that our democracy remains well served by informed and reliable journalism.
The support measures we developed ensure that Canada will continue to have an active, professional, reliable and independent press, and that, through responsible journalism, Canadians remain informed of the events that shape our country. As stated by the hon. Minister of Finance, “Whether it's holding governments to account or getting involved in a local cause, Canadians rely on the journalism industry to shine a light on what's important—and these measures will help the industry continue to do exactly that.”
Without these independent journalists, it is much easier for the opposition to peddle fake news stories, such as the ongoing attack ads using public funds, paid for by Doug Ford's government. That is why the Conservatives are vehemently disparaging journalists. However, unlike the Conservatives, our government is not afraid to be held to account by Canadians.
There was one scrum after budget 2019 where someone asked whether this fund would just make sure that the media says what the Liberals want it to say. The Minister of Finance was there, and I think his quip was “I would really like the media to say exactly what I want it to say, but that is not how an independent press works.” That is at the core of what we are doing here.
To this end, we announced a series of measures that, together, would provide support to the Canadian news system, which is crucial to our democracy. Two fundamental principles have guided us in developing these support measures. First, we choose to support the news in a way that is independent, because of all the principles that enshrine our democracy. In short, we fundamentally believe that journalists should not be afraid of their funding being cut simply because they disagree with us. Second, it must be based on the creation of original content.
The first of these measures was introduced in budget 2018, where the government emphasized its support of local news in communities presently underserved by Canadian news media organizations. In an era when fake news is ubiquitous, all Canadians deserve to have access to reliable information.
Let us take the issue of fake news head on. The Conservatives have been trying to sell a narrative recently that is completely false, related to recent government announcements. I want to take the time that I have to address these issues head on.
It is a fact that, on May 22, 2019, the Minister of Canadian Heritage and Multiculturalism announced the launch of the local journalism initiative. This initiative, which allocates a total of $50 million over five years, supports the creation of original civic journalism that covers the diverse needs of underserved communities across Canada.
It is a fact that, to protect the independence of the press, seven not-for-profit organizations representing different segments of the news industry will administer the initiative. These organizations will hire additional journalists or undertake projects to give their news greater visibility in underserved communities, thus addressing the need for local civic journalism in underserved communities. The content produced through this initiative will be made available to media organizations through a Creative Commons licence so that Canadians can be better informed regardless of the platform on which they consume their news.
Other support measures were announced in budget 2019, and the government proposed three new initiatives to support Canadian journalism: allowing not-for-profit news organizations to receive charitable donations and issue official donation receipts; creating a new, refundable labour tax credit for qualifying news organizations; and creating a temporary, non-refundable tax credit for subscriptions to Canadian digital news media.
It is a fact that an independent panel of experts will make recommendations on the eligibility criteria for the tax measures so that they are efficient, transparent and fair.
Eight associations representing Canadian journalists were invited to submit the name of a candidate to take part in the work of the independent panel of experts. Unfortunately, the Conservatives have taken issue with one of these associations and have been sharing false information that these associations will somehow be deciding who will receive funding. Fortunately, our government does not believe in such a draconian way of either sharing information or organizing a system meant to protect the independence of the media.
It is a fact that these associations were chosen because they represented the majority of Canadian news media publishers and journalists. the independent panel of experts will be able to consider the views of third parties, including industry stakeholders.
We know for a fact that these key measures will provide Canadians with more access to informed and reliable journalism.
The fact that the Conservatives are threatened by an independent panel of news media publishers and journalists is indicative of the kind of government they had under Mr. Harper and what kind of government they could be. It is the same kind of fear they had with scientists. It is the same kind they had with people of any sort of difference who might actually hold their feet to the fire. Our feet can be held to the fire and because of that, better is always possible.
Over the past week, there has been intense Conservative opposition to the appointment of Unifor to the local journalism panel. Unifor is an independent union that represents 12,000 media workers across the country. It will bring much-needed expertise to the panel on the integrity of news media, freedom of information and workers' rights.
Our government is committed to raising and improving labour standards and working conditions for all journalists across the country, while promoting free press.
We recognizes and value the importance of the independent press to a healthy democracy, and the addition of Unifor to the panel only strengthens that principle.
Let us make no mistake in assuming there is an easy fix after the deep cuts to media experienced under the Harper government, CBC alone, $150 million in cuts. The leader of the official opposition is already on record as saying hundreds of millions of dollars of cuts will come to the CBC should the Conservatives form government.
The Harper government also allocated extensive resources to monitor independent media outlets. Monitoring them is contradictory to the very independence of those media outlets. The previous government was obsessed with message control and engaged in widespread media monitoring. In contrast, our government has built an open relationship with the press.
The Canadian news media ecosystem is under tremendous pressure and that is why we take this issue seriously.
Let us look at the change of the media ecosystem since 2019.
Twenty per cent of daily and community newspapers have ceased their operations. This means that a total of 276 Canadian communities rely on alternative sources of information to obtain the news that is of concern to them. Also, we are not considering the many Canadian news media organizations that had to downsize and adapt their operations to remain in operation due to the drastic cuts of funding that has caused nearly irreversible damage.
In my time as a member of this place, the way the Edmonton media has covered stories has changed dramatically. I used to give an interview to the Edmonton Sun and an interview to the Edmonton Journal. Then about midway through their mandate, they said that I would just have to do one interview now. When I asked them why, they said that they have been consolidated. The Edmonton Sun and the Edmonton Journal are in the same offices now. Therefore, I just give quotes to one person and then the reporters take the different quotes they want to shape the story they want. That is the shape of things to come in the country, so it is time we acted.
Our government recognizes the vital and indispensable role that journalism plays in our country. That is why we will continue to protect the independence of journalists and why we are prepared to make the necessary investments and to take action to ensure Canadians continue to have access to informed and reliable news coverage that is necessary to ensure a democracy.
There used to be over 10,000 jobs in journalism, but most of them have been lost since 2007. Close to 250 daily newspapers have been affected. Some of them have had to close their doors and others have had to reduce the number of journalists that work for them. The government needs to act in this kind of situation and that is what we did.
That is exactly why we are taking these steps now.
View Tom Kmiec Profile
View Tom Kmiec Profile
2019-06-03 13:31 [p.28398]
Madam Speaker, I sat on the finance committee, and this bailout is embedded in an omnibus budget bill. I think it deserves mentioning, again, that this is something the government promised not to do.
This is also a kind of three-package deal. In it, there is a panel that is going to oversee a tax credit. I cannot find any other tax credit the government has which has a government-appointed panel that decides on it. Typically, we let the Canada Revenue Agency decide who meets the eligibility criteria that is set out in the law.
Does the member know of any other tax credit where the government basically appoints a panel to decide who is in or out? If he knows of any, I would love to hear it.
View Garnett Genuis Profile
Mr. Speaker, it seems that the member for Winnipeg North thinks Stephen Harper was too close with, too generous to or too supportive of the media. That is not a criticism I have heard from Liberal members before, but we hear all sorts of criticisms from the Liberals that come from all sorts of different directions, and it is hard to keep track of what they are saying.
A bit of time has passed since I gave my speech before question period, but I will discuss what I talked about in my speech and I will explain the motion we are debating, and then maybe other Liberal members will have some questions.
The member did not address the fact that his government is giving $600 million to a fund that is going to be controlled by a panel that includes Unifor. We will have explicitly partisan people, who are loud and proud in campaigning for the Liberals, involved in distributing money to journalists.
If the government is in favour of defending an independent press, then it should listen to what the press is saying because, as I quoted in my speech, many of the leading independent thought leaders in Canadian political journalism are sounding the alarm about the approach the government has taken.
Let us take this partisan interference out of journalism. We can debate specific policies, such as government advertising. Obviously, every government advertises through the media in some form, which is not particularly novel, but the fact that the government has put partisan people in a position to dole out this money should be very concerning to those who care about preserving the independence of the press.
View Tom Kmiec Profile
View Tom Kmiec Profile
2019-06-03 16:16 [p.28427]
Mr. Speaker, the member is absolutely wrong in how she characterizes this issue. Nobody on this side is saying that there should not be freedom of the press to print and write the articles and the opinion editorials it needs to. We simply think that the government should not be involved in the business of the free press.
At committee, finance officials said that no blogger will be eligible for this. They said that no owner-operated news outlet will be eligible for any of this. In fact, most start-ups will be automatically eliminated just by virtue of how start-ups begin.
One thing I also want to mention to the member is that this issue was brought in through an omnibus budget bill.
It is the first time, that I can find, that the Canada Revenue Agency will not be directly involved in the administration of a tax credit. The government is setting up a partisan panel, with Unifor on it. Does the member have another example of a tax credit that is not administered directly by the CRA?
View Tom Kmiec Profile
View Tom Kmiec Profile
2019-06-03 17:31 [p.28439]
Mr. Speaker, I hear the member for Kingston and the Islands chirping away at me. I know he will not like the rest of what I have to say about the government's media bailout. He will not appreciate it, but he can always ask me questions afterward.
This motion started with two former journalists on the Conservative side speaking to it, the member for Louis-Saint-Laurent and the member for Thornhill. They are both exceptional journalists who have had long careers in the media and know what they are talking about. They are veterans of journalism. We always say within our caucus that the member for Thornhill has some of the most interesting life stories we will ever hear. I encourage any member in this House to ask him about the stories of his journalistic exploits and the situations he found himself in when he would follow them wherever they would go.
What we are talking about today is a media bailout the government is pushing through for large media organizations. There are three components to it: the labour tax credit, the digital new subscription tax credit and a qualified donee measure. Those three measures form this media bailout.
The media bailout is embedded within the omnibus budget bill. Other members have mentioned that the government promised not to present omnibus bills, and actually, in the throne speech, the government said it would never do it again. It could have brought this measure as a separate bill in order for it to have a full discussion and then go to the appropriate committees for a review.
I have read the bill. I remember the debate at the finance committee with officials and asking questions to the officials. When the member for Bow River said it would not apply to the weeklies and dailies in a community because they are owner-operated and the editor is heavily involved in the operations, that is exactly right. I asked that question of the officials. They meandered around it and said that for owners, this only applies to two-plus full-time journalists. That is how it works. The criterion is in section 43. It is written right into the law. Therefore, if owner-operators hire some students during the summer months as contractors, they are not eligible for this particular media bailout.
We asked the officials who this would apply to. We quickly found out it would exclude anybody who in previous tax years had applied for the periodical fund. Therefore, Maclean's, Chatelaine and other magazines would be excluded.
Then we asked what would happen to an agricultural newspaper in my area if half of the newspaper was devoted to agriculture. Well, that would not qualify either, because as I found out from the officials at committee, it would have to cover current events. I asked what “current events” means within the law. They pointed me to subsection 248(1) of the act, which states it “must be primarily focused on matters of general interest or reports of current events, including coverage of democratic institutions and processes.” Those are the criteria.
During the debate I heard members across the way say the decision has not been made. However, there are criteria already included, and if a journalistic organization does not qualify, it is excluded from all three measures. That is the way the law is written.
Maybe our Liberal government caucus members do not like that fact, but that is the way the law is written and how it will apply. Unless the publication is basically covering politicians in some way, it will not be eligible for any cash. Therefore, this broad dragnet that the officials initially said would be the case is not the case. It is a very small, select group of people who will be eligible for it.
The motion before the House today is one of the primary worries we have on the Conservative side. The Liberals, by appointing a Unifor representative to the board of this panel, have made it partisan. Unifor has openly said it will campaign against one of Canada's large registered political parties. It posted it on social media accounts. It is happy to do it. It calls itself the “resistance”. There is no way around this.
The government has made everybody's participation on this board a partisan affair, because they are now participating actively in the electoral outcome of October 21. The government cannot say this panel is independent, as the panel is appointed by the government. It cannot say this Parliament is completely non-partisan, because Unifor is on the panel.
That simply cannot continue. We cannot have a situation of a national organization that represents some journalists as well as a great deal of other workers actively working against one of Canada's registered political parties as well as participating in deciding who will get access to these three measures I just talked about that form the media bailout.
We have repeatedly heard members on the Liberal side say things that were maybe partially correct in the best of light. I heard one member say that maybe bloggers could be eligible, and I actually asked the question, but bloggers are not eligible. I asked if The Post Millennial, which is a purely online web news site, would be eligible. They did not know whether it would be eligible.
There is a great Yiddish proverb that says “What you don't see with your eyes, don't say with your tongue.” It is a fanciful way of saying that if it is not the truth that we read, do not say it.
At the finance committee, I asked all of these questions because I wanted to better understand which organizations would actually be eligible for this tax credit. They were very quick to say that they did not have all answers, because some of the criteria are set in law and some of the criteria will be up to the panel to determine.
We now know that this panel would be tainted by the participation of Unifor. It is the perception that matters. It is the perception that journalists could be bent by the ownership or by the eligibility for certain criteria. We would be subsidizing journalists directly, because there is a labour tax credit of up to $55,000 by which a salary could be offset. It works out to about $13,750 at the end of the day for an employee. It is a direct subsidy for an employee.
The panel is going to decide who qualifies as a Canadian journalist. I can think of no worse thing for independent, autonomous journalism in this country than to have the perception that perhaps their reporting will be tainted one way or another on the type of content they choose to report.
I do not have a problem with journalists writing tough stories. I do not have a problem with them misquoting me. I do not have a problem with them not coming to me or not following a lead I think is worth following. I do not have a problem with it. They are independent and autonomous and can do whatever they want. That is up to them. Hopefully they will find a readership who is willing to read what they have to offer. I like to read the National Observer. It is kind of left-leaning, one could say, but it provides a lot of content that I actually like using, and so I am fine with it. However, I do not know if the National Observer would be eligible for this measure. Everything outside of current events would be excluded. If a publication covers too much sport or too much entertainment news, it would be excluded. All of those decisions the panel would get to decide.
This is the only tax credit measure I can find that the CRA does not administer directly. It will be administered indirectly by this panel. I hear all these Liberal government caucus members say that it will be the panel that will decide. As soon as one qualifies, it would be eligible for these other things.
Why not just let the CRA do it? It does the disability tax credit. It decides at the end of the day who is eligible for it. It decides for the child expenses. Why is the CRA not going to be administering the law? There is a lot of leeway provided in the law as well, but I am just wondering why the CRA is not deciding, from A to Z, the whole thing. Would that not be the more transparent, non-partisan, completely opaque, arm's-length but within arm's reach way of doing this, as opposed to having a panel with Unifor on it after Unifor has explicitly said that it is going to be devoted from now until October 21 to the defeat of one of Canada's registered political parties?
For Unifor to participate in the determination of who qualifies as a journalistic organization and qualifies through those three measures I mentioned is ridiculous. There is no way we can claim that this will be a complete non-partisan exercise. We cannot. The government has basically put on the committee an organization that is going to be helping it directly. That is what I heard at the finance committee. Nothing I have heard during the debate today changes my mind on the fact that the government is trying to push the scales again on one side, just as it did with the justice system. It is pushing on the scales here and trying to ensure it gets the best possible coverage, because a lot of the money does not flow out immediately. It is the potential of future cash that would ensure that large media organizations are on side.
Therefore, I will be voting for this motion, because it is very important that every single member stand on this issue and be heard on where they stand on behalf of their constituents for a free press without any direct government involvement. We should not be in the business of subsidizing the business of the press. We want a free press, yes, but not press subsidized with government and taxpayer dollars.
View Tom Kmiec Profile
View Tom Kmiec Profile
2019-06-03 17:42 [p.28440]
Mr. Speaker, so far in this debate, several government caucus members have said how worried they are about fake news on social media. They could just listen to their member here spread misinformation all day long; it is pretty much the same thing.
That so-called middle-class income tax credit gave that member a bigger tax cut than every Canadian who earns $45,000 or less. We have litigated this several times because of the way the progressive tax system works.
On the issue of what previous governments have done, we are not talking about that; we are talking about what the current government is doing. It is being held to account for its decisions. It is not about past governments and what has happened before, but it is what the current government is doing, and what it is proposing to do is to put a representative of a large union on a panel that will decide how a tax credit is given to large media organizations. Instead of the CRA directly administering this tax credit, the government would have a panel that includes one very partisan organization devoted to the defeat of one of Canada's registered political parties on October 21. It is wrong to be tipping the scales in its favour in this way.
View Garnett Genuis Profile
Mr. Speaker, in this case, I think my house is made of bricks.
The member spoke about other mechanisms by which political parties get money. Let us be very clear, with the removal of the direct subsidy to political parties, the mechanisms that exist are, first, when a contribution is made to political parties, there is a deduction, and second, there is also a rebate for money spent during the writ period.
If memory serves, there was actually a Conservative private member's bill in this Parliament that sought to equalize the deductions for charities with political parties. I think the member has a good point that there is some unfairness in the process.
An hon. member: No, that was my bill. It was an NDP bill.
Mr. Garnett Genuis: An NDP member may have had this in a previous Parliament, but my memory suggests that it was this Parliament. The member for Provencher had a private member's bill in this Parliament. If the member for Windsor West would like to endorse this Conservative idea, then that is great.
In terms of what the member said about attack ads, I just want to be clear that of course political parties do run attack ads. I do not know if the Green Party ever has, but there are also not-for-profit organizations that run ads critical of political parties. Not-for-profits, as well as political parties, engage in different kinds of political speech.
I do not think we should get into micromanaging deductions that different organizations get just because of the level of criticism that they levy. However, a mechanism that has a deduction for contributing to a not-for-profit organization, a charity, or a political party is very different than a direct taxpayer subsidy. A deduction simply says that if I am giving money to an organization, I should get some of that back because it is a not-for-profit. That is different from a direct subsidy to that organization.
View Jim Eglinski Profile
View Jim Eglinski Profile
2017-05-17 19:14 [p.11341]
Mr. Speaker, I rise in this House today to speak on an important motion by the member for Nickel Belt.
Motion No. 106 is an important motion, because seniors make up a growing demographic in Canada. In fact, the recent 2016 census showed that we are growing at an alarming rate. We are up to 16.9%. In fact, there are more seniors in Canada than there are people 15 years of age and younger. Meanwhile, the portion of the working-age population, those between the ages of 15 and 64, has declined from 68% to 66%.
Given that seniors are one of the largest and fastest-growing demographics in Canada, it is paramount that we now take action to deal with the corresponding effects of an aging population. This is why this motion is so important.
However, Motion No. 106 highlights a lack of seriousness on behalf of the Liberal government when it comes to addressing the needs of Canadian seniors. It leaves out necessary action that must be taken in order to appropriately address related concerns.
Over the years, I have presented several petitions calling for a national strategy for seniors and palliative care. A national strategy would ensure that many of the issues important to seniors, such as establishing a national strategy for Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia, improving palliative care, and ensuring quality home care are listened to and addressed. Such a strategy is addressed in section (e) of Motion No. 106.
However, something that is not addressed by this motion is the lack of representation for seniors within the Liberal government's cabinet. Our Conservative Party believes that seniors are important, and as such, they deserve their own portfolio. We have a minister for children and families, as well as a minister for youth, so where is the minister for seniors? It is clear that Canadians recognize the importance of such an appointment, but does the government?
The dramatic greying of Canada's population will reshape the economy, stifle growth, and force governments to provide for a growing number of seniors with a shrinking pool of taxpayers. Currently the government does not have a sustainable plan to address both the challenges and opportunities that stem from this unique shift in our country's population. Instead of a plan, it has plunged our country deeper into debt, along with our citizens.
In fact, budget 2017 did very little for seniors. Instead of introducing tax measures that would have helped make life more affordable for those living on a fixed income, it scrapped tax credits that seniors rely on, credits such as the family caregiver tax credit and the public transit tax credit. Budget 2017's catch-all policies with the word "senior" stamped on them are not enough to address the very real needs of our aging population.
Another problematic aspect of Motion No. 106 is section (b), which seeks to restore the age of eligibility for old age security to 65. Everyone knows Canadians are living longer and healthier lives, and the OAS program needs to reflect this new reality and provide the option for individuals to work longer and receive higher retirement benefits.
In budget 2016, the Liberal government set up an advisory council. That advisory council came back to them in 2017, saying that the government needed to address this point, that it was important, that they could see the need. Motion No. 106 is in direct contradiction to what the advisory council stated.
If the age of eligibility for OAS returns to 65, in 13 years the cost will go up by $10.4 billion. As well, the guaranteed income supplement will go up by $1.2 billion in 13 years. Given Canada's current economic situation, it is of great concern that the Liberal Prime Minister has demonstrated that he does not take long-term financial sustainability seriously. Canadian seniors deserve a government that will stand up for their needs and deliver long-term results.
Our previous Conservative government has a strong and dynamic record of support for seniors. We were transparent and vocal on ending elder abuse and senior communal isolation by establishing the New Horizon for Seniors grant program in 2011. Our record also shows that Conservatives made the largest increase to the guaranteed income supplement in a quarter of a century. We created tax-free savings accounts to allow Canadians to benefit. Our previous government expanded the compassionate care program and provided tax breaks to caregivers.
In 2011, we reduced the number of Canadians in need of housing through a multi-level government framework and an investment of $1.4 billion. Close to 184,000 households benefited. I know I am running out of time, but I just want to say a couple more things.
I am concerned about the future of our aging population. The Liberal government continues to demonstrate a lack of respect for Canadian seniors and their concerns by refusing to appoint a minister of seniors or commit to a timeline for a national seniors strategy. Therefore, I urge this House to support the amendments to Motion No. 106 and support meaningful action for seniors.
I had a lot more to say and I wish I had the time to say it, but I will say that seniors play an important role in our families, our communities, and our workplaces. They are the people who started this country. They are the people who still contribute some of the greatest amounts of volunteer time in our communities across Canada.
I am proud to be a member of the senior caucus and I am proud to be a senior myself. I am not turning grey like some of them, but I am losing hair like a lot of them. I want to thank all the seniors across my riding and across Canada who have given their time to our communities, and this question begs to be asked: should Canada's fastest-growing demographic not have their own voice in government?
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