Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Edmonton Centre.
I would like to take this opportunity to stand today and remind this chamber of the importance of a free and independent press to a healthy democracy. I cannot say it enough: A fundamental pillar of our democracy and all democracies around the world is a healthy, independent press. However, that is now at risk, and it is putting us all at risk.
Canada's news media industry and those around the world are fighting for their lives. They are being pushed to the limit by smaller and smaller advertising funding, and more recently by dramatic changes in how people are receiving their news. If we do not take our heads out of the sand, it will not be too long before these changes will erode our democratic process altogether.
I have seen first-hand in authoritarian countries what happens when the media are not able to speak up: minorities are ignored or, worse, punished for being who they are; criticism of the government is prevented or silenced; and people live in fear of what their government may do to them. This is not a world that I or Canadians want to live in.
This crisis faced by the Canadian news media has come to a pinnacle in recent years, with countless layoffs, once strong and vibrant newspapers closing one after another, and countless towns and cities finding themselves without local journalists or reporting of any kind. Since 2009, daily and community newspapers have seen a 48% decrease in advertising revenues alone, which is half their revenue gone just like that, in just 10 years. Any industry with that kind of loss would be struggling.
Just last week, The Hamilton Spectator announced that it will close its printing and mailroom operations and will likely sell its building. That is 73 full-time Canadian jobs and 105 part-time staff who will be laid off. Equally troubling is the loss of local content in a major media market.
The story does not stop there. Around the world, people have changed how they are getting their news. Social media and mobile phones have blown up the traditional markets. Canadians are not sitting at home any more just waiting for their curated and peer-reviewed morning paper to tell them about the news of the day. More and more, people are relying on social media, Facebook, Twitter, Google and others for their news. However, these platforms hold none of the same standards as the news media. Verification, research and sources have been thrown out the door for a quick click or negative motives. These platforms simply do not have the resources or expertise to undertake in-depth reporting that holds corporations, organizations or governments to account.
We know that the press gallery in Ottawa is shrinking and is a fraction of its former self. It does not have the resources to challenge the government or the opposition in the way it was once able to do.
With web giants offering news for free, Canadians are quick to cut their subscriptions. Not only have news organizations had a huge drop in advertising, which in itself is an important part of their revenue model, but these same organizations have also had to contend with new players in the industry who do not play by the same rules. Faced with so many challenges, there are only two options: try to adapt, or close shop altogether. Unfortunately, the second option is what appears to be happening.
This is not limited to daily newspapers: Community newspapers, the foundation of our neighbourhoods and a critical source of information for communities all across Canada, are facing the same challenges, and 32% of daily newspapers and 19% of community newspapers have had to close their doors since 2009. Those still standing have had to face the hard reality needed to adapt. Cutting staff, reducing printing and merging are just some of the choices staff have had to make to keep their newspapers alive.
All of these closures and reorganizations have had a massive impact on jobs in Canada. Since 2006, close to one-quarter of the newspaper workforce has been laid off, which means close to 10,000 jobs. In the last three years alone, more than 600 of these jobs have been cut, which means Canadians are no longer getting the news they need to make this country, province or town work. There is no more coverage of courtroom trials, no more news on current councillors or wards. People do not know what is going on in their neighbourhoods. The best they can hope for is sometimes seeing a small story in a major paper. This hurts all of us.
With a 24-hour news cycle and an endless amount of information at people's fingertips, it seems strange that millions of Canadians cannot find out what is happening just down the street.
How can we, as Canadians, make the right choices regarding our governments when we do not even know what is happening? How can we solve a problem if we do not even know it exists?
With even less accurate reporting, fake news is able to spread even faster. We can add to that the fact that people and organizations are trying to take advantage of Canadians by bombarding them with fake news on a daily basis. We have all seen the rise of the anti-vaccine movement and flat-earthers because of fake news circles spreading uncriticized information. Many countries, including Canada, are under constant threat of fake news spreading uncontrollably, made even worse because of a lack of journalists able to hold people to account.
That is why our government saw the need to take action. Our $595-million tax credit investment in Canadian news over the next five years will help restore the news industry in Canada. Our government has established a panel that comprises not only publishers but also reporters and other workers within the sector. This panel includes representation from both francophone media groups and ethnic media representatives.
Canadians deserve to know the truth about what is going on in Canada and around the world, yet it seems that Conservative members across the way continue to have problems with journalists and the truth. I do not know about other members, but I have met many journalists and none of them can be influenced or bought by a government, yet the Conservatives keep trying to follow Doug Ford's lead and imply that journalists are the enemy. Their staff said that they would “go for the jugular” when it came to the media.
The opposition continues to be out of touch with real Canadians. Journalists and the media play a fundamental role in our country. Canadians know that, and so should the Conservatives. To call them fossils is disrespectful to both journalists and Canadians. Members of the party opposite continue to see enemies and conspiracy theories all around them. Next they will be telling us that we need to ground planes because of the chemtrails, or they will start saying how the scientists are out to get them again.
Two fundamental principles have guided us in developing these policies: First, a mechanism designed to support the news industry must be independent from the Government of Canada, and second, it must be based on the creation of original content.
In closing, there is no denying that the government has an important responsibility in ensuring the health of our democracy. I am proud to sit as a member of the party that believes in investing in people, unlike the party opposite, which wants to sit on its hands or, even worse, make cuts to our news industry.
Our government is taking action to address the issues faced by the Canadian news system. We believe in the need to invest in and support the industry so that Canadians can get the news they need. These initiatives recognize that strong and independent journalism is a key element of a healthy democracy, while protecting the independence of the press on any platform. In an age when fake news is being spread freely, these investments will ensure that Canadians have access to the reliable news coverage necessary to our country.
I am thankful for this opportunity and look forward to questions.