Mr. Speaker, I rise today in opposition to the Conservative opposition motion presently being debated.
The issue of how to properly support the media is something I have had the opportunity to work on and think about quite deeply over the past years while I have been here in Ottawa. I am a member of the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage. When we started, one of our first studies was in fact on local media. It was an in-depth study where we really looked at what we should be doing. We heard from media across our country, from the unions, the employees and business owners. They all spoke to us about a need to ensure that we continue to have a vibrant local media across our country.
I would like to thank the chair of the committee at the time, the member for Vancouver Centre, as she led us through the study. We made 20 recommendations. Included in those recommendations were the very items we found in budget 2019 about making changes to the tax act to allow not-for-profit media foundations to have charitable status, and tax credits. It is nice to see work being done at committee and how that can translate into policy going forward.
As well, when we were doing that study, there was a report by the Public Policy Forum called the “Shattered Mirror”. Interestingly, as a part of that report, they also included a review entitled “the Copyright Act's fair-dealing rules to strengthen rights of news originators to control their intellectual property” as one of their recommendations, as well as some of the recommendations we had in the committee report on that. It is interesting that the “Shattered Mirror” report reflects future work that was done by the committee. I am now the chair of the committee. We have also studied copyright rules and made recommendations on that issue.
I have the newspaper delivered to my house every day. It is funny, but I was reading the newspaper and thinking about what we were going to saying in the debate. It is not a fossil. Newspapers are not fossils. This a way that Canadians get the news that we rely upon. It has an important role in raising civic awareness and keeping Canadians informed. No matter what the size of the communities that we live in, no matter our distances from larger population centres, we rely on important local news to make decisions, to see how we look at the world, planet and our local communities.
Canadians still rely on newspapers and other news outlets today. We have just changed a lot of the way that we do it. As I mentioned, I was reading a newspaper this morning in its physical form, but more and more people are scrolling from article to article rather than turning from one page to the other. In fact, Canadians are among the most engaged and best-informed citizens globally. We should be proud of that.
In international surveys, such as the well-respected Reuters Institute digital news report, Canada ranks highly in consumption and trust in news sources. For example, in 2018, Canada ranked fifth out of 37 countries that were surveyed for trust of the news that people read. More importantly, the numbers for Canada are rising. There was a 9% increase in trust from the previous year. The survey also showed that a majority of Canadians, 60% to be precise, are concerned about what is real and what is fake on the Internet when it comes to news. That is really important. Canadians are concerned about making sure they are getting news that is in fact true, with the whole issue of fake news having become something of a concern.
Another well-known measure of trust in the news is the international Edelman trust barometer. This annual survey confirms digital news survey results concerning trust. There was an increase of 8% in Canadians surveyed who declared trust in the news industry. Traditional news outlets, like newspapers, ranked the highest, at 71% level of trust, while news via social media was at the bottom, with 31% of trust from Canadians. Most importantly, 21% of Canadians consumed news regularly compared to the previous year. Clearly, the world is increasingly faced with misinformation and social media bots, and Canadians are relying more and more on trusted news outlets to deliver honest and independent reporting on the issues of the day.
The challenge that these outlets are facing is not one of trust levels, but it is rather about how we are consuming our news. It is the economic model that has been radically altered, and we are hearing that from creators across industry. Today when we are talking about the news, we are talking about a massive shift towards online news consumption.
Today, only 9% of Canadians pay for online news, according to a writer survey. Canada ranks 27 out of 37 countries surveyed in that respect. Much needs to be done to encourage higher rates of online subscriptions, and that is what is so interesting about the steps being taken. The fall economic statement of 2018 included measures to specifically encourage Canadians to subscribe to digital news outlets. The statement addressed that shift directly.
With that type of model, providing measures to encourage Canadians to subscribe, the choice remains with individual Canadians as to whether or not to take a subscription with one outlet or the other. They still have the choice. Some outlets are more conservative and some have been endorsing the opposition party over the last four cycles, and then others are more progressive. It is up to Canadians to choose which one they want to subscribe to. That is the model that has been put out there.
We are also providing tax credits to these news outlets for the cost of employing professional journalists. That is important. We need to ensure that we have support for these journalists. These tax credits are available to all of the qualified journalistic organizations in the news industry, regardless of the scope or the lean of their reporting.
As has been said from the outset by the Prime Minister and the Minister of Canadian Heritage , any government action in support of news media will rest on the principle of ensuring respect for the independence of the press. That is why we are putting together an independent panel to advise on the criteria that should be applied to define these qualified journalistic organizations.
To ensure the independence of the panel from any influence of government, eight non-governmental organizations were each asked to provide the name of one individual they believe has the necessary qualifications and expertise to contribute to the work of the panel. All eight organizations represent part of the news industry.
Four of them represent the owners and publishers of news outlets: News Media Canada, representing daily and community newspapers and online news sources; the National Ethnic Press and Media Council of Canada, representing the multicultural and multilingual press; the Quebec Community Newspapers Association, representing English-language newspapers in Quebec; and the Association de la presse francophone, representing French-language news sources in the other provinces and territories.
The other four represent journalists and employees, who also have an important stake and a vital role in the future of the news industry. They are the Canadian Association of Journalists, Fédération professionnelle des journalistes du Québec, Fédération nationale des communications, and Unifor, which represents more than 10,000 employees in the news media sector.
The objective is to hear the voices of all professionals involved in the sector: employers, publishers, official languages communities, ethnic media, big and small organizations, freelancers and bloggers. We do not just want CEOs around the table, but a diversity of voices.
It is clear that the Conservative opposition is merely playing politics with Canada's journalism and news sector, to the detriment of our democracy. They have a track record of doing so. In 2015, they made a special effort to have Postmedia newspapers across Canada endorse the Stephen Harper Conservatives, over the objections of staff and employees. The Conservative Party also bought the front page of these newspapers in the days before the 2015 election, deliberately misleading Canadians into thinking that the political advertisement was journalism. That it not how an independent press works.
It is clear that the Conservatives, regardless of the compelling human and democratic arguments in favour of supporting our struggling news sector, will continue to unabashedly play politics with the topic.
That is why I am opposing this motion. I will be focusing, with the House, on the important issues to Canadians. We have many issues that we should and could be debating. To be debating the composition of this committee is not the proper use of our time.