House of Commons Hansard #425 of the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was news.

Topics

Opposition Motion—News Media IndustryBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I think it does beg the question in terms of the CBC. There are a great number of Canadians who are very interested in the Conservative Party's approach in dealing with the CBC.

I wonder if the member could do two things: One, could he share his personal thoughts in regard to government assistance to the CBC; and, two, what does he believe is the Conservative Party's stand?

Opposition Motion—News Media IndustryBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

Conservative

Martin Shields Conservative Bow River, AB

Mr. Speaker, as people have mentioned from talking to constituents, with SNC-Lavalin and Norman, there is distrust in the government in the sense of what it does with tax dollars. It has been brought up to me many times that the government is wasting tax dollars. It should not be spending it on this. This is $600 million. It should not happen. They do not trust the government's decision-making. They see this as another example of it.

Opposition Motion—News Media IndustryBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:30 p.m.

NDP

Pierre Nantel NDP Longueuil—Saint-Hubert, QC

Mr. Speaker, my colleague works with me on the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage, where we talked about this issue many times.

Does he not find it shameful that the Liberals once again waited until the last minute, when they could have been much more effective in helping our media outlets make more money? For example, the government could have amended the exemption in section 19 of the Income Tax Act so that Internet ads are considered expenses for income tax purposes just as magazine ads are.

Opposition Motion—News Media IndustryBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:30 p.m.

Conservative

Martin Shields Conservative Bow River, AB

Mr. Speaker, to my colleague, I enjoy the time that I have worked with him on the heritage committee. The members from the heritage committee have had a lot of good insights. It is an excellent committee.

One of the challenges that the government has is in getting pieces of legislation to the floor in time. We are now in the waning days of Parliament. There could have been many more things done ahead of time, but the Liberals have struggled to get these issues on the table in an orderly and timely manner.

Opposition Motion—News Media IndustryBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:30 p.m.

Conservative

Tom Kmiec Conservative Calgary Shepard, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to be joining the debate at this late hour. It has given me the chance to listen to everything other members have said on the matter and their contributions.

Opposition Motion—News Media IndustryBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:30 p.m.

Liberal

Mark Gerretsen Liberal Kingston and the Islands, ON

It's 5:30 p.m.

Opposition Motion—News Media IndustryBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:30 p.m.

Conservative

Tom Kmiec Conservative Calgary Shepard, AB

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.

Opposition Motion—News Media IndustryBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:40 p.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, surely the member sees the hypocrisy when Stephen Harper, as prime minister, subsidized the news media through magazines and millions of dollars of grants on an annual basis. The Conservative Party first voted against tax breaks for Canada's middle class, which is not the first time it has done so, and now it will be voting against this tax credit.

This is a tax credit. It is unlike Stephen Harper's approach to the news media. He gave direct grants, and his government chose which outlets were going to receive the money. Under this system, credits would be given. Criteria will be established, and all media outlets that meet the criteria would then be eligible for those tax credits. I would have thought that the Conservative Party supported that.

Opposition Motion—News Media IndustryBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:40 p.m.

Conservative

Tom Kmiec Conservative Calgary Shepard, AB

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.

Opposition Motion—News Media IndustryBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:40 p.m.

Liberal

The Assistant Deputy Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

I want to remind hon. members that shouting across the aisle is one thing, but when they are sitting next to the microphone of the member who is speaking, it echoes out to everyone. I want to make sure people understand that when they are sitting next to the person speaking and they speak out, it is picked up by the microphone.

Questions and comments, the hon. member for Longueuil—Saint-Hubert.

Opposition Motion—News Media IndustryBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:40 p.m.

NDP

Pierre Nantel NDP Longueuil—Saint-Hubert, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his speech.

I agree with him. There is a lot wrong with this situation. A few days from the end of this Parliament, it is very awkward and negligent of this government to be making so many proposals and appointments that could cause confusion, when we do not have the means to do an analysis. Our news industry and our media are not doing well.

I would like to hear what my colleague has to say about the information I found indicating that Canada subsidizes the media to the tune of $2 per capita. In Quebec, with its current formula, it is about $3 per capita. Compare that to $5.83 in the United States, $18.17 in the United Kingdom and $30 in France. Of course, Sweden, Norway and Finland, which are fantastic countries, provide significantly more help to the media, with support ranging from $57 to $90 per capita. That is a huge amount compared to Canada's $2 per capita.

Does my colleague agree with the idea that the state must provide better support for newspapers, in a non-partisan manner of course?

Opposition Motion—News Media IndustryBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:45 p.m.

Conservative

Tom Kmiec Conservative Calgary Shepard, AB

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for his question.

I agree that the government introduced this legislation at the last minute, not to mention the fact that the government slipped it into the omnibus budget bill. We will be debating this matter in the final weeks of this Parliament, while the public has been debating it for several years. Nevertheless, this is nothing new and there is no rush.

Time is running out for the government, and we know why. It is trying to win the election coming up on October 21.

In terms of the figures for each country my colleague mentioned I would be interested to know how the data were collected. What came from the public sector and what came from the private sector, for example? I subscribe to American newspapers and magazines, such as the National Review and other newspapers, online and in print.

I would be curious to know whether the member is talking only about spending from Canada, or whether that includes spending from other countries, including the United States.

Opposition Motion—News Media IndustryBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:45 p.m.

Lac-Saint-Jean Québec

Liberal

Richard Hébert LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Small Business and Export Promotion

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for South Surrey—White Rock.

I am pleased to rise in the House to speak to an issue that is very important to me, namely the media. The media and local newspapers play a crucial role all across Canada. I am particularly proud of the media in my riding, Lac-Saint-Jean, including our Trium Media newspapers, L'Étoile du lac, Le Lac-Saint-Jean and Le Nouvelles Hebdo, which provide quality content to the people of Lac-Saint-Jean.

Whether we want to know about politics, general news, culture or sports, we can count on the professionalism of our journalists to keep us up to date on local news. Unfortunately, access to trustworthy and professional journalism is becoming increasingly rare. Canadians do not have the access they once did to reliable local news because of the drastic changes besetting our media.

Right now, in this era of fake news, people should not rely on Facebook as their only news source. On my Facebook page recently, I learned that a Second World War submarine had been discovered in Lac-Saint-Jean. What the heck, how did it get there?

Newspapers in particular are struggling to fulfill their civic duties at the local level, hence the importance of having local news. I am not going to find local news stories or the ice-out forecast for the local lake in La Presse or Le Devoir. I am and will always be in favour of a strong, free local press. Our local newspapers are the backbone of information in our communities. In the era of the information explosion and platform proliferation, our local newspapers offer a regional view of the issues and are vital to local debate.

A recent study on local media coverage entitled “Mind the Gaps: Quantifying the Decline of News Coverage in Canada” noted that over the past 10 years, the number of local newspaper articles fell by half. Fifty percent of articles disappeared.

Since 2008, 41 daily newspapers have closed down, along with 235 weeklies. During the same period, the sector shed over 10,000 jobs. This is a real crisis that is hitting Canada's print media.

Sadly, the Conservatives would rather bury their heads in the sand while the news industry crumbles around them. The challenges that the media has encountered are significant. As we say back home, even a blind person could see this.

It is important to remember that for a democracy to work properly, it is vital that we have a strong, independent news media. It is the very foundation of democracy. An independent press must have the financial means to keep our citizens informed. A press that is near bankruptcy is not a free press.

That is why our government is getting to the heart of the problem and implementing concrete measure to support Canadian newspapers, big and small. Budget 2019 proposes three new tax measures to support Canadian journalism: first, allowing journalistic organizations to register as qualified donees; second, creating a refundable labour tax credit for eligible journalistic organizations; and third, creating a non-refundable tax credit for subscriptions to Canadian digital media platforms.

Together these concrete measures will do a lot to help support the production of professional journalistic content.

Canadians should have access to a vast array of independent, trustworthy news sources. The government must ensure that these tax measures are implemented at arm's length from the government with the help of people who have practical experience in the sector, the people who are part of the print journalism chain of production in Canada. That is exactly why, on May 22, the Minister of Canadian Heritage and Multiculturalism announced the creation of an advisory panel to recommend eligibility criteria for the tax measures. All that is integral to implementing these measures: looking to experts to ensure that the criteria published in the latest federal budget are precise and meet the industry's needs.

The minister mentioned that eight organizations would be invited to submit the name of a candidate for the advisory panel. They include four associations representing publishers: News Media Canada, which represents over 750 Canadian newspapers across the country; the Association de la presse francophone, which represents francophone newspapers in minority communities; the Quebec Community Newspapers Association, which represents newspapers in Quebec's anglophone communities; and the National Ethnic Press and Media Council of Canada, which represents over 450 ethnic newspapers. Also included are two unions representing newsroom employees, the Fédération nationale des communications and Unifor, and two associations representing journalists, the Fédération professionnelle des journalistes du Québec and the Canadian Association of Journalists.

These are all well-known groups, most of them with a national profile, and they represent the majority of the workers involved in the production of print news in Canada. They are in the best position to provide informed advice to ensure the fair and optimal implementation and operation of these tax measures. The Conservatives would rather have just CEOs at the table making the decisions. They think they understand the situation on the ground better than the workers. By attacking the independence of the media, the Conservatives are implying that journalists can be bought. Their conspiracy theories are insulting. When multiple MPs, some of them respected former journalists themselves, say that the press can be bought, it is frankly insulting and proves that even back then, they were in the pocket of powerful interests.

The Conservatives have a problem with journalists and the truth. Just last week, the Leader of the Opposition demonstrated a lack of respect for journalistic independence. He tried to dictate what Radio-Canada can and cannot say or do, despite the fact that 80% of Canadians support increasing funding to the public broadcaster. It certainly has to be done. We on this side of the House will always stand up for journalistic independence. It is a pillar of democracy. The media provides citizens with the information they need to make informed decisions on important issues and helps keep institutions accountable, including governments.

In closing, Canadians are entitled to consult a wide range of independent, reliable information sources, and the government has a responsibility to ensure that they have access to those sources.

Opposition Motion—News Media IndustryBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:55 p.m.

NDP

Pierre Nantel NDP Longueuil—Saint-Hubert, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague, who serves with me on the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage. Clearly, we cannot oppose a good thing, even if it being proposed late in the game. When a union that represents thousands of workers is disparaged, there may be some comments that people would like to take back.

However, as everyone has said today, it is obvious that this is a temporary measure while we wait for something better. That is the issue. Why did we wait all this time to solve the fundamental problem afflicting our media, namely the loss of advertising revenue? What is the cause of these losses? I wonder if my colleague can answer that. Section 19 is overused with respect to online advertising, as though the ads were being placed in Canadian media.

Why has this loophole not been closed? Why is GST not charged on ads purchased on these platforms? If the reason is that these are U.S. platforms, it is not a good reason.

Opposition Motion—News Media IndustryBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

June 3rd, 2019 / 5:55 p.m.

Liberal

Richard Hébert Liberal Lac-Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Speaker, the newspaper industry was hard hit by the 2008 economic crisis. The combined operating revenue of all newspaper publishers went from $5.5 billion in 2008 to $3.2 billion in 2016. During that time, 41 daily newspapers closed their doors, as did 235 weekly papers, and more than 10,000 jobs were cut.

Our government is getting at the root of the problem. That is why we are taking meaningful measures to help media outlets, both big and small.

We must also protect journalistic independence. That is why an independent panel of experts was formed. Journalism, as my colleague across the way knows, is at the foundation of our democracy, but the Conservatives never miss an opportunity to attack its independence. It is very unfortunate, especially coming from MPs who were once journalists.

A Conservative MP and former journalist said last week that the Conservative Party was pleased to see struggling old newspapers closing down, describing them as fossils. What an insult.

Last week, The Hamilton Spectator announced that it was closing its presses, eliminating 73 full-time jobs and 105 part-time jobs. This local newspaper is not an isolated example. Far from being fossils, these local institutions are essential sources of community news and information. The Conservatives should stop with their conspiracy theory and do something to protect journalism, a pillar of our democracy.

Opposition Motion—News Media IndustryBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:55 p.m.

NDP

Pierre Nantel NDP Longueuil—Saint-Hubert, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am happy to hear that. I will ask the member to slow down a bit and to find an answer to my question. Why is the government not closing the section 19 loophole?

Allow me to explain. Under section 19, a Canadian advertiser can advertise in an American magazine, but this expense will not count as an operating expense for advertising come tax time. This expense is not allowed because the advertiser is not advertising in Canadian media. However, section 19 does not currently specify that these ads must be bought on Canadian online media in order to be considered an eligible expense.

Why is the government not doing this?

Everyone knows that this is a big problem. Everyone also knows that if the government closed this loophole, Canadian advertisers would probably spend less on American platforms and more on Canadian ones. It is not complicated. This would obviously bring in more money for the government.

Opposition Motion—News Media IndustryBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

6 p.m.

Liberal

Richard Hébert Liberal Lac-Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Speaker, the answer is likely forthcoming.

When we wake up in the morning, we do not know what to expect. In politics, one never knows what could happen. I therefore encourage my hon. colleague to be patient. One never knows, there may be good news one of these days. What we hope is that we will be able to provide money for advertising. My hon. colleague knows full well that change takes time.

Opposition Motion—News Media IndustryBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

6 p.m.

Liberal

Gordie Hogg Liberal South Surrey—White Rock, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Lac-Saint-Jean for sharing his time with me. It has been a delight to sit here this afternoon and listen to the debate and the profound, sometimes heated, disagreements about values and the same heated disagreements about the process. It has been interesting to follow.

As I reflect on the small newspapers in my community, three of them have not survived over the past number of years. The one that has survived has survived with layoffs, with the volume inserts increasing. They are about an inch thick in some cases, with advertisements from places like Walmart and Home Depot and a myriad of others. They still report on local issues, service clubs, community events, local sports, cultural events and fundraisers, and they connect and inform the community in an important way. I think we all agree that they are an important part of our communities. That is something we share throughout the House.

How did we get to the point we are at today? I was interested to find that in the United States, in 1949, they introduced something called the fairness doctrine. It had two basic elements. It required people to devote some of their air time and some of their print time to controversial matters of public interest and to ensure that contrasting views regarding those matters were evident. It required those to be present in each instance.

The main agenda of the doctrine was to ensure that viewers and readers were exposed to a diversity of viewpoints, consistent with the things we talk about in the House and that we talk about in democracies. As John Stuart Mill said, one may understand one's position perfectly well, but unless one understands the opposite position equally well, one is not informed enough to make a decision between the two. That is important to look at with respect to the doctrine. That doctrine was taken out of the U.S. in 2011, but the principles are still looked at by a number of media outlets.

Here we have had a number of reports done. The Public Policy Forum, on January 2017, published “The Shattered Mirror: News, Democracy and Trust in the Digital Age”. It looks at the digital age, the type of change that is taking place and its impact, particularly in small communities across our country. Subsequent to that, the heritage committee, in June 2017, issued a report entitled “Disruption: Change and Churning in Canada's Media Landscape”.

All these reports have obliquely, if not directly, called on government to take action to protect the connection of local communities and to protect the notion of what we need to see. We do not want to see one newspaper for the world. We do not want to see Sirius radio reporting on the whole world. We want the focus on our communities, where we live and where we connect.

Reference has been made to the fact that 41 dailies and 235 weeklies have closed over the past few years. Some 10,000 positions have been lost. That is 31% of jobs in the field.

I was interested to read recently a report by the Canadian Media Concentration Research Project. It found that 95% of newspaper endorsements in the 2011 election were for Harper. That was every daily in Canada that endorsed a party, except the Toronto Star, which endorsed the NDP that year. That was roughly three times Harper's standing in the opinion polls at the time, Carleton University Professor Dwayne Winseck wrote in his report.

In the 2015 election, things were not quite as monolithic, but 71% of all newspaper endorsements still went to Harper, and 17 of 23 newspapers that endorsed a candidate endorsed the Tories.

As we look at the debate today, it almost seems that there is identity-based decision-making taking place. We are in agreement that we want there to be no biases or favouritism and that we want total transparency on the issues coming from government and presented by the media. I agree that it is essential that our democracy rely upon the respect and independence of journalists.

I have no doubt that a proper balance of perspectives would be achieved with the composition of the panel. As I have said, there are biases on both sides and assumptions on both sides. Each of us has our biases and ways of proving that what we believe to be true is true.

The organizations that will appoint the members of the panel are operating at arm's length from government. All three reports I referred to have called upon government to act, and we are doing it in that fashion.

We are talking about professionals. We are talking about their expertise and their knowledge for the benefit of the news industry. The best thing government can do is leave the panel to do its work and report back in due time, and that is what is going to happen.

The motion before us suggests that journalists may be able to be bought. It assumes that workers should not be involved in their own decisions, which is contrary to everything we say in terms of the policy development we are working with in government. I disagree with that. A bankrupt press, which is entirely possible if we do not do this, is not a free press. It is no press at all.

I encourage members of the House to stand up for a free press and for a well functioning democracy and to stand up against the motion we have before us.

Opposition Motion—News Media IndustryBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

6:05 p.m.

NDP

Guy Caron NDP Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to come back to the question that my colleague from Longueuil—Saint-Hubert asked.

It is clear that one of the reasons why the media industry is having so much trouble right now is that institutions such as Facebook and other social media are using the content of media outlets without paying for it and taking their advertising revenue. That is what led to the current crisis.

However, when we raise the question in the House, as my colleague did several times in this Parliament and in the previous Parliament, the Liberals refuse to acknowledge that this is urgent and that these businesses need to pay taxes and royalties just like Canadian businesses.

Their financial involvement could allow these media outlets to turn things around and make the necessary transition to survive and offer a variety of high-quality information.

Could my colleague tell me why he and his party are opposed to treating these web giants the same way they treat Canadians businesses in the media sector and all other sectors of the economy?

Opposition Motion—News Media IndustryBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

6:05 p.m.

Liberal

Gordie Hogg Liberal South Surrey—White Rock, BC

Mr. Speaker, the heritage committee has been discussing this exact issue, and there may well be recommendations with respect to that.

We understand, depending on what metrics one chooses to believe, that the numbers for things like YouTube and Facebook advertising are in the billions of dollars, if we were to introduce ways of capturing some of that revenue by taxing them rather than allowing them to function independently.

That is clearly something we are looking at and something we will be bringing forward at the appropriate time.

Opposition Motion—News Media IndustryBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

6:05 p.m.

Conservative

Rachael Thomas Conservative Lethbridge, AB

Mr. Speaker, one of the phrases members opposite have enjoyed using throughout this debate is that they believe in an independent and free media. They believe in its protection so much that they need to give $600 million to it.

Liberal logic would say that the $600 million being put towards the media is their believing in its independence and freedom and being arm's length from the state. I do not follow the logic.

Maybe the hon. member across the aisle could help me understand. How is the government giving $600 million to the press helping to further its freedom and independence from government and government money?

Opposition Motion—News Media IndustryBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

6:10 p.m.

Liberal

Gordie Hogg Liberal South Surrey—White Rock, BC

Mr. Speaker, if the option is that we are not going to have a press at all, I think that is our fear. We need the local press to be there so that we have that voice.

There are certainly lots of things that are subsidized across democracies to ensure that they do not become totalitarian. We need to ensure that and have an arm's-length process to put that in place. That is exactly what we are doing.

Opposition Motion—News Media IndustryBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

6:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Assistant Deputy Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

If the hon. members know that they are going to speak, if they do not mind standing as I am speaking. I have been caught before where I pre-empt what was supposed to happen, and games are played in this House, not that anyone here would play games like that. I just wanted to point that out.

Resuming debate, the hon. member for Lethbridge.

Opposition Motion—News Media IndustryBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

6:10 p.m.

Conservative

Rachael Thomas Conservative Lethbridge, AB

Mr. Speaker, we have a Prime Minister who is more concerned with pursuing his own interests, his own advantage and his own agenda and painting his own image and maintaining that image, than he is with serving the well-being of Canadians and looking after their needs, looking after their desires and looking after what Canada as a whole requires to stay a strong, free nation.

We see one example of this before the House today, and that is that the government has actually taken $600 million to give to the so-called free and independent press. Let me clarify. I believe in the free and independent press, and those of us on this side of the House very much respect that. The media should stay free and independent from being impacted or manipulated by the government of the day. That is a fact. That is what we rely on in this country. We are not Turkey. We are not China. We are not Russia. We are Canada, and I am proud of being Canadian, as are all the members on this side of the House and as are the vast majority of Canadians.

In fact, so many people are proud of being Canadian that those who are not want to be. Many, many people want to come into our country and call this place home. One of the reasons they want to call this place home is because of the freedom we enjoy in this country and because of the protection of our individual rights and liberties. Part of this whole picture of what it is to be Canadian is the principle that the media or the press stay independent of the government. Therefore, the fact that $600 million has been gifted to the media from the current government is a huge problem.

Canadians are, of course, rightly concerned about this. I have heard from many of them in my riding of Lethbridge, Alberta. As I have travelled across Canada and gone into other ridings, I have heard from individuals there too. However, they are not the only ones who are concerned about this. It is not just individual constituents. In fact, it is journalists as well. Numerous veteran journalists have come forward and shared that they too are very concerned about what is going on.

I want to talk about that in just a moment, but first I will outline the motion before the House today. Those who are a part of the Conservative caucus put forward the following motion:

That the House:

(a) take note of the importance of a free and independent press to a healthy democracy;

(b) express its belief that it is inappropriate for partisan political actors to pick winners and losers in the media in an election year;

(c) condemn the inclusion of Unifor, a group that has taken and continues to take partisan political positions, in the panel that will oversee the distribution of the $600-million media bailout;

and (d) call on the government to immediately cease trying to stack the deck for the election with their media bailout and replace it with a proposal that does not allow government to pick winners and losers.

This is the motion before the House. It is called an opposition day motion. Those in the opposition, my Conservative colleagues and I, can put forward an idea that represents what we are hearing from many Canadians across this country and plead with the current government that it should be accepted. This motion is open to all parties and members in this House to vote in favour of or against.

The Liberals have already determined that the $600-million media bailout is a good idea and that interfering with a free and independent press in Canada is something they do not have a problem with. They plan to go in that direction, but for those of us on this side, I reiterate that we would like to defend the independence of our media.

The Liberals would say that they have maintained independence, that a panel of eight individuals has been put together and that the eight individuals will be the ones who determine where the money goes and how it is divvied up. The interesting thing is that on this panel of eight individuals, there is partisanship.

The most obvious one that is staring us in the face is the fact that Unifor, a union, has been put on this panel that will make these decisions. The head of Unifor has actually come out and said that he would be, “Andrew Scheer's”, to use his words, “worst nightmare”. That he would say he is going to be “Andrew Scheer's worst nightmare”, means—

Opposition Motion—News Media IndustryBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

6:15 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. The member should know that she cannot use the names of individuals, either directly or indirectly. I believe once is one thing, but twice is another. It seemed that she was on track to possibly continuing using it.