The upcoming subsidy program from the Canadian government will fund certain media organizations. The program was developed by the Department of Finance and targets very specific newspapers and websites that were analyzed by federal agencies and were deemed “reliable”.
Canadian state laws already meddle with media and recent legislations impose danger to the freedom of speech. The recent international scandal surrounding professor Jordan Peterson who called bill C-16 a step to compelled speech is a bright indication that Canada is willing to further increase state control over the written word.
The criteria of the program are not available to the public. Eligible companies will receive a 15% tax credit for subscribers of websites that are qualified for the program. The total amount of tax credit is about C$11 million and will expire by the end of 2024. It is a very important tax as it will affect companies retroactively. Once in effect, the legislation will account for payroll tax credit accumulated since January 1, 2019.
Bill C-97 does not sound menacing, but it indicates that the government has a certain bias towards specific ideas and politic views. The list of approved media has not yet been published, but chances are it will contain mostly left-leaning publications as many of them lose subscribers. A recent study indicates that conservative media gains popularity while left-leaning progressive media loses popularity.
Several fresh stories tell us that many left-leaning news sites and companies are either selling or ask for financial aid from their readers.
Several politicians including Raynell Andreychuk pointed out that the current development is quite dangerous and incites, even if unintentionally, manipulation of the press. Andreychuk said that criteria should be chosen publicly and it should be “wide open as a debate for Canadians.” She also added that it is a much more sensitive issue than a simple tax bill may solve.
Director General Leblanc stated that the program is finalized and details have been worked out, but the information is still not publicly available. We will be waiting for new information and hope that the legislation won't be biased towards specific political views.