Liberals refuse to ensure media can continue to gather local news


By Bob Cox

The federal Liberal government has ignored its own members of Parliament – again.

Anyone following the furor over proposed changes to small business taxes won’t be surprised by this. But it was disappointing nonetheless to see how Liberal cabinet ministers responded this week to a report done on local news by the House of Commons committee on Canadian heritage.

MPs on the committee spent 15 months studying what is happening in the rapidly changing news media landscape. They met 44 times and heard from 131 witnesses. Liberals and New Democrats issued a majority report in June that said steps must be taken to help news media navigate this tumultuous period.

Their conclusion: “Given the media’s importance as a reflection of Canada’s diversity and a pillar of our democracy, the government of Canada must implement the necessary measures to support the existence of a free and independent media and local news reporting.”

The government is required to respond to such reports. This week, the response came from Heritage Minister Melanie Joly, Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains and Finance Minister Bill Morneau.

With nice words and platitudes, they politely rejected pretty much everything that the heritage committee recommended. They said the federal government is already doing lots to help local news media survive, innovate and transform.

This is laughable.

The ministers said the government is ensuring a vibrant, local and reliable news media ecosystem with its Canada Periodical Fund. This is a $75-million program that mostly subsidizes printed magazines and provides some money for paid, printed community papers, especially those catering to ethnic and specialty audiences. It is not open to daily newspapers that still provide the base of the news media ecosystem in cities across Canada.

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