From the Hill

Dan Albas

In an MP report from November 2018, I referenced the fall economic statement which included a number of new announcements including a controversial $595 million to subsidize some Canadian media organizations.

I observed that this media subsidy raised serious concerns from many prominent journalists on the important role of journalistic independence from government.

I also raised some of my own questions.

If a media organization is denied funding, what recourse does it have?

Should it change the style or tone of reporting?

Cover different stories?

Hire a lobbyist?

There remain no answers.

There is also the fact that the Liberals introduced this media subsidy program in an election year.

At that time, the Liberals indicated they would appoint a panel to decide who is, and who is not, eligible for this funding.

This week the Liberals revealed the organizations that will serve on that panel.

They are: News Media Canada, the Association de la presse francophone, the Quebec Community Newspaper Association, the National Ethnic Press and Media Council of Canada, the Canadian Association of Journalists, the Federation professionnelle des journalistes du Québec, the Federation nationale des communications and Unifor.

The choice of these appointments has raised some serious media alarm bells.

Canadian columnist Andrew Coyne stated: “It is quite clear now, if it was not already: this is the most serious threat to the independence of the press in this country in decades.”

From my own perspective I also have very serious concerns about this program.

In response to the breaking news from the Globe & Mail regarding SNC Lavalin, JustinTrudeau claimed: "The allegations in the Globe story are false.”

In other words, he seemed to imply it was a “fake news” story, a tactic increasingly used south of our border.

It is therefore concerning that Trudeau is naming organizations who will ultimately be deciding which media organizations are eligible for this subsidy program.

As a result, I believe it is critically important that only independent non-partisan organizations should have a role in this.

For example, one of Trudeau’s appointments is Unifor.

Unifor is a union that represents many journalists and other staff who work in variety of different media organizations.

Unifor’s National Executive Board have publicly stated that they will be “the worst nightmare” of the leader of the Conservative Opposition in the upcoming election.

These views are well known and despite that, Trudeau has appointed this politically partisan union to participate in the process of selecting eligible media set to partake of a large Liberal government subsidy.

Regardless of personal political views, I believe adding partisan interests to this process should raise serious worry.

My question this week: Do you support this media subsidy being influenced by partisan groups such as Unifor or do you think it should be a non-partisan process?

Dan Albas is member of Parliament for the riding of Central Okanagan Similkameen Nicola. This riding includes the communities of Kelowna (specific boundaries), West Kelowna, Peachland, Summerland, Keremeos, Princeton, Merritt and Logan Lake. To contact the writer: Dan.Albas@parl.gc.ca