What will it take to make the A-list in Canadian media? Answer: the government’s blessing.
As per the spring budget, a cabinet-appointed group will put together a list of “qualified Canadian journalism organizations” eligible for tax breaks and payroll subsidies, and whose subscribers will also benefit from a tax credit of up to $75 a year.
This week, the Senate held hearings on just what this would mean for media — and as reported by Blacklock’s Reporter, the testimony is not reassuring.
“The rules themselves allow for the publication of a list of qualifying journalism organizations,” said Trevor McGowan, director general of tax legislation. “It would allow for, say, the Canada Revenue Agency to have a list saying here are the organizations that qualify for the digital tax credits. You could go to that list.”
And the qualifications will be determined by the state. “The government will decide whether or not to change certain criteria,” said Maude Lavoie, Finance Canada director general of business tax programs.
All this, neatly tucked into the omnibus Budget Implementation Act, where it won’t receive separate debate or scrutiny. That concerned Conservative Senator Raynell Andreychuk, chair of the foreign relations committee.
“To me, it’s very dangerous ground, and it shouldn’t be through a tax credit,” she said. “It should be wide open as a debate for Canadians, whether this is the way to support a freer press, a press that’s struggling against bloggers and the new internet systems, tweets and whatever else. I think it’s a bigger national debate than a question tucked into a tax bill.”