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In a country that already maintains a public broadcaster on the taxpayer dime and provides generous periodical subsidies to magazines, the fog-of-war over who benefits from $595 million in new legacy newspaper tax breaks intensified in question period Monday.
Conservative leader Andrew Scheer accused the government of tarnishing media independence by appointing anti-Conservative Unifor to a panel that determines who is a ‘Qualified Canadian Journalism Organization’ to share in the largesse.
“This independence is now at stake,” Scheer told the House of Commons. “Why did the government put such a biased organization on this panel?”
Heritage minister Pablo Rodriquez in-turn accused Scheer and the Conservatives of “serious attacks against the free press” for even asking the question.
After the Canadian Association of Journalists threatened to pull its participation over transparency concerns and Liberals faced heat for both the bailout and Unifor’s inclusion, union president Jerry Dias doubled down on his earlier pledge to be “the resistance” to Scheer’s election hopes.
In an interview with Evan Solomon on CFRA 580 last week, Dias said of his ongoing beef with Scheer and the Conservatives; “I’m probably going to make it worse.”
According to Unifor, it represents 12,000 jobs in the media sector including journalists at newsrooms like The Toronto Star, Vancouver Sun and Winnipeg Free Press.
Eight groups have been invited to join the panel, which is to be tasked with deciding how ‘quality journalism organizations’ will make the cut to be eligible for up to $13,750 in annual tax breaks for individual editorial staff.
Other entities asked to nominate one member to the federal panel include News Media Canada, the Association de la presse francophone, the Quebec Community Newspaper Association, National Ethnic Press, Media Council of Canada, Fédération professionnelle des journalistes du Québec, and the Fédération nationale des communications.