Two cabinet advisors hired to vet press applications for millions in federal subsidies made anti-Opposition remarks and publicly ridiculed editorial standards at a newspaper that endorsed Conservatives in past elections. One appointee, Professor Karim Karim of Ottawa, in a Twitter comment said Stephen Harper played the “politics of hate.”
The Canada Revenue Agency did not comment. Cabinet last March 24 named the five-member Independent Advisory Board on Eligibility for Journalism Tax Measures to process applications from publishers seeking $595 million in subsidies.
“Our government remains committed to supporting a vibrant journalism industry while respecting the core principle of journalistic independence,” Revenue Minister Diane Lebouthillier said at the time. “The members of the Independent Advisory Board are all highly respected in their fields. I thank them for agreeing to help deliver unprecedented support for Canadian journalism organizations and to ensure the vitality of our democracy.”
The part-time job pays $450 a day plus expenses. Minister Lebouthillier has final say on which newspapers are “qualified” to receive payroll rebates of up to $13,750 per newsroom employee and a fifteen percent tax credit for digital subscribers.
Professor Karim of Carleton University’s School of Journalism in separate 2015 comments on his Twitter account criticized Postmedia Network and then-Prime Minister Harper. “It shouldn’t, but the National Post and Postmedia have had a long history of owner interference,” he wrote in one. “Stephen Harper plays the politics of hate against Muslims,” he wrote in the other.
“Yes, I did write the tweets,” said Professor Karim. “No, I do not see a problem regarding my advisory role. If there is the slightest issue of bias against any media applicant, I will discuss it with the Board and recuse myself in the cases of conflict of interest.”
Another panelist described Conservatives as “bullies” and expressed enthusiastic support for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Margo Goodhand of Victoria, a former Winnipeg Free Press editor, made the remarks in an April 18, 2013 Free Press column headlined, “We Need Justin To Silence Bullies”.
“I am not a member of the Liberal Party…but I’m watching new Liberal leader Justin Trudeau these days as he goes up against Team Harper, and I have to admit that I wish him well,” wrote Goodhand: “I need him to stand up to the bullies.”
“Canadian politics needs to take a new tack,” wrote Goodhand. “And Trudeau has the power and the momentum right now to show us the way.”
“The real Trudeau appears to be earnest and forthright enough, an open book compared to Prime Minister Stephen Harper,” wrote Goodhand. “He’s not intellectual like his father, Pierre. He is possibly more like his mother Margaret, more emotional and empathetic…”
The Department of Canadian Heritage declined comment on the appointees.
Parliament approved press subsidies after a publishers’ group News Media Canada hired lobbyist Isabel Metcalfe, a Liberal Party donor, ex-candidate and campaign worker for Infrastructure Minister Catherine McKenna. Records show Metcalfe had seventy-nine separate meetings with federal officials.
Metcalfe’s husband Herbert was an adviser to then-Liberal leader Stéphane Dion in 2008 and a longtime Party organizer until 2015, when he pled guilty to evading $396,259 in taxes. He was sentenced to a year’s house arrest in Ottawa. “I’m a large-L, hard core Liberal,” Mrs. Metcalfe earlier told a reporter.