Newspaper publishers hired a Liberal lobbyist to negotiate a $595 million press bailout. Records including Access To Information documents detail the lobbying blitz by Isabel Metcalfe, ex-Liberal candidate for Parliament and campaign organizer for Environment Minister Catherine McKenna.
Metcalfe was hired by News Media Canada, a publishers’ trade association. The group yesterday did not comment. Metcalfe held seventy-nine separate meetings with senior officials including staff at the Prime Minister’s Office as cabinet reversed a 2017 pledge not to subsidize money-losing dailies. No news media that are members of the association reported the fact.
Metcalfe in one January 11 email to staff at the Department of Canadian Heritage “attached some background materials” for terms of the bailout that later appeared in a cabinet bill submitted to Parliament, including criteria for applicants and disqualification of start-up media from receiving taxpayers’ aid.
Cabinet two years ago rejected subsidies for newspapers. “Our approach will not be to bail out industry models that are no longer viable,” said then-Heritage Minister Mélanie Joly. “Rather, we will focus our efforts in supporting innovation, experimentation and transition to digital.”
Cabinet subsequently reversed the policy in Bill C-97 the Budget Implementation Act passed by Parliament June 20 that awards 25 percent payroll rebates and 15 percent subscription tax credits to federally-approved media. Beneficiaries include Torstar Corporation that reported $31.5 million in losses last year, and Postmedia Network Canada Corp. that lost $33.9 million.
Lobbyist Registry records show Metcalfe met then-Minister Joly and her successor, Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez, among twelve separate sessions with department staff. Metcalfe also lobbied thirteen deputy and assistant deputy ministers; had five meetings with the Prime Minister’s Office; and lobbied the Department of Finance eight times including repeated meetings with Ben Chin, then-Chief of Staff to Finance Minister Bill Morneau.
“I’m a large-L, hard core Liberal,” Metcalfe earlier told a reporter. The lobbyist was an unsuccessful Liberal candidate for the Commons in 2006 in Carleton-Mississippi Mills, Ont. and Ottawa City Council in 2010. Meetings by the lobbyist on newspapers’ behalf included:
- • August 8 with the Deputy Commissioner of Competition;
- • June 26 with a senior advisor to the Minister of Public Works;
- • January 15 with Ben Chin at Finance Canada;
- • November 11 with James Cudmore, ex-CBC reporter now a policy advisor at the Privy Council.
Environment Minister McKenna in an earlier tweet described Metcalfe as “one of our awesome volunteers”. Metcalfe’s husband Herbert was an advisor to then-Liberal leader Stéphane Dion in 2008 and a longtime Party organizer until 2015, when he pleaded guilty to evading $396,259 in taxes and was sentenced to one year’s house arrest.