Quiet On Welfare For Media

Conservative Party leader Andrew Scheer yesterday proposed to cut 27 percent of yearly “corporate welfare handouts” but would not comment if he’d leave a $595 million media bailout untouched. Scheer has yet to detail a promised plan for newspapers.

“Canada’s wealthiest and most politically connected have received billions of dollars from Canadian taxpayers who are working harder than ever and just not getting ahead,” said Scheer (Regina-Qu’Appelle). “I will put an end to handouts to wealthy executives.”

Scheer proposed a $1.5 billion annual reduction in corporate funding. Current aid for companies including grants, loans and guarantees averages $5.5 billion a year, according to Industry Canada.

“Hard-working Canadians are rightly offended when they see their tax dollars going to further the interests of the wealthy,” said Scheer: “That’s why I’ll get rid of these unfair handouts and use those savings to help Canadians get ahead.”

Scheer’s campaign yesterday did not comment when asked if a media bailout passed by Parliament June 20 would be reviewed or eliminated. “I certainly do support the work that an independent media does in this country,” Scheer earlier told reporters June 10. “Our preference would be to ensure there are market-based solutions.”

“We’re going to have our own plan, our own solutions to this particular issue that will speak more to market-based mechanisms to help the content creators,” he said.

Amendments to the Income Tax Act will see federally-approved news media receive payroll rebates of up to $13,750 per newsroom employee, and fifteen percent tax credits for digital subscribers. Publishers on a federal panel mandated to set criteria for applicants in a July 18 report suggested competitors including start-ups and small, family-owned newspapers be disqualified from receiving subsidies. “There is always self-interest,” said Bob Cox, publisher of the Winnipeg Free Press and chair of the panel.

The Free Press would receive $1 million a year in subsidies, by company estimate. Aid to the Toronto Star would average $6 million a year, with “between $8 million and $10 million” for Postmedia Network Canada Corp., according to reports to shareholders.

Federal filings show publishers with the trade group News Media Canada hired a Liberal lobbyist to negotiate terms of the bailout. Isabel Metcalfe of Public Affairs Counsel Ltd. of Ottawa held seventy-nine separate meetings with cabinet ministers, deputy ministers, assistant deputy ministers and senior staff, according to Lobbyist Registry records.

“I’m a large-L, hard core Liberal,” Metcalfe earlier told a reporter. Metcalfe was an unsuccessful 2006 Liberal candidate for Parliament in Carleton-Mississippi Mills, Ont., and a current campaign organizer for Environment Minister Catherine McKenna.

By Staff

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