Officials with the Department of Canadian Heritage were unable to provide the names and outlets of the hundreds of journalists hired under the Liberal government’s $50 million Local Journalism Initiative (LJI).
In an emailed statement, federal officials told True North that the government did not have such information on hand.
“To protect the arm’s-length relationship between the Government and supported news organizations, the program is administered by seven not-for-profit organizations that represent different segments of the news sector,” a Department of Canadian Heritage spokesperson told True North.
“Therefore, the Department of Canadian Heritage is not directly involved in application processes nor funding decisions and does not collect third-party personally-identifiable information during the course of the administration of the program.”
The initiative was first launched by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in 2018 as a five-year plan to support “original civic journalism that covers the diverse needs of underserved communities across Canada.”
Eligible media organizations would be able to tap into the taxpayer funds to hire journalists or pay freelance reporters.
Overseeing the funds are seven “Administrator Organizations,” three of which are Francophone. They include News Media Canada, Association de la presse francophone, Quebec Community Newspapers Association, the National Ethnic Press and Media Council of Canada, the Community Radio Fund of Canada, the Canadian Association of Community Television Users and Stations and the Fédération des télévisions communautaires autonomes du Québec.
To date, hundreds of journalists have been employed through the program at the taxpayer’s expense, with 124 positions being funded this year. A list maintained by News Media Canada of 2021 legacy media organizations that “host” LJI reporters includes outlets like Canada’s National Observer, the Narwhal, the Tyee, the Chronicle Herald and dozens of others. However, no mention is made of who the reporters were or how much each outlet received.
This is not the first time in recent weeks that the Liberal government was unable to answer questions about its extensive media subsidies. As revealed by Blacklock’s Reporter, Canadian Heritage was also refusing to disclose which media companies were awarded $61 million in subsidies billed as “emergency relief” during the COVID-19 pandemic.