The Liberal government has pledged an additional $129 million in taxpayer funds over the next five years to bail out failing legacy media outlets.
This hefty top up is in addition to the $600 million media bailout announced in 2019, sparking concerns about government influence over journalism.
Outlined in the Fall Economic Statement presented by Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland to the House of Commons Tuesday, the new measure proposes to upgrade the Canadian journalism labour tax credit.
Effective January 1, 2023, the federal government aims to boost the yearly limit on labor costs that can be claimed per eligible employee from $55,000 to $85,000.
Additionally, the tax credit rate is set to temporarily increase from 25% to 35% for a four-year period.
While the government claims that this measure is essential to support journalism in the face of economic challenges, critics accuse the government of using the allure of federal subsidies as a way to buy appealing coverage.
The total cost of this proposed tax credit enhancement is estimated at $129 million over five years, with $10 million per year in ongoing expenses starting in 2024-25.
The lack of transparency surrounding the distribution of funds has also raised concerns.
Last year, the Trudeau government invoked confidentiality and cited “taxpayer information” as reasons for withholding details about which legacy media companies received money from the initial $600 million media bailout.
“Since January 1, 2019 how much funding has each outlet received to date?” asked Conservative MP Chris Warkentin.
“Confidentiality provisions under section 241 of the Income Tax Act prevent the Agency from releasing taxpayer information,” replied Revenue Minister Diane Lebouthillier.
The Canada Revenue Agency refused to divulge specific information about cash payments, responding to an Inquiry of Ministry tabled in the House of Commons in 2022.
Since the inception of the media bailout program, very few details about federal payments to media outlets have been disclosed.