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For better or worse, a new era is about to begin in Canadian journalism. Here’s what readers need to know

News

The government’s online news legislation became law this week likely setting off a summer-long staring contest between two tech titans and Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez.

Meta, the parent company of Facebook, has already declared that news content will no longer be welcome on its platform as long as Bill C-18, which forces the tech companies to pay for any news content that appears in users’ feeds, is the law of the land.

Google has been slightly more circumspect about its next steps, although it has already run tests blocking certain news sites on Google News and has lodged strenuous complaints with the current state of the legislation.

With so much uncertainty, news junkies could be seeing the beginning of a new era of Canadian journalism, for better or for worse. Here’s what you need to know as the government gets to work on the regulations to accompany the legislation.

What to expect this summer

Facebook has already started blocking news content and vowed, as recently as April in an interview with The Hub that it would completely leave the market.

Critics of the bill have argued that, because it requires the tech companies to pay for every link on their platform, it essentially amounts to an unlimited liability.

“I think it is likely to be a tumultuous summer for those involved in the news industry. Unless the government backs off and puts a ceiling on Meta’s and Google’s liability we can expect to see a full shutdown of news links on their platforms by the end of the summer,” said Peter Menzies, a senior fellow at the Macdonald-Laurier Institute and former vice chair of the CRTC.

The legislation amounts to putting “a toll booth in front of every link for a news article,” said Kevin Chan, the global policy campaign strategies director at Meta, in an interview with The Hub in April.

“You can see why quickly that becomes untenable for us because we can’t control who puts it on the platform,” said Chan. “And so if we’re up against a rock and a hard place then we’re going to have to get out of the market.”

It’s not a ‘panacea’

Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez has said often that he doesn’t see this bill as a “panacea” to solve all the problems in the journalism industry.

The government has announced a bevy of initiatives intended to help media outlets, including a tax credit on labour costs, a tax credit for Canadians who subscribe to qualifying publications, and grants for local journalism.

Even experts who generally support Bill C-18 agree that it is, at best, a temporary solution or a single piece of a larger puzzle.

“The status quo where hundreds of millions of dollars are flowing from two private companies to some journalistic actors via contracts that are hidden behind NDAs is not a tenable situation,” said Taylor Owen, an associate professor and director of the Centre for Media Technology and Democracy at McGill University.

“As a citizen, I would like to know something more about the money that’s going from one single or two corporate actors to support through huge grants,” said Owen.

Where do we go from here?

The range of possible outcomes goes from Big Tech essentially banning news, to a world where tech giants are funding one-third of the journalism in Canada.

Menzies said he expects some kind of compromise, with the government tweaking the legislation through regulations.

“Hopefully (Rodriguez) will finally concede that Bill C-18 is just shockingly poor legislation and make the amendments needed in the regulations,” said Menzies.

“The problem is, even if he does, once the current supports for ‘newspapers,’ like the Local Journalism Initiative and the labour tax credit, expire after this year, the major companies will have less money next year than they do now. It’s a mess,” said Menzies.

Owen predicted that the most likely outcome is that several more countries follow Canada’s lead on this legislation and the tech companies grudgingly accept the new status quo.

“That’s probably the reality I see, is reluctant acquiescence broadly to the terms of these pieces of regulation that are going to look a little bit different in each country, but are probably going to be applied to cumulative countries with a billion people in it,” said Owen.

“This is not an idiosyncratic Canadian debate. This is a global conversation about how we protect funding and resources to our journalism sector,” said Owen.

Revamped B.C. Conservatives aim for a ‘common sense wave’ on the West Coast

News

Amid a frenzied seven-day stretch of byelections across Canada, the revived Conservative Party of B.C. will participate in its first electoral test since March, when it regained representation in the legislature after an 11-year absence.

Mike Harris is the BCC candidate in Saturday’s Langford-Juan de Fuca provincial byelection, the riding having been previously held by former B.C. NDP Premier John Horgan, who stepped down last year. In an interview with The Hub, Harris said that he believes the BCC belongs to a new wave of conservative politics in Canada.

“You can call it a conservative wave, but I call it a common sense wave,” says Harris. “Whether it’s the popularity of Pierre Poilievre or the recent success of Danielle Smith in Alberta, Canadians are done with the radical Left and want to take control of their lives.”

Harris is running against candidates from the B.C. Green Party, as well as the B.C. NDP, who are favoured to retain the riding. Perhaps most importantly, Harris will be going up against the candidate from B.C. United, until recently named the B.C. Liberals, who have been the main centre-right option in B.C. for over 20 years. 

Regardless of the byelection’s winner, a strong performance from Harris will call into question the viability of B.C. United as the go-to option for conservative voters in B.C.

B.C. Conservative leader John Rustad speaks to reporters in Victoria on Feb. 16, 2023. Dirk Meissner/The Canadian Press.

Having governed from 2001 to 2017, and marketing itself as a “free-enterprise coalition” for both federal Liberal and Conservative supporters, the B.C. Liberals presided over governments that oversaw deregulation, deep tax cuts for individuals and businesses, and eventually Canada’s strongest-performing economy. The party also maintained socially moderate stances on other issues like abortion and same-sex marriage, and legislated Canada’s first carbon tax in 2008.

After barely losing power following the 2017 provincial election, the B.C. Liberals suffered heavy losses in the 2020 snap election that delivered a B.C. NDP majority. In August last year, B.C. Liberal MLA John Rustad was expelled by party leader Kevin Falcon after Rustad made social media posts questioning the effects of CO2 on climate change.

Rustad would later join the BCC in February and he was acclaimed as the new party leader in March, becoming the party’s first MLA since an abortive floor-crossing from the B.C. Liberals in 2012 that lasted less than a year. The carbon tax remains one of the biggest dividers between supporters of B.C. United and the BCC under Rustad.

“When it came in with the whole thought of a carbon tax that was revenue-neutral, that would lead to tax breaks and having more of a consumption tax, it made sense to me,” says Rustad, who is now a staunch advocate of removing B.C.’s carbon tax, which the B.C. NDP altered after winning the 2017 election to no longer be revenue-neutral.

Formerly a cabinet minister in previous B.C. Liberal governments, Kevin Falcon was once regarded as a committed ideological conservative, but he says his views have moderated. While Falcon is also critical of the NDP for removing the original revenue-neutral provisions of the carbon tax, he would not remove it outright.

“Unlike B.C. United, we would immediately scrap the carbon tax. No debate on this,” says Mike Harris.

Aside from the carbon tax, the BCC has set itself apart from B.C. United on how it would address B.C.’s chronic and escalating opioid crisis, which has spread beyond Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside and into small towns across the province.

Falcon supports safe supply, the controversial policy of the government supplying non-toxic addictive substances to drug users, but he dislikes the term and is critical of how the B.C. NDP has implemented the policy. He has recently hardened his rhetoric, calling for a ban on open drug use in public parks. 

The BCC is far more explicit in its support for law-and-order policies, promising to roll back the decriminalization of hard drugs in the province and restrict the growing number of tent cities.

“We would address the reality that there is no such thing as a ‘safe’ supply of hard drugs and criminalize these dangerous substances,” says Harris.

Owing largely to B.C. United’s stances on the carbon tax and drug use, as well as its support during the pandemic for vaccine mandates, the BCC has painted B.C. United as being too similar to the B.C. NDP. 

“More and more, their (B.C. United) messaging and their image seem indecipherable from that of the B.C. NDP,” says Thomas Falcone, a former B.C. Liberal/United supporter in Vancouver. “Increasingly, I feel that they’re really only sort of trying to target themselves to an urban professional middle class that’s already entirely captured by the B.C. NDP.”

Supporters hold signs while listening as B.C. United leader Kevin Falcon speaks in Surrey on April 12, 2023. Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press.

Langford-Juan de Fuca is a large riding that stretches roughly 100 kilometres from the small community of Port Renfrew on Vancouver Island’s south coast to Victoria’s western suburbs, which are among the fastest-growing municipalities in Canada.

The area around Port Renfrew was the location of the Fairy Creek blockades against old-growth logging that took place between 2020 and 2021, and led to the B.C. NDP government deferring permits to log the area.

Workers in the forestry industry, especially unionized ones, have traditionally been loyal B.C. NDP supporters, which was reflected in the party’s electoral strength in parts of the province like Vancouver Island, where forestry employs thousands of residents. In 2020, however, then-NDP Premier John Horgan received a unusually cold reception from an annual convention of B.C. truck loggers. 

Harris says those logging deferrals and other restrictions on forestry are the result of pressure from foreign-funded activists, rather than science, leading to mill closures and layoffs. The forestry industry in B.C has shed more than 45,000 jobs since 2000.

“They must be reversed immediately. In addition, we need to crack down on so-called activists who commit crime via illegal blockades,” says Harris.


Polls have often suggested that since Pierre Poilievre became their leader, the federal Conservatives are a popular choice among those surveyed aged 18-34. An Abacus poll in February suggested the Conservatives are also the most popular choice among unionized workers. 

Falcone says people in B.C. who “still punch the clock every day” and have jobs that “don’t involve a laptop” need an alternative. He believes the BCC could potentially be that party.

“I’d like to see perhaps that party (the BCC)  try to revitalize itself and really give voice to a genuine centre-right politics that might excite young and working people,” says Falcone.

The BCC underwent a rebrand in 2022 before Rustad’s expulsion from the B.C. Liberals/United, with a new web design and a new board composed of many activists and organizers who were supporting Poilievre’s leadership bid for the federal Conservatives that year. 

While both Kevin Falcon and John Rustad have met and posted photos online with Poilievre, Rustad was far more forthright in his support for the federal Conservative leader. Worth noting is that many B.C. United members also backed Poilievre during his leadership bid, and still continue to do so.

The BCC is contesting another byelection on Saturday in Vancouver-Mount Pleasant, which is considered one of the B.C. NDP’s safest ridings.

Langford-Juan de Fuca is also considered relatively safe for the NDP, as are the federal ridings that geographically overlap with it, but the federal Conservatives usually place second in the latter. One of the strategies from the outset of the BCC rebrand has been to attract support from the 750,000 B.C. residents who voted Conservative in the 2021 federal election.