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Michael Geist: Your Netflix could be getting a lot more expensive, Canadians—and you can thank the government


In this Friday, Jan. 17, 2014, file photo, a person displays Netflix on a tablet in North Andover, Mass. Elise Amendola/AP Photo.

Last December, I appeared before the CRTC as part of Bill C-11 hearings, where I emphasized the need for the commission to pay attention to competition, consumer choice, and affordability. My takeaway from that appearance was that “my intervention met with skepticism from some Commissioners who see their role as guardians of the broadcasting system on behalf of longstanding beneficiaries with little regard for the impact on consumers or the risks to competition.”

It turns out that was a pretty good read of the situation as this week’s Bill C-11 streaming ruling acts as if consumers, competition, and affordability are irrelevant issues that are at best someone else’s concern. The result is that Canadians have been largely removed from broadcasting and Internet policy at the regulator. They are expected to foot the bill and not ask any questions.

Stakeholders are still processing the decision, but my general sense is that it has fallen flat with much of the creator lobby and sparked genuine anger among streaming services. There have been rote statements of support that have come at the urging of Canadian Heritage, but the government touted a billion dollars in new money, not the $200 million estimated by the CRTC. That isn’t chump change, but the allocations are so micromanaged that the Canada Media Fund, which has a program budget of over $350 million, could see as little as 0.5 percent of streamer revenues. Given the costs of production, this is not the game-changer that was promised.

Bigger winners include the news production side of Rogers and Bell, who get more money from services that have nothing to do with news, and BIPOC and Indigenous creators, who get specific allocations. But this new money comes at a price: increased fees for consumers and the potential for reduced or stalled investment by streaming services left unsure if their spending “counts” for the purposes of government policy. Much like Bill C-18, there are a few winners, more losers, and many left to wonder if years of lobbying were worth the trouble.

There is still much to decide with Bill C-11 as the CRTC has pushed money out the door without figuring out what a modernized definition of “Canadian content” even means or addressing how to treat the various other contributions from services that include significant investment, promotion, and discoverability measures. Further, it has treated the streaming services as a monolith despite different business models, profit margins, and revenue streams. This has huge implications for competition in Canada, but the CRTC seems either oblivious or perhaps just unconcerned with the market effects of its ruling.

The decision deserves criticism on those grounds alone, but the most unforgivable aspect of the decision is how presentations or submissions from individuals are ignored and never referenced. The CRTC says it wants to hear from Canadians, but then proceeds to ignore everything they have to say. It says it received over 360 submissions and heard from 120 witnesses, but the only views that count are those from formal stakeholders, described as the “parties.” The hundreds of individual submissions and the many individual presentations are not cited or addressed. The Parliamentary and committee processes may be imperfect, but committee reports take the time to engage with what they have heard, regardless of the source. Indeed, I recall the 2019 copyright review by the Industry Committee making a point of citing each of its witnesses in the final report.

That the CRTC sees no problem with ignoring the views of the public who navigate a challenging process to participate cuts to the very legitimacy of its decision making. The word “consumer” does not appear even once in the decision. The costs associated with its decision are not considered, the competition impact is not considered, and the views that the commission heard from the public are not considered.

The CRTC once said it wanted to place Canadians at the centre of the broadcasting system. With this decision, Canadians have been removed not only from the centre, but this CRTC has removed them entirely— other than leaving them to ultimately foot the bill. The commission’s new mantra to Canadians is clear: pay up and shut up.

This column originally appeared at

Richard Shimooka: We must learn the right lessons from Canada’s historical heroism


D-Day veteran Jack Commerford salutes during a Remembrance Day ceremony at the National Military Cemetery at Beechwood Cemetery in Ottawa, on Monday, Nov. 11, 2019. Justin Tangg/The Canadian Press.

While June 6th commemorates the Allied assault on the beaches of Northern France, the landings themselves were only the start of the longer Battle of Normandy that stretched across the whole of the summer in 1944 and was part of a series of Allied offensives in Eastern Europe and Italy that sealed the fate of the Nazi regime.

As the 80th anniversary of this momentous campaign continues, the world has stopped to remember and analyze what lessons it can teach us today. As a defence analyst, it’s hard to escape Normandy’s significance in Canada. But it is not just an academic pursuit; I have also developed a personal connection to the invasion through my wife’s long-passed grandfather. This has greatly affected my views of the conflict.

He would fight in a series of highly consequential battles around Norrey-en-Bessin on the night of June 8th and 9th, 1944 that would hold back the 12th SS Panzer Division’s attack. Listening to recordings of him telling his personal story, and other veterans over the years, has frequently made me think about Normandy’s significance and the relationship between my grandfather-in laws’ account and historiography itself. Understanding how the battle has been interpreted over the past 80 years, has allowed me to contextualize my relations’ experiences in a number of ways.

Immediately after the war, accounts of the invasion mostly came from first-hand perspectives written by the people who were involved. As one would expect, many were highly one-sided, some as a way to manipulate history to present themselves in the most favourable light. But in many cases, the authors were still under wartime secrecy requirements. For example, the Allies’ extensive intelligence-gathering activities, headlined by the ULTRA code-breaking system remained classified until the early 1970s. Thus contemporary accounts, like Winston Churchill’s famous political memoir, completely exclude its influence. There was also a lack of conceptual models to analyze the war effectively: economics, positivism, and even the study of war were all extremely immature compared to today.

Furthermore, there was a deep bias towards the Western Allies and their struggle. The German-Soviet struggle was generally portrayed in a simplistic dichotomy, heavily influenced by defeated German generals who were interviewed after the war by victorious Allies to understand what occurred on the front they did not experience up close. They got a nearly fictitious account of the struggle that elided Soviet efforts, the classic example of which was Field Marshall Manstein’s 1958 memoir Lost Victories. They also helped to whitewash the German army’s role in the implementation of horrific atrocities during the conflict. Then, driven in part by the Cold War motivation of building up West Germany as a strong ally against their one-time allies the USSR, it became widespread to portray the victory on the Eastern Front coming down to the far technologically and doctrinally superior German forces being overwhelmed and beaten by poorly trained Asiatic hordes from the steppes.

Yet by the 1970s, the pendulum had swung back to become an overcorrection, with the histories vastly overstating the combat capability and prowess of Germany in the conflict. The exemplar was Max Hastings’ Overlord, which was timed for the 40th anniversary of the invasion. In it, he repeated questionable statistics like “on a man-to-man basis, German ground soldiers consistently inflicted casualties at about a 50 percent higher rate than they incurred from the opposing British and American troops.” In retrospect, the work, and many like it, was a disservice to understanding the battle and the Allied soldiers who fought it.

In the late 1980s, Normandy’s significance faced greater challenges with the opening of Soviet and the former Warsaw Pact archives when the Iron Curtain fell. With it came a much greater appreciation of the scale of the war in the East. This further added to the dismissal of Allied efforts increasingly seen as an inconsequential sideshow to the main scene of the war. This was the prevailing orthodoxy I was brought up with during my early education and still influences my understanding of the conflict.

Yet over the past two decades, a new generation of academics has emerged who have vastly expanded the scope of the study of the Second World War, and Normandy as well. Adam Tooze’s Wages of Destruction is widely seen as a seminal work about the economic aspects of the conflict and has been followed by a diverse collection of works that explore different aspects of the war beyond the battlefield. One example is Phillips Payson on O’Brian’s How the War Was Won, which focuses heavily on the combination of economic activity and sea and airpower on the conduct of the war, making the point that simply counting the number of divisions on the ground completely misunderstood the resource allocation of the war, where airpower alone typically accounted for 50 percent or more of combatants’ war-fighting budgets. Broadening the understanding of the war provides a more fulsome appreciation of the Western Allies’ strategy for the war and how it influenced the final outcome.

A personal favourite of mine is Ben Kite’s Stout Hearts: the British and Canadians in Normandy  1944, which is a uniquely constructed examination of how the commonwealth armies operated at a granular level in total during the conflict. While not necessarily groundbreaking, its presentation of how the military operates provides deep insights into how decisions on strategy, tactics, arms, and even medical systems, affected the lives of individual soldiers. It also dispels the myth of German superiority in fighting. In sum, what these works have helped develop is a more diverse and balanced understanding of Normandy’s significance for the war.

All considered, we now have a far more nuanced understanding of the D-Day landing’s strategic, military, and technical accomplishment, and the subsequent four-month campaign that would effectively wipe out the German military on the Western Front.

The historiography of Canada’s contribution to D-Day and the larger Battle of Normandy has roughly followed these trends but with some significant differences. Major histories during the Cold War, like the official government study, downplayed Canada’s role for a variety of reasons. The contribution also suffered similar questions about its combat efficacy vis-a-vis German troops.

However, in the past three decades, a new generation of scholars, led by Terry Copp, Mark Zuehlke, and Marc Milner, has revolutionized the study of the battle and its importance. Many Consider Milner’s Stopping the Panzers one of the best works on D-Day, showing how they were given one of the most difficult assignments to defend the critical sector behind Juno Beach. In sum, these works have restored much of the positive reputation Canadian soldiers had earned during the war, which had for so long been undervalued.

This analysis illustrates why historiography is so important—it allows us to contextualize experiences and learn from them. In 1992 the CBC aired a three-part documentary, the Valour and the Horror that took a highly critical line toward various aspects of Canada’s Second World War effort, including strategic bombing and the D-Day landing. While it sparked deep outrage among veteran groups, the reality is that it hewed not too far from the revisionist thinking that was largely the orthodoxy at the time, exemplified in Hastings’ writings, concerning the relative quality of Allied soldiers.

It didn’t provide an accurate sense of the battle and Canada’s contribution, which is unfortunate as it contributed to a long line of works that downplayed the country’s important military contribution, especially during the longer Battle of Normandy. The prevailing narratives about Canada’s small, ineffective role were often politicized to suggest that defence spending writ large is a frivolous waste and should be minimized as much as possible. Yet works like those written by Copp, Milner and Kite display the immense skill and professionalism that Canadian soldiers possessed.

Even today Canadian soldiers are prized for these very same qualities by our allies. Their subsequent deployments in Afghanistan, the Middle East, and now Latvia have further solidified the very high reputation that was cultivated in Normandy.

The lesson that we should remember as we mark this ongoing anniversary is that we are an exceptionally capable country when called upon. Our resourcefulness and bravery have been tested in the past, and we have proven our worth when the stakes are highest.

Reiterating this national story is paramount. But even more important than the mere telling is translating these lessons into action and practical policy. We can make a difference on the world stage—we just need leaders to cultivate this patriotic persona and prioritize strengthening our capabilities. We have a military that can be admired and counted on when times get tough—we just need to provide them with the funding and support they need. These may seem like insurmountable challenges these days, but looking back at our history reminds us: we’ve already overcome worse.