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Keep your bribes, Trudeau

The following editorial was published in the Nov. 27, 2018 edition of the Star and Times.

If you know me well enough, it might not surprise you to know that I?was not one of the 39.47 percent of voting Canadians who checked the box next to a Liberal Party candidate during the 2015 federal election. However, I recognize good and bad policy making – according to my personal values – on both sides of the House of Commons. Even I understand and maybe even agree with some of the controversial decisions of the Trudeau administration, even if those decisions come across as hypocritical in the greater context of Liberal governance.
However, with the latest fiscal update from Minister Morneau, there is a policy in the pipeline that I believe all Canadians of any political stripe should be concerned about.
Last week, the federal government unveiled a $595 million package over five years to help Canada’s media sector, including measures to facilitate fundraising by non-profit news organizations and tax breaks to fund the production of original content, according to a report from the Globe and Mail.
I am glad that the government recognizes the importance of Canadian media, and sees the struggle they face with adapting in today’s content landscape and economy. Good journalism is one of the cornerstones of any democratic state, and I?felt that was the case even before my tenure at the Star and Times.
But, this country already has state-funded media. The CBC already receives more than $1 billion from the federal government each year, which amounts to approximately two-thirds of their annual revenue. And, the remaining media is limited and largely owned by a handful of nation-wide corporations. I will note that the Star and Times is still proudly owned by a local, family-run group that publishes five weekly newspapers.
Even more heinous is that this funding will not be accessible to all. Much like the Canadian Summer Job grant program, organizations are only eligible for extra funding if they suit the standards of a government committee.
Ironically, as Conservative MP Michelle Rempel put it, giving ‘trusted sources’ money from the government can place a sense of distrust in those news organizations that will accept it. Every article is a grant application.
Conservative MPs have also speculated that this funding is also strategically trying to buy off the media that covers federal politics on a daily basis in hopes for more favourable coverage during an election year.
Good journalism needs to be independent, especially from the government. While it is unfortunate that the greater transition away from traditional media sources has resulted in financial difficulty for many organizations, it is crucial that the fourth estate maintains that separation of power from our legislators in order to preserve our ability to hold them to account.
So, while it is our responsibility to present the information we collect in a way that is accessible and attractive for the public to consume, recognize that the best and the only way that journalistic organizations should be taking in funds is from the newsstand, subscriptions, or advertising dollars. Let the free market reign!

Jeremy Bergen