Hon. Serge Joyal:
Welcome, minister. We are pleased to welcome you to the Senate for the first time since you were appointed.
I would like to continue along the same lines as my colleagues. Last November, the Minister of Finance announced a 15 per cent tax credit program for newspapers to support labour costs. The announcement suggested that the Department of Canadian Heritage would create a panel of independent experts to set the eligibility criteria for the program.
I gather from your remarks, considering how urgent this situation is, with newspapers disappearing every day, that the eligibility criteria should be announced as soon as possible. What is the deadline for that, and who are the experts chosen to sit on the advisory committee that will set the criteria?
The way things are going, other communities will lose access to the media within a year, and other major newspapers like the Montreal Gazette could become financially insoluble. I think urgent action is needed.
As we say in English, it is “inescapable.” When can we expect those criteria and, if possible, a date?
Hon. Pablo Rodriguez, P.C., M.P., Minister of Canadian Heritage and Multiculturalism: Thank you, Senator Joyal, for your excellent question. You know how much I respect all the work you have done throughout your career. You’re right in saying that we need information as soon as possible and that this is urgent, because, as you pointed out in your preamble, newspapers are disappearing very quickly.
As I mentioned earlier, some communities no longer have access to information. They no longer know what is happening at city hall, at the school board or with their elected officials. I also mentioned that this process must be independent and must respect freedom of the press and journalistic independence. This is why we must take time to develop the criteria. We will have to consult, of course, and have experts tell us how to proceed.
Senator, I can indeed give you a date. Today you will have more information, when the budget is announced. During the Fall Economic Statement, the government said that it would provide details in the budget. I therefore expect today’s budget to contain those details.
Senator Joyal: In practice, when will a newspaper be able to access the 15 per cent payroll tax credit if the criteria are in the budget speech that will be read at four o’clock this afternoon?
Mr. Rodriguez: Thank you for your question. Listen, I cannot speculate on what is in the document that will be read today, but my hope is that it would be effective on January 1, 2019, hence retroactively. We’ll have to see what is in the budget.