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Pascale St-Onge became Minister of Canadian Heritage last July . (Archive photo)

  • Véronique Morin (View profile)Véronique Morin

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A few days before the entry into force of Bill C-18 on online news, the Minister of Canadian Heritage, Pascale St-Onge, assures that despite Meta's reluctance, the federal government will continue its efforts to try to convince this company to pay royalties to national news media.

Meta's attitude has never been positive. They have always refused to respect laws or regulations, said Pascale St-Onge on the show Facts First.

Online News Bill C-18 will officially come into force next Tuesday, December 19. In November, the Trudeau government reached an agreement with Google. This company will pay $100 million into a fund that will be used to pay Canadian media. Nearly two-thirds of this amount will be intended for the written press.

However, Ottawa has still not reached an agreement with Meta, the x27;company owner of the social networks Facebook and Instagram. According to Minister St-Onge, it will be up to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) to decide how the law should apply to online platforms.

She also assures that adjustments to the powers of the Competition Bureau could offer other levers to force Meta's hand.

We are about to adopt a modernization of the Competition Bureau which will give new powers to monitor the markets where there are unfair situations like [in that of the media].

A quote from Pascale St-Onge, Minister of Canadian Heritage

Tug of war between the web giants and Ottawa

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Tug of war between web giants and Ottawa

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She also recalled that following the blocking of news by Meta on its social networks, representatives of certain major Canadian media, including CBC/Radio-Canada, called for an investigation by the Competition Bureau. The Bureau's response to this request is not known at this time.

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Since last August, Meta has blocked access to Canadian news content on its platforms.

Ms. St-Onge assures that she is motivated by the conviction of defending a pillar of democracy which is the fourth power, which is journalism, which 'ensures that people like [her] are [responsible].

Click here to listen to the interview with Minister Pascale St-Onge on the show Facts First.

Minister St-Onge also assured that she has the mission of the Canadian public broadcaster CBC/Radio-Canada at heart. She recognized that this organization finds itself in a delicate situation, particularly due to the drop in advertising revenue.

Advertising revenues are declining, as is the case for the entire private sector, and yes, that affects its financial structure, yes, it affects its ability to continue to maintain the entire workforce, she explained.

However, she again deplored the decision of the president and CEO of CBC/Radio-Canada, Catherine Tait, to announce the elimination of 600 positions and the abolition of 200 positions. This decision was justified in particular by the fact that, in its last budget, Ottawa requested budget cuts of 3.3% from all Crown corporations and federal departments.

However, Minister St-Onge reiterated that CBC/Radio-Canada could potentially be exempt from these cuts. We know that there are organizations which are at risk [and] for which we have not made a decision. So, the decision is not made for CBC/Radio-Canada, she argued.

The minister also announced the last week the establishment of a committee of experts which must reflect on the future of the public broadcaster. According to her, changes are necessary to ensure the sustainability of the public broadcaster.

We are well aware that we will have to review the mandate, the mission and the future for the public broadcaster to ensure its sustainability, declared Minister St-Onge.

Catherine Tait will be among those called upon to participate in the process of reflection on the future of CBC/Radio-Canada. She will also have to help the government determine who will succeed him at the end of his mandate in January 2025.

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Catherine Tait is the President and CEO of CBC/Radio -Canada since July 2018. His mandate will end on January 3, 2025.

Pascale St-Onge assured that the Trudeau government will begin the process in January 2024 to find who will take over the reins of CBC/Radio-Canada. For me, what is most important is to ensure stability at CBC/Radio-Canada in a context where, from the start of 2024, we will be looking for the person who will take over at the head of CBC/Radio-Canada, she explained.

You have to find the right person who knows the public service very well, who knows the public broadcaster very well, who at the same time understands the reality of the market, who has administrative skills. Also, we must say, it is a difficult position. […] It takes us a good exercise to find the right person.

A quote from Pascale St-Onge, Minister of Canadian Heritage

Ms. St-Onge praised the work of her predecessors which enabled the implementation not only of Bill C-18 on online news but also of Bill C-11, which aims to modernize the Broadcasting Act. Ministers Steven Guilbeault and Pablo Rodriguez have worked on this file in recent years since they were both Ministers of Canadian Heritage.

Having previously worked as a representative of the National Federation of Communications and Culture at the Confederation of National Unions (FNCC-CSN), Pascale St-Onge assured that she understands the problems and issues linked to the media crisis. .

I've been working on this issue for a very long time, that's a lot of why I got into politics in 2021, -she explained.

According to her, even if Bill C-18 comes into force this year, the problems in the media industry have been known to the Canadian government for quite some time. It's been more than ten years since this crisis began and yes, at the moment, we have had very difficult announcements for employees in several media in recent weeks and months.

< p class="StyledBodyHtmlParagraph-sc-48221190-4 hnvfyV">She remembers having worked, during her time at FNCC-CSN, to convince the provincial and federal governments of the need to introduce tax credits to support news rooms. This is why tax credits on payroll were established, particularly for newsrooms on the newspaper side, she explained.

< p class="StyledBodyHtmlParagraph-sc-48221190-4 hnvfyV">The minister maintained that Bill C-18 is a new milestone in curbing the media crisis. She reiterated that in addition to Canada, several countries around the world wish to regulate the actions of online platforms on their territory.

All countries are currently trying to put limits, guidelines, on these platforms, and that is what we will continue to do here in Canada.

A quote from Pascale St-Onge, Minister of Canadian Heritage

We did something that is new in the world, that is -say having a law that is transparent with agreements with the Web giants, which gives a place at the negotiating table to our smallest media, to independent media, to official language media in a minority situation, added Pascale St- Onge.

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