Independent Panel of Experts on Journalism and the Written Press — June 20 2019 meeting

Panel members present

Minutes

The panel discussion began with an exercise to identify issues and ideas to park in a separate list, to ensure these ideas are addressed during the course of the discussion for the day and in future meetings. These included:

In their discussions, panel members also considered the Budget law and recognized that they could propose amendments to the law to specify interpretation rules. However, they would need to be careful that regulations do not end up contradicting the legislation. Providing clear criteria would make it easier for bureaucrats and leave less room for interpretation.

They also noted the importance of keeping in mind that the panel’s decisions will affect the next generations and the future of this country; as well as the need to recognize the democratic issue underlying the crisis.

Panel members listed a series of questions that they then discussed:

A new topic was subsequently proposed: What level of standards does a journalism organization need to have?

Lunch break

Should the panel review the tax credit requirement surrounding the percentage of time spent by an eligible employee on original news content?

Should the panel review the criterion of Canadian ownership?

Representatives from the Department of Finance were invited into the meeting to answer their questions.

On the question of having equivalencies to 2 employed journalists, officials responded that it is the prerogative of the panel to make such recommendations, but that some, such as this one, would require a legislative change. Some changes could occur immediately, especially in the context of providing definitions to criteria.

On the question of having publications choose between the tax credit and funding from the Canada Periodical Fund (CPF), officials indicated that the parameters for each program were thought out at different times, under different circumstances, and that access to CPF funding could be more advantageous to some publications. In this way, they are provided with a choice. A legislative amendment would be required to change this.

On the question of arm’s length, officials noted that determining such a relationship can be complex and that the concept is used in other places in the Income Tax Act, such that any change to the notion would affect it everywhere it is used. The arm’s length text was added to ensure that only organizations that produced real journalism benefit. The two-employees test was a way to get there, after several options were looked at.

Officials agreed to provide the panel with documentation on the methodology used to arrive at the estimations found in the Budget.

Additionally, Canadian Heritage would provide funding data from the CPF for a variety of community newspapers identified.

Panel members agreed to put aside for now the idea of recommending a separate program to cover expenses (contractors, freelancers) related to the production of news content.

Panel discussion continued after Finance Canada officials departed.

The panel agreed that, to proceed with its work, one panel member would create a document with 3 columns as basis for the next discussion: 1) Budget law (Bill C-97); 2) the panel’s clarifications (what they were asked); 3) the panel’s discussion/extensions/prospective.

In discussing how to define”regularly employed” journalists, panel members asked that officials from the Canada Revenue Agency be called at the next meeting to shed light on how they define and administer this type of criteria.

The panel further asked to be able to discuss the panel’s mandate item touching on the 2nd panel with other government officials. On reviewing the Budget law, members concluded that that panel’s exact function and responsibilities were unclear. Various scenarios for its existence would need to be discussed with appropriate officials.

End of meeting

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