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Federal Heritage Minister Brandishes Conservative Threat

Photo: Valérian Mazataud Le Devoir Federal Minister of Heritage, Pascale St-Onge, during a speech at a CORIM event, Wednesday, at the Fairmont Le Reine Elizabeth in Montreal

Étienne Paré

Posted at 4:31 p.m. Updated at 8:17 p.m.

  • Canada

The Minister of Heritage, Pascale St-Onge, foresees “major setbacks” for the cultural and media communities, if the Conservatives ever take power. In front of several industry players on Wednesday, the minister strongly deplored Pierre Poilievre's opposition to laws aimed at tightening the screws on digital giants.

“Contrary to the consensus that we can observe in several places [elsewhere in the world] on the need to legislate to regulate the Web giants, here in Canada, we cannot count on a real consensus. Some political leaders have chosen to ignore concerns about our cultural future and the challenges of French,” said the minister during her speech. She was invited to speak as part of an event at the Council on International Relations of Montreal (CORIM).

Remember that the Conservatives were the only party to the House of Commons to oppose the Broadcasting Act (C-11), which integrates foreign platforms like Netflix and Disney+ into the Canadian regulatory framework. The official opposition also voted against the Online News Act (C-18), which seeks to force digital giants to share their revenues from news-related content with the Canadian media that produce it.

“We heard them say that legislating on web giants and broadcast platforms would infringe on freedom of expression. They chose to scare the population,” added the Minister of Heritage, without ever directly naming the conservatives during her speech.

What type of politicians benefit from weakened journalism ?

— Pascale St-Onge

For several months, Pierre Poilievre's Conservatives have been well ahead of Justin Trudeau's Liberals in the polls ahead of the next federal election. This must take place in 2025, unless the government loses the support of the NDP before then. The Conservative leader has said several times that he plans to “defund” CBC if he becomes prime minister. Its position on Radio-Canada is more ambiguous. Minister St-Onge did not fail to recall Pierre Poilievre's hostility towards the public broadcaster, but also towards all traditional media.

« Defend Journalism, as our government does, can be hazardous these days. If the goal is to score political points, there are more profitable subjects. This is also the calculation that some politicians in Canada make when they intimidate and harass journalists. Or when they accuse them of being in the pay of the government. What type of politicians benefit from weakened journalism?” she asked.

“The battle 'is not finished »

During a press briefing following her speech, the minister said she could at least count on the full collaboration of the Quebec government in its desire to better regulate the digital giants. Pascale St-Onge, however, did not wish to comment on the bill that Quebec Minister of Culture, Mathieu Lacombe, intends to table next year to force platforms to highlight Quebec content. This could encroach on federal jurisdiction.

“I will not comment on the areas of jurisdiction until I know what it consists of”, s 'is limited to say Pascale St-Onge.

The next few months promise to be busy for the Liberal minister. So far, the Online News Act has not produced the expected results. Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, protested the adoption of the law by removing all content from traditional media from its platforms, dealing a major blow to the latter.

But “the battle is not over”, clarified the minister when she was questioned on Wednesday about the possibility that journalistic content would be accessible again on Facebook one day. Pascale St-Onge pointed out that Meta was currently the subject of complaints to the Competition Bureau. The decision to block the news could also result in “heavy financial penalties” for the American giant, the minister explained.

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116