Canadian Heritage Minister Melanie Joly seemingly put the prospect of an Internet tax to bed when she launched her Creative Canada report last month. Throughout the year-and-a-half consultation, there were persistent rumours that an Internet tax was being considered as a mechanism to help fund Cancon. Yet when the Prime Minister rejected an Internet tax last June minutes after it was proposed by the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage, the policy initiative promoted by some cultural lobby groups seemed dead. Joly’s comments at her policy launched suggested much the same:
But we know that access and affordability of Internet and wireless are real issues for many.
Broadband coverage is uneven across the country.
We pay some of the highest rates in the world.
Our government won’t increase the cost of these services to Canadians by imposing a new tax.
Yet a couple of weeks later, Joly has faced sustained criticism over her policy, particularly the Netflix deal. While much of the criticism is unfounded – the cries of level playing fields are misleading – Joly seems ready to placate some of the Quebec-based criticism by reviving the “dead” Internet tax policy. In a report in Le Devoir, Joly indicated a forthcoming review by the CRTC will consider which players should contribute to the system to ensure sustainability and financing. She added that the government wants companies that benefit from new business models to participate in financing and promised to reform telecom and broadcast legislation to allow for new funding.
The comments will breath new life into those with visions of taxing Internet access, regardless of the negative impact on affordable access for Canadians. It should be noted that the government’s Order-in-Council to the CRTC makes no reference to new taxes, fees, or contributions from Internet providers to support Cancon. The fact that Joly is back to suggesting it is a possibility – potentially through reform to the broadcast and telecommunications laws – suggests that the battle over an Internet tax is not over.