The question should be an easy, slam-dunk: will you implement new Internet or wireless taxes to support the creation of Canadian content? Given that Canada has some of the highest Internet and wireless costs in the world, rejecting new fees or taxes that would further increase those costs should not require any hedging or attempts to change the subject. In fact, while the Canadian Heritage committee and the CRTC have proposed new wireless fees and taxes, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau clearly rejected the approach. For example, minutes after the Heritage report was released, he told the press:
“We respect the independence of committees and Parliament and the work and the studies they do, but allow me to be clear: We’re not raising taxes on the middle class, we’re lowering them. We’re not going to be raising taxes on the middle class through an internet broadband tax. That is not an idea we are taking on.”
Months later, when asked about the issue in the House of Commons, he stated:
Mr. Speaker, the NDP is proposing to raise taxes on the middle class, which is something we promised we would not do and have not done. We explicitly promised in the 2015 election campaign that we would not be raising taxes on Netflix. People may remember Stephen Harper’s attack ads on that. They were false. We actually moved forward in demonstrating that we were not going to raise taxes on consumers, who pay enough for their Internet at home.
Yet when asked about the issue by the Toronto Star, only the NDP even acknowledged the link between mandated contributions by Internet providers and affordability. The Liberal response avoided the issue altogether:
We are committed to ensuring that Canada’s tax system is fair and supports an innovative economy. The issue of how to appropriately ensure web giants pay their fair share is not a uniquely Canadian problem — it is a global issue. That’s why Canada is working with our international partners and the OECD to come up with a consensus-based approach. One that ensures every company pays their fair share, while also continuing to foster innovation and attract investment in the digital sector. With this in mind, we will continue to work with the OECD to develop an approach that is concerted, prudent, and fair for the middle class. (Note: This answer was given before the Liberals announced as part of their election platform that they would introduce a 3 per cent tax on the income of large digital companies operating in Canada. The party would ensure “multinational tech giants pay corporate tax on the revenue they generate in Canada,” according to a statement released by the party.)
The Conservatives had little to say:
We need to take action to review how innovative market solutions can help address these problems.
Only the NDP pointed to affordability:
The main focus of the NDP would be to ensure that foreign multinationals are treated equally with Canadian companies and to make sure that internet services are affordable. We are paying some (of) the highest prices for broadband subscriptions in the world. This is wrong. The NDP has a clear vision for Canadian arts and culture including: protecting our heritage, supporting key Canadian institutions and providing an opportunity for our Canadian talent to thrive on digital and traditional platforms. We need more Canadian content. For this reason, we will find innovative ways to increase the funding of the Canada Media Fund.
This should not be difficult. There is little debate that Canadians pay some of the highest prices in the world for wireless and broadband services. New levies and taxes will further increase those costs. The parties should have no trouble committing that they will not introduce new levies, fees or taxes on Internet access.