Canadians could be forgiven for thinking that the policies associated Cancon in a digital world largely wrapped up with the release of the government’s policy in September. Canadian Heritage Minister Melanie Joly spent months crisscrossing the country, meeting with hundreds of stakeholders, and ultimately delivering a high profile policy that featured the much-debated Netflix commitment alongside various plans to support the sector. While Joly also promised reviews of the Broadcasting Act, Telecommunications Act, and Copyright Act, she puzzlingly re-opened the very issue she had just decided by issuing an Order-in-Council to the CRTC to examine (yet again) policies associated with broadcasting.
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Digital Cancon, the Sequel: CRTC Broadcast Consult Sparks Demands for Everything from Internet and iPod Taxes to Website Blocking to Abandoning Net Neutrality
The federal government yesterday released its response to the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage report on local media released last June. The most controversial recommendation in that report – one swiftly rejected by Prime Minister Trudeau – was a call for a new Internet tax to help fund Canadian media and the creation of Cancon. As I wrote at the time, the proposal is a terrible idea that runs counter to important policy objectives of fostering affordable network access for all Canadians.
The government response, signed by Ministers Joly, Bains, and Morneau, rightly notes that “access to affordable broadband Internet, particularly in rural and remote regions, is essential to the participation of the Canadians in the digital economy.” In light of this policy priority, the government firmly rejects the Internet tax proposal, grounding its decision in the principle of affordable access:
Think There Should be a Netflix Tax?: Why There is Nothing Stopping Canadian Subscribers From Paying Today
The ongoing furor over Netflix taxes remains one of oddest and most poorly understood public policy debates in recent memory. Part of the problem is that a “Netflix tax” has long been used to mean different things to different people. When first raised by the Conservative government, the issue had nothing to do with sales tax. Rather, a “Netflix tax” was a reference to a mandated contribution to help fund Canadian content, a position supported by various cultural groups and some provincial governments. The no-Netflix tax position took hold, however, and all three major parties adopted the position that they would not mandate contributions from online service providers such as Netflix.
More recently, the debate has shifted to Netflix tax as a sales tax with the goal of creating a “level playing field.” I tried to debunk the level playing field claims in this post and on Canadaland, but the claims of the need for a level playing field and sales tax continues. Yesterday, the NDP stated:
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: