Unifor President Jerry Dias makes his way to speak to the press in Toronto on Friday, August 25, 2017. The federal government is coming under fresh pressure to find solutions for Canada’s ailing newspaper industry following an announcement today that dozens of community and daily newspapers across the country will soon close their doors. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

Unifor President Jerry Dias makes his way to speak to the press in Toronto on Friday, August 25, 2017. The federal government is coming under fresh pressure to find solutions for Canada’s ailing newspaper industry following an announcement today that dozens of community and daily newspapers across the country will soon close their doors. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

Feds face pressure to help newspaper industry

The federal government faces new pressure to help hobbled newspaper industry amid more shutdowns

Ottawa is coming under fresh pressure to find a way to save the ailing Canadian newspaper industry, although the Liberals remain steadfast in their argument that the solution lies in the transition to digital platforms and more viable business models.

Torstar Corp. and Postmedia Network Inc. announced Monday they will cut nearly 300 jobs as they plan to shutter more than 30 newspapers across the country, with most of the dailies and community weeklies affected based in Ontario.

RELATED: Torstar, Postmedia newspaper closures aim to cut competition

“It’s absolutely brutal,” Canadian union leader Jerry Dias said Monday as he urged federal Heritage Minister Melanie Joly to protect print journalism.

Earlier this year, a major report from the Public Policy Forum called for a sales tax on foreign companies selling digital subscriptions in Canada and a $400-million fund to help finance reliable news and information. The Canadian Press participated in the roundtables and research.

And in June, the House of Commons heritage committee also issued recommendations on how to save the industry, including a five-year tax credit to compensate print outlets for a portion of their digital investments.

But in September, Joly unveiled a cultural strategy that was criticized by industry experts for lacking measures that could have given a boost to struggling newspapers across Canada.

RELATED: Newspapers snubbed in Liberal government’s cultural policy

At the time, Joly said Ottawa had no interest in bailing out industry models that are no longer viable, and would instead focus on supporting innovation, experimentation and the transition to digital platforms.

Asked Monday if news of the closures had encouraged her to rethink her approach, Joly reiterated that the government would provide support in the coming months for local media as they continue to shift to web-based models.

“Of course, I’m sad to hear about these local closures and my thoughts are with the families affected,” she said.

She also noted the federal government invests up to $75 million annually in the Canada Periodical Fund, which includes support for local media.

A government source said the Liberals believe there is still a strong appetite for local news and that there could be a way for other local media companies to begin filling in the gaps.

RELATED: Treat media providers equally, but don’t pass on costs, Canadians tell Joly

The source, speaking on condition of anonymity in order to discuss matters not yet public, said the Liberal government is looking at modernizing the Canada Periodical Fund in ways that could help local news outlets, such as by moving away from funding based on paid print circulation, which does not account for a digital audience.

Helping print media out of a crisis does not have to be about propping up a failed business model, said Dias, the national president of Unifor and one of several prominent Canadian business leaders who took part in consultations on the future of the industry.

“If the government wants to have a thriving industry, if they want to have freedom of expression, if they want to have journalistic integrity, then we’re going to have to find a mechanism to deal with it,” Dias said. “You put money into journalism. That’s what the issue is.”

Media union CWA Canada, which represents employees at The Canadian Press, also urged the Liberals to take urgent action.

Ottawa-area Liberal MP Anita Vandenbeld called the closures — several of which will impact papers in the national capital — an unfortunate development that will impact democracy and make it more difficult for politicians and community groups to connect with locals.

Vandenbeld said that if there are solutions available to help the industry, the government should pursue them. But she believes the industry’s challenges are a much larger issue that are part of a global trend.

“If there are solutions, then absolutely I think we should be doing what we can,” she said. “But I think this is a much bigger, societal issue than individual papers.”

Conservative MP Peter Van Loan, who is the heritage critic for his party, said he thinks the newspaper chains are making a mistake by shutting down the local papers, but said the federal government should not intervene.

“When you have dynamic change, the answer is not to have government fund money to turn back the clock and try to keep an old model alive that doesn’t work anymore,” said Van Loan, whose own Ontario riding of York — Simcoe is also losing a local paper, the Bradford Times.

But his Conservative colleague Karen Vecchio, whose southwestern Ontario riding is losing the St. Thomas/Elgin Weekly News, suggested it might be a good idea for the Liberals to take another look.

“I think they have to make sure, at the end of the day, they are supporting smaller communities and this may be a way,” Vecchio said. ”I think they should look at it once again and see what’s best.”

New Democrat heritage critic Pierre Nantel urged the government to reconsider.

“Wake up,” Nantel said. ”The barn is burning.”

Andy Blatchford and Joanna Smith, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

During a press event on March 6, Const. Alex Berube, media relations officer for the West Shore RCMP, addressed a deadly shooting that occurred in Metchosin the night before. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)
VIDEO: One man shot dead in ‘targeted incident’ on Sooke Road

Highway 14 reopens following multi-hour closure for investigation

Victoria man Brett Andersen is asking for people’s help to secure him one of eight free tickets to the moon. (Screenshot/@brettandersen Instagram)
Victoria man wants your help securing a free ticket to the moon

Japanese billionaire offering eight people a trip to the moon

A decade into the 100-year blueprint for restoring the Bowker Creek watershed, Soren Henrich, director of the Friends of Bowker Creek Society, feels positive about the future of conservation and daylighting of the creek. (Nina Grossman/News Staff)
Ten years in, Greater Victoria’s 100-year Bowker Creek blueprint gets a boost

Victoria council passes several restoration recommendations

A resurfacing of the tennis court in Metchosin is being eyed for the community. However, funding opportunities still need to be solidified for the project. (Michelle Cabana/Black Press Media)
Renewed surface eyed for Metchosin tennis court

Funding source must first be solidified in order for project to happen

The James C Richardson Pipe Band marches in a Remembrance Day parade on Nov. 11, 2019 in Chilliwack. Wednesday, March 10 is International Bagpipe Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of March 7 to 13

International Bagpipe Day, Wash Your Nose Day and Kidney Day are all coming up this week

The Conservation Officers Service is warning aquarium users after invasive and potentially destructive mussels were found in moss balls from a pet store. (BC Conservation Officers Service/Facebook)
Aquarium users in B.C. warned after invasive mussels found at pet store

Conservation officers were told the mussels were found in a moss ball from a Terrace pet store.

Hockey hall-of-fame legend Wayne Gretzky, right, watches the casket of his father, Walter Gretzky, as it is carried from the church during a funeral service in Brantford, Ont., Saturday, March 6, 2021. HE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Walter Gretzky remembered as a man with a ‘heart of gold’ at funeral

The famous hockey father died Thursday at age 82 after battling Parkinson’s disease

Donald Alan Sweet was once an all star CFL kicker who played for the Montreal Alouettes and Montreal Concordes over a 13-year career. Photo courtesy of Mission RCMP.
Ex-B.C. teacher who was CFL kicker charged with assault, sexual crimes against former students

Donald Sweet taught in Mission School District for 10 years, investigators seek further witnesses

(Black Press Media files)
Medicine gardens help Victoria’s Indigenous kids in care stay culturally connected

Traditional plants brought to the homes of Indigenous kids amid the COVID-19 pandemic

Personal protective equipment is seen in the COVID-19 intensive care unit at St. Paul’s hospital in downtown Vancouver. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
$16.9 million invested to improve worker safety, strengthen B.C.’s food supply chain

Money to be used for social distancing, personal protective equipment, cleaning, and air circulation

More than ever before, as pandemic conditions persist, the threat of data breaches and cyberattacks continues to grow, according to SFU professor Michael Parent. (Pixabay photo)
SFU expert unveils 5 ways the COVID-19 pandemic has forever changed cybersecurity

Recognizing these changes is the first in a series of steps to mitigate them once the pandemic ends, and before the next: Michael Parent

Kevin Haughton is the founder/technologist of Courtenay-based Clearflo Solutions. Scott Stanfield photo
Islander aims Clearflo clean drinking water system at Canada’s remote communities

Entrepreneur $300,000 mobile system can produce 50,000 litres of water in a day, via solar energy

Most Read