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Ottawa to pledge $50 million for local journalism in budget

Tuesday’s federal budget will commit $50 million over five years to support local journalism across Canada, the Star has learned. It is also expected to feature gender equality as a theme.

Bruce Campion-Smith

OTTAWA—Tuesday’s federal budget will commit $50 million over five years to support local journalism across Canada, the Star has learned.

The federal government will provide the funding in the coming fiscal year to one or more “independent non-governmental organizations” that will support local journalism in underserved communities.

Those organizations will be responsible for administering the funds, a source told the Star. The investment is being made to help “ensure trusted, local perspectives as well as accountability in local communities.”

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As well, the budget will signal the government’s intention to explore new business models that would enable private donations and philanthropic support for “trusted, professional, non-profit journalism and local news.” 


“This could include new ways for Canadian newspapers to innovate and be recognized as charitable or not-for-profit providers of journalism, reflecting the public interest that they serve,” the source said.

That was one suggestion to emerge from the Public Policy Forum’s “The Shattered Mirror” report that examined the financial crisis hitting Canada’s media outlets. Released in 2017, it gave a grim overview of the media landscape, noting that since 2010, 225 weekly and 27 daily newspapers had closed or merged operations.

“The government is taking the step of promising to look at different models and to work with the industry to make sure that it is viable,” said the source, who was not authorized to speak publicly about the budget measures.

The idea of federal support for Canadian journalism has provoked criticism from some who say funding would imperil the independence of media outlets. Instead, they argue that market forces should decide which outlets survive the economic crunch.

Tuesday’s budget, the third since the Liberals took power in 2015, is expected to feature gender equality and science investments as key themes.

“Women earn less than men. There’s a wage gap issue. There are fewer women in the trades. There are fewer women in leadership positions . . . . There are barriers there that are holding back 50 per cent of the population,” the source said.

“The budget will shine a light on that issue,” the source said. “We will be paying attention to the particular barriers along gender lines.”

It was an issue that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau highlighted during a speech to the World Economic Forum in January.

He said that Ottawa would be rolling out legislation to ensure pay equity at the federal level.

But he portrayed that as only a start: “When we dig a little deeper, when we peel back that outer layer, we see that there are a whole host of barriers facing women in the workplace,” Trudeau said.

Child care, parental leave and elder care are seen as a few of the barriers to women in the workforce.

“The message will be that not only is it a social and moral imperative, but there is a very real economic argument behind it, too,” the source said.

This budget will also feature a detailed gender-based analysis of every single measure, a more in-depth version of the initiative that began last year. 

The budget is also expected to detail new investments in science to promote research and development, in part acting on the recommendation of a 2017 report that examined the state of fundamental science.

Led by former University of Toronto president David Naylor, the document urged Ottawa to invest a further $1.3 billion over four years to fund researchers, scholarships and facilities better.

“Science, research and innovation will be a big theme of this budget,” the source said.

With files from The Canadian Press

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