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Will U.S. streaming companies play ball with the CRTC?: Peter Menzies

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From the MacDonald Laurier Institute

By Peter Menzies

Domestic streamers have to live with the rules the CRTC comes up with, not so when it comes to global streamers

The fundamental weakness in Canada’s Online Streaming Act will be exposed for all to see on Nov. 20, when the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) comes face-to-face with American streaming companies.

For the first time, the regulator will be dealing with companies that, if they don’t like the rules and the financial burden the CRTC imposes, are free to leave the country.

To be clear, neither Netflix, Disney+ nor any other company has yet suggested they are prepared to quit Canada. There have been no threats to do anything similar to what Meta did and Google might – stop carrying news – in response to the Online News Act. But there is nothing that compels foreign companies from continuing here if CRTC decisions make it no longer sensible for them to do so.

That shapes the conversation in a way that the commission, which commences a three-week-long hearing Nov. 20 involving 127 intervenors, isn’t accustomed to. Throughout its history, the primary players in CRTC procedures have always been captives of “the system” – domestic companies that depend for their existence on a commission license or rely upon the regulator’s decisions for their sustenance. They may not like the rules the CRTC comes up with, but they have to live with them.

Not so when it comes to global streamers that, as it turns out, are global.

Netflix’s base here is robust – 6.7 million subscribers – but that is just 10 per cent of its U.S. audience and only 2.8 per cent of its global subscriber base. According to its submission to the CRTC, it has already invested $3.5-billion in film and TV production since launching here in 2010 – roughly equivalent to the Canada Media Fund’s spend over the same period. And, it claims, people are 1.8 times more likely to view a Canadian production on Netflix than on TV. Let that sink in.

Disney+ makes similar arguments. It has 4.4 million Canadian subscribers out of a global total of about 147 million (down significantly this year). It points out that it has invested $1.5-billion in Canada, which is one of its top four production markets. As it gently states in its submission to the CRTC: “We encourage the commission to adopt a modernized contribution framework and a revised, modern definition of a ‘Canadian program’ that provide sufficient incentives for global producers and foreign online undertakings to continue to bring large-scale productions to, and make capital investments in, Canada.”

Large domestic companies that have been forced by regulation to contribute to the production and airing of certified Canadian content, meanwhile, argue for their “burden” in that regard to be reduced and shifted onto the backs of foreign companies.

In its submission, BCE Inc., which has a current profit margin of 21.2 per cent, describes the broadcasting system as in crisis, accuses streamers of having “contributed precious little to the Canadian system” and calls for its contributions to be reduced from 30 per cent to 20 per cent of the media division’s revenue – a figure it believes should be applied to all offshore streamers with more than $50-million in Canadian revenue.

BCE Inc. goes on to argue that if the commission takes its advice and forces the streamers to pay 20 per cent of their revenue directly into Canadian content funds, an additional $457-million – growing to $678-million by 2026 – will pour into the pockets of ACTRA, the Writers Guild and others involved in the creation of certified Canadian TV and film content.

And that, right there, is where Netflix, with a profit margin of 13 per cent clears its throat. Politely but firmly, it says the CRTC appears to have already made up its mind that streamers should be paying into funds and “submits that this is not an appropriate starting point.”

The decade prior to the introduction of the Online Streaming Act was by far the most prosperous in the history of the Canadian film and television industry, including in terms of Canadian content production.

Most of that growth took place beyond the reach of the CRTC, which was in charge of an increasingly irrelevant system upon which many legacy companies had grown dependent. But instead of fostering what was working, the government chose to sustain what wasn’t.

So now, as with the Online News Act, it’s playing at a table where it no longer holds all the cards.

Peter Menzies is a senior fellow with the Macdonald-Laurier Institute, a former publisher of the Calgary Herald and a previous vice-chair of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC).

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Carbon tax costs Canadian economy billions

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From the Canadian Taxpayers Federation

Author: Franco Terrazzano 

This tax costs Canadians big time at the gas pump, on home heating bills, on the farm and at the dinner table.

The Canadian Taxpayers Federation is calling on the federal government to scrap the carbon tax in light of newly released government data showing the tax will cost the Canadian economy about $25 billion in 2030.

“Once again, we see the government’s own data showing what hardworking Canadians already know: the carbon tax costs Canada big time,” said Franco Terrazzano, CTF Federal Director. “The carbon tax makes the necessities of life more expensive and it will cost our economy billions of dollars.

“Prime Minister Justin Trudeau must scrap his carbon tax now.”

The government of Canada released modelling showing the cost of the carbon tax on the Canadian economy Thursday.

“The country’s GDP is expected to be about $25 billion lower in 2030 due to carbon pricing than it would be otherwise,”  reports the Globe and Mail.

Canada contributes about 1.5 per cent of global emissions.

Government data shows emissions are going up in Canada. In 2022, the latest year of data, emissions in Canada were 708 megatonnes of CO2, an increase of 9.3 megatonnes from 2021.

The federal carbon tax currently costs 17 cents per litre of gasoline, 21 cents per litre of diesel and 15 cents per cubic metre of natural gas.

The carbon tax adds about $13 to the cost of filling up a minivan, about $20 to the cost of filling up a pickup truck and about $200 to the cost of filling up a big rig truck with diesel.

Farmers are charged the carbon tax for heating their barns and drying grains with natural gas and propane. The carbon tax will cost Canadian farmers $1 billion by 2030, according to the Parliamentary Budget Officer.

“No matter how many times this government tries to put lipstick on the carbon tax pig, the reality is clear,” said Kris Sims, CTF Alberta Director. “This tax costs Canadians big time at the gas pump, on home heating bills, on the farm and at the dinner table. Trudeau should make life more affordable and improve the Canadian economy by scrapping his carbon tax.”

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New York and Vermont Seek to Impose a Retroactive Climate Tax

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From Heartland Daily News

By Joshua Loucks for the Cato Institute.

Energy producers will be subject to retroactive taxes in New York if the state assembly passes Senate Bill S2129A, known as the “Climate Change Superfund Act.” The superfund legislation seeks to impose a retroactive tax on energy companies that have emitted greenhouse gases (GHGs) and operated within the state over the last seventy years.

If passed, the new law will impose $75 billion in repayment fees for “historical polluters,” who lawmakers assert are primarily responsible for climate change damages within the state. The state will “assign liability to and require compensation from companies commensurate with their emissions” over the last “70 years or more.” The bill would establish a standard of strict liability, stating that “companies are required to pay into the fund because the use of their products caused the pollution. No finding of wrongdoing is required.”

New York is not alone in this effort. Superfunds built on retroactive taxes on GHG emissions are becoming increasingly popular. Vermont recently enacted similar legislation, S.259 (Act 122), titled the “Climate Superfund Act,” in which the state also retroactively taxes energy producers for historic emissions. Similar bills have also been introduced in Maryland and Massachusetts.

Climate superfund legislation seems to have one purpose: to raise revenue by taxing a politically unpopular industry. Under the New York law, fossil fuel‐​producing energy companies would be taxed billions of dollars retroactively for engaging in legal and necessary behavior. For example, the seventy‐​year retroactive tax would conceivably apply to any company—going back to 1954—that used fossil fuels to generate electricity or produced fuel for New York drivers.

The typical “economic efficiency” arguments for taxing an externality go out the window with the New York and Vermont approach, for at least two reasons. First, the goal of a blackboard or textbook approach to a carbon tax is to internalize the GHG externality. To apply such a tax accurately, the government would need to calculate the social cost of carbon (SCC).

Unfortunately, estimating the SCC is methodologically complex and open to wide ranges of estimates. As a result, the SCC is theoretically very useful but practically impossible to calculate with any reasonable degree of precision.

Second, the retroactive nature of these climate superfunds undermines the very incentives a textbook tax on externalities  would promote. A carbon tax’s central feature is that it is intended to reduce externalities from current and future activity by changing incentives. However, by imposing retroactive taxes, the New York and Vermont legislation will not impact emitters’ future behavior in a way that mimics a textbook carbon tax or improves economic outcomes.

Arbitrary and retroactive taxes can, however, raise prices for consumers by increasing policy uncertainty, affecting firm profitability, and reducing investment (or causing investors to flee GHG‐​emitting industries in the state altogether). Residents in both New York and Vermont already pay over 30 percent more than the US average in residential electricity prices, and this legislation will not lower these costs to consumers.

Climate superfunds are not a serious attempt to solve environmental challenges but rather a way to raise government revenue while unfairly punishing an entire industry (one whose actions the New York legislation claims “have been unconscionable, closely reflecting the strategy of denial, deflection, and delay used by the tobacco industry”).

Fossil fuel companies enabled GHG emissions, of course, but they also empowered significant growth, mobility, and prosperity. The punitive nature of the policy is laid bare by the fact that neither New York nor Vermont used a generic SCC or an evidentiary proceeding to calculate precise damages.

Finally, establishing a standard in which “no finding of wrongdoing is required” to levy fines against historical actions that were (and still are) legally permitted sets a dangerous precedent for what governments can do, not only to businesses that have produced fossil fuels but also to individuals who have consumed them.

Cato research associate Joshua Loucks contributed to this post.

Originally published by the Cato Institute. Republished with permission under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

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