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Government surrenders to Google: Peter Menzies


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From the MacDonald Laurier Institute

By Peter Menzies

In the short term, this is very good news. The bad news is that $100 million won’t save journalism

Heritage Minister Pascale St. Onge has surrendered to Google and Canadian media have avoided what would have been a catastrophic exclusion from the web giant’s search engine.

In the short term, this is very good news. The bureaucrats at Heritage must have performed many administrative contortions to find the words needed in the Online News Act’s final regulations to satisfy Google, a beast which isn’t easily soothed. In doing so, they have managed to avoid what Google was threatening — to de-index news links from its search engine and other platforms in Canada. Given that Meta had already dropped the carriage of news on Facebook and Instagram in response to the same legislation, Google’s departure would have constituted a kill shot to the industry.

Instead, the news business will get $100 million in Google cash. For this, all its members will now fight like so many pigeons swarming an errant crust of bread.

The agreement will also allow the government, while surrounded by an industry whose reputation and economics have been devastated by this policy debacle, to attempt to declare victory. Signs of that are already evident.

That’s the good news.

The bad news is that while 100 million bucks is nothing to sneeze at, in the grand scheme of things it is a drop in the bucket for an industry in need of at least a billion dollars if it is to recover any sense of stability. Indeed, when News Media Canada first began begging the government to go after Google and Meta for cash, some involved were selling the idea that sort of loot was possible.

This did not turn out to be so.

Instead of the $100,000 per journo cashapalooza that was once hoped for, the final tally will be more like $6,666.00 per ink-stained wretch.

That figure is based on two assumptions. The first is that the government has agreed to satisfy Google’s desire to pay a single sum to a single defined industry “collective” that would then divide the loot on a per-FTE (full-time employee) basis to everyone granted membership in the industry’s bargaining group. Google had made it clear it had no interest in conducting multiple negotiations and exposing itself to endless and costly arbitrations. So, as we have a deal and Google held all the cards, it’s fair to assume it got what it wanted — a single collective with a single agreement and a single cheque.

The outcome, in the end, (and the government will deny this endlessly) is essentially what Google was offering from the outset and what Konrad von Finckenstein and I had recommended in our policy paper for the Macdonald-Laurier Institute — a fund.

Now comes the haggling within the collective: who counts as a journalism FTE? Newsroom editors, photogs, camera operators, graphic artists, illustrators, support staff, and so on?

The second assumption is that this fund will be distributed across about 15,000 media workers nationwide. But whether that number turns out to be 15,000 or 5,000, here’s what really matters:

Such an agreement is likely to bring an end to Google’s existing commercial agreements — at least with those organizations that join the collective. That means the incremental amount of cash coming into the industry once its internal negotiations have been completed could be somewhat less than $100 million. How much less would be pure speculation, but individual agreements certainly exist — with the Star, for example, and also with Postmedia. Or at least they did.

The largest beneficiaries — because they have the most journalists — will almost certainly be the CBC/SRC, Bell Media and Rogers, none of which actually need the money, and that may also convince the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) to shake down foreign streamers to subsidize their newsrooms.

Just for reference, Bell Media’s parent company made $10 billion last year.

With 75 per cent of the dollars predicted to go to broadcasters, that leaves those organizations in the most dire financial circumstances — Postmedia and the Toronto Star for example — with about $25 million to fight over. So, the scraps will go to the starving (the Star has suggested it is losing close to a million dollars a week) while the healthy will be even more well fed.

And of course none of this means Meta, which had estimated that on top of the $18 million it provided to Canadian journalism directly via now-cancelled deals, it also once drove more than $200 million in business annually to Canadian news organizations, will get back in the business of carrying news. If we assume that was the case, the final impact of the Online News Act amounts to revenue losses to the nation’s news industry of something north of $100 million, likely closer to $150 million.

It also means that those smaller startup news organizations that may have represented the industry’s best chance to transition to the digital world no longer have access to Facebook or Instagram, which constituted a free platform through which they could launch and market their ventures.

The bottom line is that lobbyists for Canada’s news industry, in concert with the government, launched the Online News Act in the belief it would make the industry better off by as much as $600 million and no less than $230 million. The end result is an industry at least $100 million worse off and with severely reduced access to the eyeballs needed to survive.

Well played, everyone. Well played.

Peter Menzies is a senior fellow with the Macdonald-Laurier Institute, past vice-chair of the CRTC and a former newspaper publisher.

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Edmonton triples venture capital investment in 2023

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Alberta’s tech sector continues its strong momentum, with Edmonton seeing its strongest growth ever, proof Alberta remains a hot tech market.

As global and national investment have declined, Alberta has remained a strong tech market and is showing continued leadership, as shown by Pitchbook ranking Calgary as the 12th fastest-growing tech ecosystem in the world and LinkedIn ranking Calgary as one of the best places to hire and recruit tech workers.

At the end of 2023, Alberta’s five-year growth rate for venture capital dollars invested reached an impressive 48.5 per cent, more than triple Canada’s compounded average growth rate of 13 per cent, according to the 2023 Canadian Venture Capital Private Equity Association fourth-quarter report.

The province’s growth rate means Alberta finished 2023 with $707 million invested over 86 deals, in line with Alberta’s 2022 record-breaking year. In contrast, Canada ended the year with a 31 per cent decline in investments. Over the past five years, Alberta technology companies have secured more than $2.7 billion in venture capital funding across 350 deals, creating thousands of jobs for Albertans.

“While Canada as a whole saw massive declines, Alberta has held steady. We are a major venture capital player in Canada, as technology drives growth across all sectors.”

Nate Glubish, Minister of Technology and Innovation

Alberta’s two largest cities continued to attract investment dollars in 2023, with Calgary and Edmonton coming in fourth and fifth respectively for number of deals, with $501 million invested in 64 deals in Calgary and $188 million invested in 21 deals in Edmonton. Edmonton saw a 324 per cent increase from $58 million in 2022 to $188 million in 2023. In total, Alberta captured 10.3 per cent of dollars invested in 2023 and 13 per cent of venture capital deals in Canada.

“Edmonton’s tripling of venture capital investment in 2023 underscores our city’s position as a dynamic tech capital within Alberta’s thriving innovation ecosystem, reaffirming our role as a powerhouse driving technological advancement and economic prosperity across diverse sectors. It is the local innovators’ relentless pursuit of solutions to real-world problems, with the continuing support of the Government of Alberta, which not only attracts significant investment but also propels our city to the forefront of Alberta’s tech revolution and fosters job creation for our community.”

Launa Aspeslet, interim chief executive officer, Edmonton Unlimited

“At Platform Calgary we are working with our partners to continue this momentum by linking up high potential tech startups with the investors that can help them take their businesses to the next level. The evidence is clear, Alberta is emerging as one of the most exciting and resilient tech ecosystems in the world. Together with our growing tech community, we can secure Alberta’s position as the best place in the world for anyone to launch and grow a tech business.”

Terry Rock, president and chief executive officer, Platform Calgary 

Alberta remains a growing market for the technology and innovation sector, and Alberta’s government celebrates its steady contribution to the Alberta economy, including in the fourth quarter of 2023. The end of last year saw venture capital investments in the province increase by 35 per cent for dollars invested and 19 per cent for deals closed compared with the third quarter. There were 25 deals closed valued at a combined $173 million in the fourth quarter of 2023.

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Taxpayer watchdog slams Trudeau gov’t for increasing debt ceiling: ‘Put down the credit card’

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From LifeSiteNews

By Anthony Murdoch

Canadian Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland authorized an additional $73 billion in borrowing this fiscal year.

After Canadian Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland gave herself and the government the authority to borrow an additional $73 billion this fiscal year, the head of the nation’s leading taxpayer watchdog group said the federal government needs to “put down the credit card” and return to common-sense spending.

Freeland, as per a February 15 cabinet order made under the Financial Administration Act, allowed the extra borrowing to take place.

The government has set “$517 billion to be the maximum aggregate principal amount of money that may be borrowed” before April 1. Before this cabinet order, however, the maximum amount was $444 billion.

Despite Freeland claiming that the increase in borrowing is “in no way a blank cheque,” Canadian Taxpayers Federation federal director Franco Terrazzano said the borrowing needs to end.

“The Trudeau government needs to put down the credit card and pick up some scissors,” Terrazzano told LifeSiteNews.

“The government should be cutting spending and balancing the budget, not racking up more debt for years to come.”

In 2021, Canada’s Parliament raised the federal debt borrowing amount by a whopping 56% under the Borrowing Authority Act. The amount went from $1.168 trillion to $1.831 trillion.

“What it does is set a ceiling for how much the government can spend,” Freeland said at the time.

Terrazzano told LifeSiteNews that the Trudeau government should be cutting spending and balancing the budget, not racking up more debt for years to come.

Terrazzano observed that in the coming year the Trudeau government will be spending “more money on debt interest charges than it sends to the provinces in health transfers.”

“In a handful of years, every penny collected from the GST (Goods and Service Tax) will go toward paying interest on the debt,” he noted.

Under Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, due to excessive COVID money printing, inflation has skyrocketed.

Last month, LifeSiteNews reported that fast-rising food costs in Canada have led to many people feeling a sense of “hopelessness and desperation” with nowhere to turn for help, according to the Canadian government’s own National Advisory Council on Poverty.

Last year, the Bank of Canada acknowledged that Trudeau’s federal “climate change” programs, which have been deemed “extreme” by some provincial leaders, are indeed helping to fuel inflation.

Terrazzano told LifeSiteNews that Trudeau should “completely scrap his carbon tax,” which is making everything more expensive.

Conservatives blast increased debt

Conservative Party of Canada (CPC) MPs have been critical of the raised debt ceiling. “You’re simply saying, ‘Give me a blank cheque and then trust me,’” MP Ed Fast said.

Freeland claimed that the “characterization of the borrowing authority limit as a blank cheque is simply false.”

CPC leader Pierre Poilievre recently asked, “Is there a dollar figure to which she would limit the debt?”

She replied that the government is “mindful that limits exist.”

During a February 13 Senate national finance committee meeting, Budget Officer Yves Giroux noted how Trudeau’s cabinet plans in terms of spending are not clear.

“We don’t know exactly what the government plans on spending or doing in terms of new spending or potential spending,” he said when asked by Senator Elizabeth Marshall if the new borrowing limits are “still realistic.”

Marshall added, “As it stands now, do you think it looks reasonable?”

“It looks sufficient, but the government always wants to give itself some room to maneuver in case there are unforeseen events that require borrowing on short notice,” Giroux replied.

A report from September 5, 2023, by Statistics Canada shows food prices are rising faster than headline inflation at a rate of between 10% and 18% per year.

According to a recent Statistics Canada survey of supermarket prices, Canadians are paying 12% more for carrots, 14% more for hamburger (ground meat), and 27% more for baby formula.

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