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Opinion: Canada’s news strategy is a mess



Peter Menzies is a senior fellow with the Macdonald-Laurier Institute, a former publisher at The Calgary Herald and a previous vice chair of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC). This article is based on a recent MLI paper titled, Fixing the media’s trust deficit: Why a long-term national news media policy is vital and urgent.

Canada desperately needs a coherent news industry strategy to merge a series of patchwork actions that risk making the country’s journalists permanently dependent on federal subsidies and oversight.

As it stands, the news industry is supported by roughly $220-million annually through programs such as the Local Journalism Initiative, Canadian Journalism Labour Tax Credit and the Canada Periodical Fund. While the first two were initially introduced as temporary measures, recent enhancements by Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez hint at their becoming every bit as permanent as the periodical fund.

Meanwhile, Bill C-18, the Online News Act, is intended to ensure domestic platforms can bargain collectively with offshore tech companies such as Facebook and Google. But it has been criticized on several fronts.


Globe and Mail publisher Phillip Crawley, for example, has raised his concerns over the possible oversight of commercial agreements by the cabinet-appointed leadership of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission.

Small independent news providers and new online innovators – numbering more than 200 across the country – are worried about their exclusion from benefits and view the legislation as tipping the scales against them.

Still others raise concerns regarding the ability of news media to maintain public trust to hold government to account in an independent manner, when their sustainability may be tied to that very government. This is of timely significance when public confidence in journalism is at an all-time low.

What is most troubling is that no one seems to be in charge of the overall picture, or care about the impact and unintended consequences of policy on the overall health of the news industrial ecosystem.

The CRTC, for instance, continues to insist that each radio station must have a news component when, at least in major markets, citizens are already well-served. Moreover, in smaller markets, many radio companies have used their news and other resources to develop websites that put local papers in such financial peril that they seek government subsidies. Similarly, community broadcasters were created to ensure alternative views have a voice. But now, thanks to the internet, everyone has a voice.

And then there’s the CBC.

It is one thing to have a properly funded public broadcaster capable of ensuring programming in both official and Indigenous languages. But what we have right now is a public-funded maze of commercial television and ad-free radio that all become merged into the nation’s dominant commercial news website and, as such, is forecast to be the single largest beneficiary of Bill C-18.

Ottawa subsidizes CBC with $1.4-billion annually. This is to the detriment of other news organizations, which it then must also support with funding. Nothing about this scenario is sensible.

So long as government is prepared to sustain the news industry through subsidy and oversight of commercial arrangements (which then actually aren’t commercial arrangements), there will be less room in the market for 21st-century innovation and revitalization. We will increasingly see unbalanced outcomes such as legacy daily newspapers without city hall, provincial or parliamentary bureaus being eligible for subsidies, while independent online news providers that staff such bureaus are not.

The federal government must develop and implement a national media strategy focused on ensuring that citizens have access to information vital to being accurately informed on current events and assist them with the organization of their lives. Such a strategy should emphasize the need for pluralism of ownership and sustain journalism that provides information to the public in a manner that halts and reverses declines in their trust.

Moreover, Ottawa must recognize that public confidence in both it and news media can only be sustained and flourish if the journalism industry becomes independent from government funding or approval of content. We must accept that, just like in every other industry, some organizations incapable of transitioning to the digital age will fail.

There is an opportunity to devise a strategy that fosters a market-based news industry based on meeting the needs and expectations of citizens. Rather than bankroll an outdated model, Ottawa can inspire and support the innovation and entrepreneurship required for the industry to move into a new era of digital news delivery.

Lurching from one reactionary subsidy to the next, however well-intended, is no way to provide the stability this struggling – and important – industry needs. Ad hoc policy making, as Canada is currently doing, can’t possibly end well for anyone.

Well, except the CBC.

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UPEI students offered $1,500 to leave residence during Canada Games –



Some UPEI students are earning extra money during the mid-semester break this year, simply by packing up and leaving campus. 

The 2023 Canada Winter Games Host Society offered $1,500 each to students living in Andrew Hall if they give up their residence rooms to make space for arriving athletes. 

The students have to leave a few days before the break starts, on Feb. 17, and can return March 7. They also had to give up their meal plan for the duration.


Many athletes are staying at UPEI’s new 260-bed residence, built to meet accommodation requirements for the Games’ temporary athlete village.

But Wayne Carew, chair of the Games, said there are 120 more athletes coming than originally planned. 

A portrait of a man standing outside, wearing a jacket with the Canada Winter Games logo.
Organizers want the athletes all to stay on the UPEI campus so they can have ‘the experience of a lifetime,’ says Wayne Carew, chair of the 2023 Canada Winter Games Host Society. (Tony Davis/CBC)

“We ended up getting 44 rooms [in Andrew Hall] and that’s great,” said Carew.

He said the athletes staying at UPEI “are going to have a wild experience on the campus of the beautiful University of Prince Edward Island.” 

Carew said the costs of doing this are a “lot cheaper” than arranging accommodations elsewhere. But he said the main reason is to provide all athletes the same, “once-in-a-lifetime” experience.

“Where they live, the food and the camaraderie and the experience of a lifetime: that’s what they’ll remember in 20 years’ time about P.E.I.,” he said.

‘Pretty good deal’

Some students were eager to take the organizers up on their offer.

“I’m going away to Florida during the two-week break anyways. So I was like, ‘May as well let them use my room then,'” said Hannah Somers. 

Portrait of a man in a toque and a grey sweater standing in front of a residence hall.
UPEI student Benji Dueck is moving in with a friend during the Canada Games so he can get the $1,500 offer. (Tony Davis/CBC)

“It’s $1,500. Pretty nice,” said Benji Dueck, who agreed to vacate the room with his roommate.  “We’re moving out, living with a friend in the city. So, sounds like a pretty good deal to me.”

As part of the agreement, the students had to clear out their rooms. Canada Games organizers made arrangements so students could store their belongings.

But not all students thought it was a good deal.

Portrait of a woman in a black down jacket standing in front of a residence hall.
UPEI student Maria de Torres won’t be leaving residence during the Canada Games. ‘It’s just too hard to pack up. It’s just too hectic,’ she says. (Tony Davis/CBC)

“I’m not giving up my spot in Andrew Hall for $1,500,” said Maria de Torres. “It’s just too hard to pack up. It’s just too hectic. And since I’m an international student, I got a lot [of things] right now.”

Shelby Dyment is also staying in Andrew Hall. Dyment said she and her roommate are working as residence life assistants during the mid-semester break and she’s also doing directed study, so she has to stay on campus.

“There’s a lot of people doing it. It’s just for our situation it just wasn’t working for what we were doing,” she said.

In a statement, UPEI said that enough students had accepted the offer to host all the athletes. 

It said the host society made all the arrangements with the students, including paying for their incentives and arranging for storage.

Organizers expect about 3,600 athletes, coaches and officials to participate in the Games. The event will run from Feb. 18 to March 5.

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Germany won't be a 'party to the war' amid tanks exports to Ukraine: Ambassador – CTV News



The German ambassador to Canada says Germany will not become “a party to the conflict” in Ukraine, despite it and several other countries announcing they’ll answer President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s pleas for tanks, possibly increasing the risk of Russian escalation.

Sabine Sparwasser said it’s a “real priority” for Germany to support Ukraine, but that it’s important to be in “lockstep” coordination with other allied countries.

“There is a clear line for Germany,” she told CTV’s Question Period host Vassy Kapelos, in an interview airing Sunday. “We do want not want to be a party to the conflict.”


“We want to support, we want to do everything we can, but we, and NATO, do not want to be a party to the war,” she also said. “That’s I think, the line we’re trying to follow.”

Defence Minister Anita Anand announced this week Canada will send four Leopard 2 battle tanks — with the possibility of more in the future — to Ukraine, along with Canadian Armed Forces members to train Ukrainian soldiers on how to use them.

Canada first needed permission from Berlin to re-export any of its 82 German-made Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine. After a meeting of 50 defence leaders in Germany earlier this month, it was unclear whether Germany would give the green light.

But following what German Chancellor Olaf Scholz called “intensive consultations,” Germany announced on Jan. 25 it would send tanks to Ukraine, and the following day, Canada followed suit. It is now joining several other countries, including the United States, the United Kingdom, and Poland, which are sending several dozen tanks to Ukraine.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said this week the tanks would allow Ukraine to “significantly strengthen their combat capabilities.”

“It demonstrates also the unit and the resolve of NATO allies in partners in providing support to Ukraine,” he said.

Meanwhile Sparwasser said Germany is “walking that fine line” of avoiding steps that could prompt escalation from Russia, while supporting Ukraine, and staying out of the war themselves.

“I think it’s very important to see that Germany is very determined and has a real priority in supporting Ukraine in its struggle for freedom and sovereignty,” Sparwasser said. “But we also put a high priority on going it together with our friends and allies.”

Sparwasser said despite warnings from Russia that sending tanks to Ukraine will cause an escalation, Germany is within international law — specifically Article 51 of the United Nations Charter — to provide support to Ukraine.

“Ukraine is under attack has the right to self defence, and other nations can come in and provide Ukraine with the means to defend itself,” Sparwasser said. “So in international law terms, this is a very clear cut case.”

She added that considering “Russia doesn’t respect international law,” it’s a more impactful deterrent to Russia, ahead of an expected spring offensive, to see several countries come together in support of Ukraine.

With files from the Associated Press

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COVID: Canada retaining Evusheld – CTV News



While Health Canada says it is “aware” of the U.S. decision to withdraw the emergency use of Evusheld, a drug by AstraZeneca used to help prevent COVID-19 infection— the agency is maintaining its approval, citing the differences in variant circulation between Canada and the U.S.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced on Jan. 26 that its emergency use authorization of the drug was pulled due to its inefficacy in treating “certain” COVID-19 variants.

The FDA stated in a release on its website that as the XBB.1.5. variant, nicknamed “Kraken”, is making up the majority of cases in the country, the use of Evusheld is “not expected to provide protection” and therefore not worth exposing the public to possible side effects of the drug, like allergic reactions.


In an email to, Health Canada said the U.S. Food and Drug Administration pulled the drug as the main variant of concern in the U.S. is XBB.1.5.

“Dominant variants in the [U.S.] may be different from those circulating in Canada,” the federal agency said in an email. “The most recent epidemiological data in Canada (as of January 1, 2023) indicate that BA.5 (Omicron) subvariants continue to account for more than 89 per cent of reported cases.”

On Jan. 6 the FDA said in press release that certain variants are not neutralized by Evusheld and cautioned people who are exposed to XBB.1.5. On Jan. 26, the FDA then updated its website by saying it would be limiting the use of Evusheld.

“Evusheld is not currently authorized for use in the U.S. until further notice by the Agency,” the FDA website states.

On Jan. 17, Health Canada issued a “risk communication” on Evusheld, explaining how it may not be effective against certain Omicron subvariants when used as a preventative measure or treatment for COVID-19.

“Decisions regarding the use of EVUSHELD should take into consideration what is known about the characteristics of the circulating COVID-19 variants, including geographical prevalence and individual exposure,” Health Canada said in an email.

Health Canada says Evusheld does neutralize against Omicron subvariant BA.2, which according to the agency, is the dominant variant in many communities in Canada.

The drug was introduced for prevention measures specifically for people who have weaker immune systems and are unlikely to be protected by a COVID-19 vaccine. It can only be given to people 12 years and older.

“EVUSHELD is not a substitute for vaccination in individuals for whom COVID-19 vaccination is recommended,” the agency’s website reads.

Health Canada says no drug, including Evusheld, is a substitute for vaccination.

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