iPolitics

iPolitics: Handouts won’t help Canada’s ailing news business

Written with Jackson Doughart

Private-sector newspapers were once in the business of scrutinizing government, including government spending. Now, they’re the ones with their hands out.

Today’s news media outlets face a terrible Catch-22: If their representatives succeed in securing state funding, they will jeopardize their independence and become mere minor-key equivalents of the CBC. But if they can’t get their private funding houses in order, their products will wilt away, and the CBC’s advantage — deep government funding — will finish them off for good.

Recent developments in Quebec suggest that many outlets are heading down the subsidy path: 146 newspapers in the province have formed a coalition to lobby the Quebec government to fund their digitization efforts. The mix is mostly small local outlets controlled by three different conglomerates, as well as Le Devoir.

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Prince Arthur Herald | Huffington Post

PAH: Constraining personal identity is not the government’s job

Last week, Québec Solidaire Member of the National Assembly Manon Massé presented a private member’s bill that would allow minors as young as 14 to alter the sex marked on their birth certificates. This reform would bring Quebec laws in line with those in Alberta, British Columbia, Newfoundland, and Nova Scotia, where such changes are already allowed. Transgender youth in Quebec already have the right to legally change their names to reflect the sex with which they identify.

The new bill seeks to remove the burden that transgender teens feel when forced to choose between their legal identity and how they truly feel. In an op-ed that appeared in the Montreal Gazette, Kimberly Manning gave the example of a young student losing 20 minutes on a high school entrance exam to decide whether to check the M box or F box. This type of hardship is one that most people will never be able to comprehend, myself included.

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Postmedia

Montreal Gazette: New Brunswick beer ruling will help open up interprovincial trade

On April 29, New Brunswick provincial court judge Ronald LeBlanc ruled in favour of Gerard Comeau, who had been charged with transporting beer and liquor from Quebec into his home province.

New Brunswick’s Liquor Control Act limits how much alcohol a person can possess that does not originate from the provincial liquor board. The judge ruled that the limit constituted a trade barrier, violating Section 121 of Canada’s Constitution Act, 1867 which says that goods shall be “admitted free into each of the other provinces.” He recognized that the Fathers of Confederation were adamantly clear that free trade between provinces was one of the reasons for creating a new country.

While Comeau drove to Quebec to stock up on cheaper beer, Quebec also has erected its own walls that restrict Quebecers’ access to out-of-province booze.

For individuals, the law prohibits importing more than 12 bottles of wine, three bottles of spirits, and 72 bottles of beer from another province. Want to bring back an extra case of wine from that trip to Niagara? Better watch out for a RCMP sting operation. Hope that British Columbia winery can send you a few bottles? Not a chance.

Not many are fazed by the current law — the SAQ loses $90 million of taxes and markups per year from alcohol purchases outside the province — but as Comeau found out, enforcement can happen anywhere, without notice.

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Postmedia

National Post: Quebec’s ‘married name’ law is paternalistic and dumb

Some Canadians might view the PMO directive that Justin Trudeau’s wife be always referred to by her hyphenated surname as a gesture to gender equality. Despite her union to Canada’s most powerful man, Mrs. Grégoire-Trudeau has challenged a paternalistic social construct by opting to keep her maiden name. Because it was 2015, right?

However, what Canada’s “first couple” is actually doing is giving Quebec’s Civil Code the middle finger — and good on them for it.

Since 1981, it has been illegal for women in Quebec to change their surname when they marry. Since Trudeau and Grégoire married in 2005 in Montreal, she has had no right to share names with her husband — or their children, for that matter.

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Postmedia

Montreal Gazette: Artisanal distillers shouldn’t be left out of Quebec’s liquor-sale liberalization

Think of a spirit made in Quebec — one of the first to pop in your mind will likely be PUR Vodka, Ungava Gin, or maybe even Piger Henricus gin. These small Quebec liquors have all won multiple international awards for taste and quality, and continue to impress spirits aficionados around the world. The SAQ has also dedicated thousands of your taxpayer dollars to advertise them, increasing their reputation.

Now, think of a Quebec wine — any wine. Having trouble? Unlike our spirits, the SAQ has done little to promote wines with a Quebec terroir, and few have won widespread international recognition. Though Quebec has great wine to offer, most people simply don’t know about them.

So it’s a bit of a turnaround to see the government now making it harder for distillers to do business in the province, while making it much easier for everyone else.

Quebec’s Minister of Finance recently tabled Bill 88, An Act respecting development of the small-scale alcoholic beverage industry. Most of the measures in the bill are very welcome. For one, Quebec alcohol producers will be allowed to sell their products directly to grocery stores and dépanneurs, giving them the same rights as breweries. Breweries and other alcohol producers will also be allowed to sell bottles of booze directly at the point of production, bringing the province in line with the rest of the civilized world.

But here’s the catch: To be able to sell anything that isn’t beer outside the SAQ, the alcohol must only be made from fruit, honey, or maple syrup — when’s the last time you enjoyed a good maple wine? — and it has to contain less than 16 per cent alcohol by volume.

This clause has locked Quebec’s artisanal distillers out from liberalization. The minister has effectively decided that distillers have no right to operate like normal businesses.

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C2C Journal

C2C: A veiled threat to the NDP in Quebec

If any province is likely to confound the pundits and embarrass the pollsters on October 19, it is Quebec.

At the outset of the 2011 federal election most predicted the separatist Bloc Québécois would take a majority of the province’s seats, as they had in every election since their creation in 1993. Instead, the BQ was decimated by the NDP, a party that had previously held just one seat in Quebec. Political historians are still trying to fathom the Orange Wave, as it was called, but most agree it had much to do with NDP leader Jack Layton, who wowed Quebecers with his performances in the national leaders’ debates and a popular Francophone talk show – even as he was fighting the cancer that would kill him within a few months of the election. Many thought the NDP win was a fluke; with “Le bon Jack” gone, surely the Wave would recede.

Instead, eight weeks into the 2015 campaign, polls are promising a repeat performance from the NDP. Leader Thomas Mulcair, the holder of that lone Quebec seat in 2011, has apparently consolidated his party’s hold on the province. His 58 rookie MPs there have far exceeded the very low expectations that accompanied their arrival in office, and despite running to the right of all his competitors except the Conservatives on fiscal policy, Mulcair appears to have constructed a sturdy bond between his party and the province’s dominant constituencies of leftists and nationalists.

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Postmedia

Montreal Gazette: Quebec should get rid of the SAQ and privatize alcohol sales

Is it relevant for the state to be involved in the retail sale of alcohol in 2015?

In a report released Monday, Quebec’s Ongoing Program Review Committee answered this guiding question with a resounding “no.”

Chaired by former politician Lucienne Robillard, the committee was tasked by Premier Philippe Couillard with reviewing program spending and suggesting inefficiencies to cut.

It didn’t call for the privatization of the SAQ, unfortunately. Instead, the committee advocated liberalizing the sale of alcohol, leaving the SAQ to compete with private companies much the same way Canada Post competes with FedEx and UPS.

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