The truth is, fair regulation for streaming giants isn't complicated at all: it's the law. The Broadcasting Act already says that Netflix, Apple, Amazon and Disney are broadcasters. The CRTC has the authority to regulate but has chosen to look the other way, sparing these U.S. tech giants from the obligation their Canadian competitors must uphold.
The government could instruct the CRTC to take this on, but has chosen not to.
Instead, this government signed a secret deal with Netflix to make American content on Canadian sets in exchange for exemptions from Canadian regulation and taxation. In 2018, the prime minister himself rose in the House to promise that he would not require firms like Netflix to collect sales taxes. Why? To keep prices down. Yet in the four years since Mr. Harper and then Mr. Trudeau promised "No Netflix Tax," Netflix has raised its Canadian prices three times. Joke's on us.
The government's special treatment for Netflix is unacceptable, and they know it. Before the election, Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez promised that the next Liberal government would end the "free ride" for streaming services like Netflix.
After the election is now. This is the time to act.
Here are two steps the government must take to restore fairness to Canadian broadcasting.
First, they must require the streaming giants to collect sales taxes. This is a no-brainer. Quebec and Saskatchewan have already proven that this can work. Doing so would generate at least $130 million per year, and level the playing field for Canadian companies.
Second, the government must instruct the CRTC to stop exempting American streaming giants from Cancon investment requirements. This would infuse more than $300 million into Canada's screen industries, at no cost to consumers, creating well-paying jobs for Canadian workers telling Canadian stories.
This could be the golden age of Canadian storytelling. But that won't happen unless the government keeps its promise to end the free ride for foreign streaming giants.
Jerry Dias is president of Unifor; Daniel Bernhard is executive director of Friends of Canadian Broadcasting.
© The Hamilton Spectator