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Government, two opposition parties set to show united front in support of Online News Act

In a sign negotiations with tech giants Google and Meta over the government’s new Online News Act may be at an impasse, the Liberals, the NDP and the Bloc Québécois are expected to present a united front in support of the legislation at a news conference today.

“Canada is standing up to the tech giants for the right reasons,” Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez said in a media statement. “A free and independent press is fundamental to our democracy.”

His office did not say if the government would have anything new to announce at the news conference.

“We’re going to keep standing our ground. After all, if the government can’t stand up for Canadians against tech giants, who will?” Rodriguez’s statement said.

“We’re not going to bend over backwards, we’re not going to change our position,” an NDP source said. CBC News is not identifying the source because they were not authorized to comment publicly on the issue.

The source called Google’s announcement last week that it would remove Canadian news content from its search, news and discover products an act of “intimidation.”

Meta, Facebook’s parent company, also has said it would stop Canadian users from posting Canadian news outlets’ links on Facebook or Instagram pages.

Neither company has made good on those threats yet, even though the Online News Act, also known as C-18, received royal assent after passing both the House of Commons and the Senate.

The law compels companies like Google and Meta to pay money to a news organization each time a user accesses a web story through a link on one of their products.

The bill has been pitched as a way to keep news outlets solvent after advertising moved en masse to digital platforms, virtually wiping out a major revenue stream for journalism.

As a news organization, the CBC could see a financial benefit under C-18, which requires the CBC to provide an annual report on any compensation for news it receives from digital operators.

“Laws voted in democratically must be respected,” said Martin Champoux, heritage critic for the Bloc Québécois, in a media statement.

A man in glasses and a blue suit stands and speaks.
Bloc MP Martin Champoux says laws adopted by Parliament “must be respected.” (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

Champoux is expected to appear alongside Rodriguez and the NDP’s Peter Julian on Wednesday. He said the news conference is “an occasion to show how serious we are in protecting news media and ensure there’s a fairer way to share ad revenues.”

The Conservative Party did not offer a comment for this story. It voted against C-18 and party leader Pierre Poilievre vowed in a tweet to “repeal [Prime Minister Justin] Trudeau’s censorship laws.”

Google and Meta also did not offer comment for this story. In the past, both companies have called the legislation unworkable.

Google has compared the exposure it provides through its search engine to a free newsstand service for media outlets. Meta has said it sees no room for negotiation with the government, given the way the law was written.

Last week, Rodriguez told CBC News he was expecting to speak to Google this week and suggested that regulations in support of the new law could address some of the company’s concerns. His office has not said whether such talks have happened yet.

Google has said it looks forward to taking part in the regulatory process. 

CBC News will livestream today’s news conference at noon ET.

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