Quebec to invoke closure on bill to make La Presse a not-for-profit

The structural change announced last month needs the Quebec government to repeal a provision of an act adopted in 1967 regarding La Presse's ownership.

The publication's structural change needs the Quebec government's approval

In December 2017, La Presse stopped printing paper copies and went exclusively digital. Last month, it announced plans to adopt a not-for-profit structure. (Benjamin Shingler/CBC)

The Quebec government will invoke closure later today to ram through legislation aimed at allowing Montreal-based La Presse news group to adopt a not-for-profit structure.

Government house leader Jean-Marc Fournier made the announcement this morning.

Fournier says the government is fully justified in doing so because of the refusal by one member of the National Assembly, Martine Ouellet, to support the legislation.

Ouellet wanted to amend the law, notably to include a guarantee the newspaper's independence. Its editorial position tends to promote federalist views.

The bill required the unanimous consent of all members of the legislature to become law because it was tabled late in the session.

The structural change announced last month needed the Quebec government to repeal a provision of an act adopted in 1967 regarding La Presse's ownership.

Power Corporation of Canada, whose subsidiary Square Victoria Communications Group currently owns the 130-year-old publication, will grant $50 million to the not-for-profit venture.

Power Corp. would no longer own the media company or have any ties with the new structure.

An evolution of Canadian newspapers

Traditional media in the country are grappling with the loss of advertising revenue, resulting in mass layoffs, publication closures and a shift to fewer print editions and more online publications.

Nearly a year ago, La Presse announced it would end its print edition in 2017 and publish only on its website and tablet edition.

The organization urged the federal government to financially support the written press through philanthropic models and direct assistance when it made its announcement.

Ottawa indicated it would do so in its last budget, tabled in February.

The Liberal government proposed $50 million over five years to support independent, non-governmental organizations that will spur on local journalism in under-served communities.

The budget also said the government will spend the next year exploring models that would allow private giving or philanthropic support for non-profit journalism and local news.

La Presse publisher Guy Crevier, left, announced in early May the Montreal-based news group planned to adopt a not-for-profit structure. (Paul Chiasson/Canadian Press)

La Presse president Pierre-Elliott Levasseur said last month the decision to become a not-for-profit entity had to be made.

"I don't think there's a person in Quebec or in the rest of Canada who's going to give money to La Presse in the form of a donation knowing that Power Corp. is the owner," he said last month.

"So I think what we're doing is opening the door to donations from large companies, from large donors, as well as the average citizen who understands the role La Presse plays in society."

With files from Radio-Canada