The House

The politics of Netflix

This week on The House, we sit down with Heritage Minister Mélanie Joly to talk about the Liberal government's vision for Canadian content and cultural industries in the digital world, and why it includes a big dose of Netflix. We also have a feature interview with the outgoing leader of the NDP, Tom Mulcair.
Minister of Canadian Heritage Mélanie Joly speaks outlining the government's vision for cultural and creative industries in a digital world in Ottawa, Thursday September 28, 2017. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

Amid criticism over the lack of details with Ottawa's new creative sector policy, Heritage Minister Mélanie Joly is shedding some light on what's to come from the government's agreement with Netflix.

The government's strategy, announced Thursday, broadly aims to support Canadian culture and includes plans to beef up Ottawa's contribution to the Canadian Media Fund, invest in local news and assist artists, musicians, writers and other content creators in a changing digital landscape.

The strategy also includes an agreement with the streaming giant Netflix to spend at least $500 million over five years on creating Canadian content.

One question that remained after Thursday's announcement was whether the money pledged by Netflix would go to creating Canadian content, as defined by Cancon rules, or just to producing content in Canada, such as an American crew shooting a film at a Canadian location. The former would require employing Canadians in key artistic and production roles.

While simply producing content in Canada doesn't appear to be off the table, Joly said the idea is to employ Canadians.

"There's no need for Netflix to open a Canadian production company in Canada just to do service production, which is a term to basically come in Canada and shoot new content," Joly told The House.

Critics of the agreement have voiced concerns that Netflix is gaining an edge over home-grown companies, since the government's strategy doesn't require the company to pay sales tax on its services in Canada.

Putting a tax on digital platforms is a tough question for Finance Minister Bill Morneau to tackle, Joly said.

"That's quite frankly a very complicated question," she added. "All countries in the world are asking themselves how to deal with digital platforms that are mainly American, out of Silicon Valley."

The Netflix operation north of the border is the first production house run by the company outside of the United States.

Globally, Netflix spends $7 billion on production every year.

The $500 million allocated for Canada is just a floor, Joly noted, the company could end up spending more. She also said the company will be providing more details on their plans soon.

Joly added the government is eyeing other big internet companies to make Canadian content production agreements.

"Netflix has much more invested in production than any other platform yet… they're the leaders right now in terms of platforms," she said. "Facebook has said they want to do that. Amazon is right now trying to do that. And so that's why we want to have those discussions."

Preview of next week's First Ministers meeting

Carolyn Bennett is sworn in as minister of Crown-Indigenous relations and northern affairs during a ceremony at Rideau Hall in Ottawa on Monday, Aug. 28, 2017. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

First Nation, Inuit and Metis leaders who will be participating in next week's first ministers' meeting, with a focus on Indigenous economic development, say they hope it will be the start of further conversations about the economy and other issues facing their communities.

Clément Chartier, president of the Métis National Council, told The House that he's pleased with the focus of Tuesday's meeting.

Economic development has been one of his organization's main initiatives under this federal government as well as under the previous government.

Chartier noted that past governments have not taken the Métis into account, since many programs and services were set up for First Nations and Inuit people.

"Our issues were kind of off to the side," Chartier said.

But Chartier said Carolyn Bennett, Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs, is slowly dealing with the Métis Nation-Canadian government relationship.

Chartier said he wants to continue to meet with the Prime Minister and the premiers of provinces that host Métis homelands, from Ontario to the west, to continue to promote economic development and will be asking them to convene yearly meetings with the National Council.

Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde said in an interview with The House that he isn't looking for any specific outcomes from the meeting, but rather to start important discussions.

Bellegarde said that so much has changed in the relationship between the Canadian government and Indigenous groups over the past few years, including the country's adoption of the United Nation Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People.

This, along with many aspects of economic development, including getting First Nations people trained and educated, sustainable land and resource development on First Nations ancestral lands and improving access to capital, will need on the agenda over the coming months and years.

A regular meeting between Indigenous leaders and first ministers would be a solid plan to making these discussions happen, he said.

Clement Chartier, president of the Métis National Council. (David Vincent/The Associated Press)

Carolyn Bennett told The House the first ministers' meeting is reinforcing the need to have Indigenous knowledge at the table in political talks.

"Whenever possible, First Nations, Inuit and Métis needs and perspectives need to be part of the conversation and part of the decisions that are taken amongst first ministers," she said.

The meeting will be an important opportunity to make sure provinces are on the same page with the Indigenous issues Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has highlighted as priorities, such as the recognition of rights, respect, cooperation and partnership, she said.

Tom Mulcair says his legacy is to leave next NDP leader a truly national party

NDP leader Tom Mulcair addresses media prior to a caucus meeting Wednesday, September 14, 2016 in Montreal. (Paul Chiasson/Canadian Press)

Tom Mulcair says he will leave the helm of the federal New Democratic Party confident that he helped secure a permanent base for the party in his home province of Quebec.

Mulcair — dressed in a suit, orange tie and cowboy boots ("It's the most comfortable footwear there is") — sat down with The House this week as the NDP prepares to release the first ballot results in the race to succeed him following the party's disappointing third-place finish in the 2015 election.

Four candidates, Niki Ashton, Charlie Angus, Guy Caron and Jagmeet Singh are on the ballot.

As he often does, Mulcair spoke fondly of being recruited to run in Quebec by former leader Jack Layton, and being given the task of helping to make the NDP a political player in a province that had only once elected a New Democrat to the Commons.

"When Jack tapped me he said, 'you can help us break through.' He knew about the progressive side of Quebec politics, he was convinced we could break through, and that's what we accomplished."

Mulcair won a byelection in Outremont in 2007. Four years later the party won 58 seats in the province, surprising all the pundits, as the so-called Orange Crush propelled the NDP to 103 seats nationally, and to the Official Opposition for the first time in its history.

Jack Layton and Thomas Mulcair worked together to lay the groundwork for an NDP breakthrough in Quebec. 59 New Democrats were elected in the 2011 election. (Andrew Vaughan/Canadian Press)

Those were heady days. But the euphoria didn't last. Layton succumbed to cancer a few months later, and the support from 2011 didn't carry over under Mulcair in 2015.

Even so, he believes the party's presence Quebec is his most important contribution.

"Now, 2011 was beyond our wildest dreams with the numbers that we got. But today, in 2017, we have 16 strong members of Parliament for the NDP in the province of Quebec," Mulcair says.

"You could not claim to be a national party, you could not hope to be one, without that breakthrough in Quebec. And that's what Jack and I both understood intimately. For us to have that presence today, I think that's the best heritage we can be leaving to our next leader and I'm very proud of that."

Mulcair brushes aside polls that suggest the NDP remains a distant third among decided voters, and that support for the party has weakened in Quebec.

"The arrival of a new leader always produces a bump in those same polls. There will be a lot of interest around that new leader, whomever she or he might happen to be, and we will all rally around that leader."

He's similarly unconcerned that Quebec represents only 4 per cent of the 124,000 paid up party members across the country, because it's the only province without a provincial wing of the party.