As journalists, we have a novelty bias. We're always looking for what's new, what's different, what's changed. That makes it challenging sometimes to cover issues that are always going on. Like climate change: Yes, the Earth is still getting warmer. Yes, the ice caps are at record lows. So what's new today?
One of these ongoing challenges is in the news business itself. (Emphasis on the "business.") Advertising has gone through a massive disruption in the digital age that is only accelerating. Companies don't spend on print advertising like they used to. The availability of advertising on Google and Facebook is driving down the cost of digital ads to peanuts – great for those doing the advertising, perhaps, but not so good for those who relied on the revenue to keep the lights on.
The Toronto Star cut jobs yesterday, and even cancelled its famed internship program, which has trained generations of young reporters in Canada.
In an interview with The Globe and Mail, Torstar chair John Honderich lays out what's going on:
"We have very little time left. More cuts will be coming, guaranteed. I'm not going to speculate on various competitors, but we're very, very close to the end. We've seen what owners can do in terms of maintaining quality journalism. I don't think enough credit or recognition is given to what the Thomson and Desmarais families have done in terms of maintaining The Globe and Mail and La Presse."
That interview is behind The Globe and Mail's paywall. It is worth reading if you are interested in where journalism is headed. And if you aren't yet a subscriber of The Globe – please consider it. If you read and like this newsletter, we think you'll like what the rest of The Globe offers, too.
This is the daily Politics Briefing newsletter, written by Chris Hannay in Ottawa, Mayaz Alam in Toronto and James Keller in Vancouver. If you're reading this on the web or someone forwarded this email newsletter to you, you can sign up for Politics Briefing and all Globe newsletters here. Have any feedback? Let us know what you think.
Mark your calendars: The Liberals' third budget is coming down on Tuesday, Feb. 27. Gender equality and science are expected to be two of the major themes in how the government will spend in next fiscal year.
The government will not, however, save money by pulling their funding of Oxfam, as Britain might do. The global charity has been under fire since reports that aid workers in Haiti and Chad were paying for sex while doing relief work.
The Crown corporation that helped facilitate a controversial sale of helicopters to the Philippines military has a new leader. The government has raised concerns with the sale and the agency's focus on selling arms, but insists plans for a new leader had been underway for a long time.
Canada's lead negotiator for the North American free-trade agreement, Steve Verheul, says talks aren't going well. "The main issue is we have seen limited U.S. flexibility even on fairly easy issues. They do not come to the table – our counterparts – with a lot of flexibility. This is being driven to a large extent from the top, from the administration," he told a trade crowd in Ottawa.
Debbie Baptiste, the mother of Colten Boushie, says she's optimistic after having talks with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and many Liberal cabinet ministers about reforming the justice system and how it treats Indigenous people.
The Liberals might use time allocation to get marijuana legalized by the summer. People currently working in the black- and grey-market pot industries are waiting to see what legalization will mean for them. As Ottawa and provincial governments prepare for legalization, the focus has been on stamping out the current illegal market – but that could mean bringing at least some people who've been operating in the shadows into the legal system. It's a problem lawmakers have yet to figure out.
B.C.'s NDP government is promising to take more aggressive action against housing speculation in a province where foreign buyers have become central to the debate about skyrocketing home prices. The government presented a Throne Speech yesterday that promises new measures to target foreign and domestic speculation, while also focusing on creating new supply as a means to bring down prices. They speech was short on details, but they may be outlined in next week's budget.
The Supreme Court of Canada is expected to rule this week on who should pay for the many abandoned oil wells that dot Alberta's landscape.
And a military ombudsman says the last thing that Canada's veterans need is yet another study.
Campbell Clark (The Globe and Mail) on the next Liberal budget: "Politically, the Liberals have made a decision to steer left, to appeal to a 'progressive' political audience by underlining inclusion and gender equality, rather than trying to mirror Mr. Trump's cuts or to slash the deficit. The emphasis on gender is also in line with the Liberals' electoral calculations: they consistently hold a lead in opinion polls because of much higher support among women than the second-placed Conservatives."
Emanuela Heyninck and Sarah Kaplan (The Globe and Mail) on the gender pay gap: "While businesses are responsible for making the necessary changes to their workplaces to address these inequalities, governments can create the necessary conditions to support these changes by establishing an effective regulatory framework and providing access to statistical, diagnostic and assistive resources. Tangible progress can be made if support is offered to employers to diagnose which of their practices contribute to generating a wage gap, to set benchmarks for improvement and to report on outcomes on a regular basis. Many of these initiatives have already been introduced in countries such as Germany, Britain, Switzerland and Australia."
Adam Radwanski (The Globe and Mail) on the Ontario Progressive Conservatives: "One [theory] is that, implausible though it may seem, [Patrick] Brown is weighing whether to enter the race himself. Whether the party would let him do so isn't clear. If he did run, it would be one way of trying to show he doesn't believe he has anything for which to apologize."
Gary Mason (The Globe and Mail) on B.C.'s pipelines fight: "A government should never introduce inflammatory measures without clearly considering all of the possible ramifications – something that was not done here."
Pascale St-Onge (Montreal Gazette) on funding for media: "Many play down the situation of the print media, considering that social media will replace them. But social media don't produce any content and instead use content produced at great expense by our media. Is there any need to repeat that if we don't strongly support our print media, fake news will become increasingly widespread? It's a serious threat to our democracy."
Susan Delacourt (iPolitics) on survey on trust: "Journalists — the actual people — get a whopping 17-point jump in trust ratings. Trust doesn't pay the bills, so it's not clear how this sentiment can inject optimism into the faltering business model of journalism. But it could indicate a certain citizen openness to measures that would keep journalism alive — a matter still apparently under consideration by Canada's Heritage Minister Melanie Joly."