Skip to main content

Most Canadians support making foreign-owned digital services charge sales tax and fund Canadian content, a new poll suggests.

The federal government is currently in the process of regulating U.S. tech giants such as Facebook and Google for the services they provide in Canada. It introduced two bills last month on the matter: one to regulate streaming services such as Netflix and Spotify and require them to fund Canadian content; another to improve privacy protections on social-media platforms and other digital services.

The government also said in its Nov. 30 economic statement that these online services would soon be required to collect and remit the federal sales tax, as some provinces already require, and signalled it would impose new corporate taxes on those companies by 2022. The federal plan also includes further bills, such as one to crack down on hate speech on social media.

A survey conducted for The Globe and Mail by Nanos Research suggests there is broad support for these policies.

Fifty-seven per cent of respondents said they supported or somewhat supported requiring companies such as Netflix to collect GST or HST. (The poll was conducted before the federal government said it would do so.) Support was highest in Quebec, which, along with Saskatchewan, is one of the two provinces that already charge provincial sales tax on such services. Thirty-two per cent said they opposed or somewhat opposed it, and 11 per cent said they were unsure.

Eighty-one per cent of respondents said they supported or somewhat supported requiring international streaming services such as Netflix to help fund the creation of Canadian television programs, films or music. Traditional broadcasters are already required to do so as part of their licences with the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission. Fourteen per cent of respondents said they opposed or somewhat opposed the policy, and 6 per cent said they were unsure.

When asked about future policy directions, 76 per cent said “we need to have more oversight from the government” on the activities of companies such as Google and Facebook. Just 15 per cent said the firms should be “free to operate” without much oversight.

And 79 per cent of respondents said they were concerned or somewhat concerned about the security of their personal information on social-media platforms.

Nanos Research surveyed 1,096 adults over the phone and online between Nov. 26 and 29. The results are considered accurate plus or minus three percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

Nik Nanos, the chief data scientist and founder of Nanos Research, said it looks like Canadian opinion about tech companies has “turned the corner.” He said the pandemic may have contributed to the mood, as individuals and governments are under financial stress while tech giants appear to be earning record profits.

“It’s a bit of a perfect storm for change, factoring in the pandemic, elections – because these platforms are now players in our election process – and economic uncertainty,” he said. “Roll all these things up and what we get is a populace that has a greater appetite for oversight and compliance.”

The minority government has chosen to address these policies in multiple bills before Parliament, each of which will require the backing of at least one opposition party. So far the opposition parties have generally expressed support for the larger principles of the agenda, with the Conservatives backing the privacy bill and the Bloc Québécois and NDP signalling support for the Broadcast Act changes, although the parties say they want amendments to the legislation.

Mr. Nanos said that, on this issue, it looks like Canadians and their political parties are on the same page.

“Although parties might disagree with how that oversight might look, it looks like there’s an emerging consensus that there needs to be oversight,” he said.

Know what is happening in the halls of power with the day’s top political headlines and commentary as selected by Globe editors (subscribers only). Sign up today.

Report an error

Editorial code of conduct