Last week, Trudeau's censorship czar Pablo Rodriguez retaliated against Meta for not complying with Bill C-18, the Online News Act.
"We have decided to take the necessary step of suspending all Government of Canada advertising to Facebook," he said on July 5. "We cannot continue paying advertising dollars to Meta while they refuse to pay their fair share to Canadian news organizations."
But there's a catch. While the federal government and some provinces have discontinued advertising on both platforms, the Liberal Party remains eager to give money to Meta as party ads remain unaffected.
According to a Journal de Montreal audit, the Liberal Party has purchased 13 new ads on Facebook and Instagram since Heritage Canada retaliated against the tech giant on July 5.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's Meta account has 26 active ads, most active since June.
In contrast, the Bloc Québécois and the federal NDP no longer have any active advertising as they stand in solidarity with news media.
"It is still surprising that the pages of the Prime Minister and the Liberal Party do not follow the same instructions as their government. They are still in power, so the boots must follow the lips," said Bruno Guglielminetti, digital communication consultant.
Tensions between Ottawa and Meta amplified following the latter's decision to restrict access to news on its platform for 1.1 million Canadians — a move Rodriguez described as "pure intimidation tactics."
"The fact these internet giants would rather cut off Canadians' access to local news than pay their fair share is a real problem, and now they're resorting to bullying tactics to try and get their way," Trudeau told reporters on June 7. "It's not going to work."
On June 22, Meta said they would not allow sharing and accessing of Canadian news copy on its platforms for Canadian users. This will take effect before Parliament legislates the bill.
The bill will go into effect by the end of the year after the Commons passed a motion to support most of the Senate amendments earlier this month.
Paul Deegan, CEO of News Media Canada, said Meta's move to censor Canadian users from viewing and sharing news is a "kick in the shins."
On May 30, Deegan testified to the Senate Transport and Communications Committee on Bill C-18, calling Meta's decision to 'unfriend' Canada "irresponsible and tone deaf" because it restricts access to 'trusted news sources.'
He warned if Facebook permanently blocked news sharing, it would restrict public access to reliable information.
"What would be left on their platform? They're the plumbing of social media, and you have clean drinking water, which is news. But then you have all sorts of sewage: the misinformation and disinformation."
"What this bill is about is ensuring that local news survives," said Deegan. The Online News Act mandates that tech giants enter revenue-sharing agreements with news publishers, specifically on their advertising revenue.
News Media Canada, which advocates for the domestic news industry, urged all stakeholders to "act in good faith" and engage in the regulatory process.
Upon completion, Google and Meta would have to pay 35% of news expenditures for hundreds of media outlets, including the state broadcaster CBC, Bell, and Postmedia, pending further amendments.
Canadian taxpayers annually subsidize media at $595 million — in addition to the $1.2 billion comprising 70% of the state broadcaster's budget.
Should Google and Meta follow through on censoring Canadian news, Rodriguez said the federal government would expand support for newsrooms beyond the existing funding programs and tax credits.
"We have to make sure that newsrooms are open, that [journalists] can do their job, and [they] have the resources necessary," he said.
Since 2019, Parliament has financed outlets deemed "qualified" by the Canada Revenue Agency worth up to 25% of the annual payroll or $13,750 per newsroom employee.
As of 2008, nearly 500 newsrooms in Canada have closed, according to Rodriguez. The media bailout program is set to expire on March 31, 2024.