Trudeau says Ottawa must protect journalists from 'misinformation,' online 'conspiracy theorists'

'There are the conspiracy theorists … trying to do everything they can to … prevent people from agreeing on a common set of facts on CBC and CTV,' the prime minister told podcaster Ryan Jespersen.

Trudeau says Ottawa must protect journalists from 'misinformation,' online 'conspiracy theorists'
The Canadian Press / Ethan Cairns
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During a recent trip to Alberta, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau defended his government's record of support for journalism, contending they are needed to squash 'misinformation.'

On Wednesday, host Ryan Jespersen asked the Prime Minister about the extent to which governments should invest in journalism.

"What is the proper role of the feds?" asked Jespersen. "There are the conspiracy theorists … trying to do everything they can to … prevent people from agreeing on a common set of facts on CBC and CTV," replied Trudeau. 

"Any government that chooses to step up and say, 'this is the mainstream view,' if not careful, [can] actually compromise those organizations as being [government] mouthpieces," he added.

The remarks follow the Prime Minister’s "uncharacteristic candor" on February 9 after the parent company to Bell Media confirmed more journalism job cuts.

Bell announced 4,800 layoffs "at all levels of the company" at the time, owing to government and regulatory decisions that undermine the industry.

Aggravated by the cutbacks, Trudeau called it a "garbage decision" to lay off journalists. Among the cuts include 45 regional radio stations, multiple television newscasts and other programs. 

"I'm pretty pissed off about what's just happened," he told reporters.

The company previously axed 1,300 media jobs in June to "significantly adapt" how it delivers the news.

"This is the erosion not just of journalism, but of quality local journalism at a time where people need it more than ever, given misinformation and disinformation," claimed Trudeau then. "It’s eroding our very democracy, our abilities to tell stories to each other," he added.

"So how do we actually shift that?" asked Jespersen. "One of the ways you do it is [to] create opportunities for strong clear voices like yours — like this show — to be a source of news where people are actually drawing on real conversations and evidence-based presentations," replied Trudeau.

"Where necessary, there are massive changes that need to happen in our media landscape and [the] government can try and create conditions and incentives for it to happen," he continued.

Bell Media earlier attributed the job cuts to the Trudeau Liberals not providing the media with timely financial relief.

"We have been stepping up over the past years, fighting for local journalism, fighting for investments that we can have," contends Trudeau. 

He told Jespersen they continue to fend off Conservative attacks that suggest his government is "trying to buy off journalists."

Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre criticized the Media Party last week for funding journalists who allegedly receive directives from the Prime Minister's Office (PMO).

A back-and-forth ensued where Poilievre accused The Canadian Press of "spreading Justin Trudeau's message" on the taxpayer dime.

The Trudeau Liberals in their Fall Economic Statement last November 21 doubled newsroom rebates from a maximum $13,750 per employee to $29,750 amid calls for more taxpayer subsidies.

The expanded rebates propose to increase the cap on labour expenditures per eligible newsroom employee from $55,000 to $85,000 for a period of four years. It has yet to produce any net job creation, according to a 2021 Department of Canadian Heritage briefing note. 

"Canadian conservatives do not believe in giving tax dollars to media outlets," said Poilievre.

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