Ottawa update: What the budget means for newspapers

ItÔÇÖs back to business in Ottawa.

When Parliament reconvened last Monday, Jan. 26, the Conservatives outlined a six-point economic stimulus plan designed to protect the Canadian economy in the short term while making investments to promote long-term growth. The following day, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty tabled a $258.6-billion budget that included an estimated $40-billion stimulus package to be spent over the next two years.

The government expects a $34-billion deficit this year, followed by a $30-billion deficit next year, but is confident, according to the budget document, that these economic measures ÔÇ£are of sufficient breadth and magnitude to have a significant impact on the economy.ÔÇØ The Official Opposition, led by Michael Ignatieff, has agreed to support the budget but has effectively put the government on probation by demanding progress reports at least five sitting days before the last opposition day in every supply period this year.

So what does this mean for newspapers?

Budget 2009 has provided $30 million over the next two years to support the Publications Assistance Program (PAP), effectively replacing Canada PostÔÇÖs contribution, which is scheduled to dry up at the end of the governmentÔÇÖs fiscal year.

The government also created the Canada New Media Fund, which will be administered by Canadian Heritage and ÔÇ£is designed to encourage the production of Canadian interactive digital cultural content, interactive or online Canadian cultural new media works.” In recognition of the contribution of new media to Canadian culture, Budget 2009 confirms funding of $28.6 million over the next two years for the Canada New Media Fund, and $14.3 million annually thereafter. This is particularly exciting for our members, as we have been working together with officials at Heritage Canada for some time to ensure continuity of the PAP program as well as new money for innovative projects.

We also see the potential for the creation of new federal advertising campaigns, from the $1 billion over five years dedicated to helping businesses and people in southern Ontario, from new funds for training and enhancements to the E.I. program, from the substantial injection of funds ($8.3 billion over two years) into small businesses in the form of loans and tax eligibility rates, from new money for farming, child care and so on.

We look forward to an increase in government advertising in this last quarter and are optimistic for 2009-10. We will continue to be your voice here in Ottawa, and invite you to contact us directly with any questions or comment.

Eileen Barak can be reached at