Disgusting: Liberal Party Politicizes Wildfires to Push Link Tax

The wildfire season this year is looking to be horrible, but the Liberal party is turning it into a political opportunity to push the link tax.

Wildfire season has started early this year as it has already forced evacuations in multiple communities across Canada. Already, we saw evacuations happening in British Columbia where residents of Fort Nelson have been ordered to evacuate. In Alberta, residents of Fort McMurray are seeing parts of their community evacuate in a situation that has strong flashbacks to the horrors of 2016. Those are just two of a number of stories already this year about this years wildfire season.

While the focus should be on the safety of residents and saving as many homes and communities as possible, it seems that the Liberal party have an entirely different focus in this situation: politics. Specifically, the failed link tax law.

As you know, while the link tax became law (is now known as the Online News Act), Meta carried through with their warnings and dropped news links last year. In their usual cult-like mentality, supporters of the link tax kept arguing, with little to no evidence, that Meta depends entirely on news links for their success and continued to falsely claim that linking to them is “stealing”. No amount of reality seemed to get them to change their minds as they stubbornly continued to live in their own reality bubble. So, as a result, the situation of no news links in Canada remains the same all these months later. This despite the massive traffic hits and bankruptcies that resulted in the news sector.

Some reporters have, lately, been asking the Prime Minister if there is any movement on getting Meta to change their mind and if the Prime Minister was considering some sort of compromise to bring Meta on board. In response, Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, basically slammed the door shut on that prospect, continuing to say this is all Meta’s fault and that it’s Meta’s job to pay journalists working for third party businesses. That, alone, is worthy of a huge facepalm, but it signalled that nothing is going to change on this debate. Journalism in this country is going to continue to suffer while Meta continues to experience brighter days, being generally unscathed in all of this.

Now, you might be asking, what does the already devastating wildfire season and link taxes have to do with each other? Nothing – at least, they should have nothing to do with each other. Yet, we are seeing Liberal party members try and squash the two stories together in their quest to politicize the wildfire season. Heritage Minister, Pascale St-Onge reposted a video of Trudeau speaking to reporters on the issue while saying this:

There are wildfires in Canada right now, and there will be more. Access to local news and information in those communities is critical.

But Meta is still blocking news on Facebook and Instagram. They’re choosing profits over Canadians’ safety.

The video showed Trudeau accusing Meta of putting profits over people’s safety as they block news links and how journalists ‘deserve to get paid for their work’. The whole rant was basically word salad as none of it really makes any sense.

Once again, it’s the news organizations job to pay the journalists their salary. That is not the responsibility of third party online platforms. The situation was entirely self-inflicted. The government (and several foolish media companies and organizations), decided that linking to them is compensable activity even though that is obviously not the case. Meta was legally given a choice: either pay publishers tens, if not, hundreds of millions of dollars for the privilege of hosting their links or drop news links altogether. Meta chose the latter option for obvious reasons. Emergency services, government officials, and others are still able to publish emergency information on those platforms, so that information is, by no means, getting blocked altogether. Further, you really should not be depending on Facebook to deliver life saving information to residents in the first place. On what planet is this even remotely a good idea?

What we are seeing is both the Prime Minister and the Heritage Minister trying to politicize the wildfires to push a political agenda that has generally failed. To me, in a situation that has already caused so much pain and suffering, this sort of move is absolutely reprehensible. People’s lives are, once again, at stake and you are choosing to play politics with the situation? Are you serious???

What’s more, it’s difficult to see this even getting noticed by many outside of those who are following the link tax debate closely. I mean, seriously, the debate is over and the government lost. Yes, there is an ongoing consultation at the CRTC, but the outcome has more or less been decided (I can see things changing if Google finally decides it has had enough of throwing away money at these link taxes, but that remains to be seen). I don’t see what the Liberal party hopes to accomplish here other than taking the moment to act like idiots.

What is probably the most outrageous part in all of this is that this isn’t even the first time the Liberal party tried to politicize the wildfires to push link taxes. During last years deadly wildfire season, the Liberal party tried to politicize the wildfire season by accusing Meta of putting people’s lives in danger by blocking news links. At the time, the media tried to support these vile moves by pushing misinformation to support Trudeau in the process, claiming that links only got blocked after the Yellowknife wildfire caused evacuations (this was blatantly false).

The effort, last year, fell flat and made the Liberal party look stupid and petty. This time, a quick search on news shows that no major media outlet appears to be even talking about this. Some might be, but not to the same degree that we saw last year. If anything, we’re talking about it more than them at this point.

The effort to politicize the wildfire that killed people didn’t go anywhere last year and it’s disgusting that the Liberal party thought it was a good idea to try and push this narrative again this year, expecting a different result. It bears repeating: Meta does NOT depend on news links in the slightest. It’s insane that there are people out there that still think otherwise despite months of evidence proving otherwise. The Liberal party needs to move on and admit that this was a policy disaster. Instead, I would argue they need to focus on assisting in evacuations and fire suppression efforts at this point. It’s tone deaf to think that politicizing the wildfires going on in Canada is even remotely a good idea in the first place.

Drew Wilson on Mastodon, Twitter and Facebook.

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