Unifor says Parliament must act to save local news following Torstar layoffs

TORONTO - The union representing Canadian journalists and media workers is calling on the federal Parliament to act quickly to save local news in the wake of dramatic financial losses and over 120 layoffs at Torstar, Canada’s second largest news chain.

“This is a stunning number of layoffs,” said Unifor National President Jerry Dias. “The financial situation for local news is going from bad to worse. Less journalists means less news coverage.”

Today the publisher of the Toronto Star, Star Metro’s in Alberta, Vancouver, Toronto and Halifax, and several news outlets in southern Ontario laid off 121 staff, a majority of whom are journalists. The terminations followed Torstar’s dismal third quarter losses of $41 million and suspension of its shareholder dividends.

The news company will cease print publication of its nation-wide chain of Star Metro commuter dailies by December 20, resulting in 73 of the layoffs. Thirty of the 73 Star Media staff are journalists, but 11 of those 30 jobs will be recreated under the Toronto Star.

To avoid even further layoffs, the company indicated its desire to offer a voluntary resignation package to its newsrooms at the Ontario dailies.

“We are now at the point where the new federal labour tax credit for written journalism will not even cover one year of decline in advertising revenue,” said Dias.

Unifor says the federal government must respond by immediately legislating the “Google Tax” on large foreign digital companies.

“The Liberals campaigned on this and I think you will see widespread support for that in this minority Parliament,” Dias said. “They should earmark that revenue to save local news.”

Dias also called on Justin Trudeau’s minority Liberals to close the loophole in section 19 of the Income Tax Act to end corporate write-offs for buying digital advertising on foreign internet platforms like Google, Facebook and the New York Times.

“There’s no bigger shot in the arm for Canadian media than closing the loophole,” said Dias.

Media inquiries call Unifor Communications Representative Kathleen O’Keefe at kathleen.okeefe@unifor.org or 416-896-3303 (cell).