I’ll admit it: I like watching TV. I like all forms of art, and television is certainly not of any lesser quality than, say, a theatre performance. There was a time, a long time ago, when actors refused to work in television, because they thought it was beneath them. Those days are long gone, because major motion picture stars now regularly appear in and even headline TV shows.
As a fan of TV, I subscribe to Netflix, because I love being able to access whatever I want whenever I want. And millions and millions of Canadians agree with me. But some politicians see it differently.
They believe that Netflix should be taxed and that the revenue should be put towards producing Canadian content. The federal government has left no doubt that it will not tax Netflix, but Québec’s government seems determined to tax Netflix regardless – and it would charge not only the provincial sales tax, but also the federal one.
I don’t think that this plan will sit well with the powers-that-be in Ottawa, and they’ll probably put a quick stop to it – after all, subjecting Netflix to taxes would violate the agreement that Ottawa has struck with the streaming service, which involves a commitment to invest $500 million in Canadian productions.
But there’s more: slapping a tax on Netflix is actually not a tax on Netflix, but on all Netflix subscribers. It’s not Netflix that will pay the tax, but each and every one of us.
The Québec government has been listening to media insiders like Pierre Karl Péladeau, the owner of Quebecor and Vidéotron. In an attempt to boost his own streaming service, Club Illico, Péladeau has been calling for a ‘Netflix tax’. He seems to believe that taxing the competition will somehow increase the poor subscription numbers of Club Illico.
As a matter of fact, more Quebecers subscribe to Netflix than do to Club Illico. Why? Because 1) Club Illico is available only to Vidéotron subscribers, and 2) it’s not available on Apple-TV (or similar set-top boxes) – and, let’s tell the truth here, people only subscribe to streaming services if they are available, through a ‘native app’ on the Apple-TV platform, because ‘mirroring’ shows from the iPhone or iPad is too much trouble and doesn’t always produce the best results.
So, if Péladeau wants more subscribers for his streaming service, all he needs to do is rectify the two issues I have just mentioned. But instead he’s decided to make sure that the Québec government forces the paying users of his competition to pay additional taxes.
If he thinks that this tax revenue will go towards Canadian or Québec productions, then he’s sorely mistaken. Governments, especially Liberal ones, always make tax dollars disappear either in useless projects or their own pockets.
Netflix has already agreed to put $500 million into Canadian (including French Canadian) productions. Should the Québec government go ahead and implement its Netflix tax, then Netflix, I hope, will cancel the agreement, and in the end, there’ll be exactly zero dollars for productions made in Canada.
Taxes never help anyone; they only destroy things. Canadians are already overtaxed, and their tax dollars are wasted regularly on utter nonsense (such as $10.5 million in bogus compensation for a terrorist, who deserved every last bit of ‘bad’ treatment he got after committing terrorist acts and murder).
Still don’t believe me? Look at our healthcare system. We have some of the longest wait times in the world, even though we spend more tax dollars on healthcare than many other countries that achieve much better results and where people don’t die waiting for vital surgeries.
Our provincial and federal governments have been getting way too much tax revenue from all of us. That needs to stop. They need to learn to do more with less, as other countries do (and successfully so).
My message to governments is simple: be grateful that Netflix agreed, of its own accord, to invest $500 million in Canada, and stop trying to pull even more money out of people’s pockets.
And my message to media companies? Compete with Netflix and others in the business by doing what, say, the UK has been doing for years: instead of importing U.S. shows (most of them are garbage anyway), use your money to produce Canadian content, and start filling your broadcast and streaming schedules with homegrown content – the kind that people (not only in Canada) actually want to see.
The UK broadcasters have been very successful at this game, selling their shows all over the world, and at least 95 per cent of the schedules of the five main broadcast networks are pure British content, and not U.S. imports.
Keep in mind: imposing taxes is what unintelligent people do.