Company Profile: Netflix

By Charnjot Shokar, M.A.

Netflix lobbying in the news

In 2022, Netflix lost over 1 million of its subscribers – the largest drop off since the company began streaming back in 2007. There were many speculations made as to why: market competition, illegal account sharing, price increases, to name a few. In its efforts to ensure future profits, price hikes are not the only tool in Netflix’s arsenal. The streaming giant also dishes out a significant amount of money on lobbying to help shape policies and regulations in ways that favour its own needs. Among eligible telecom and tech corporations, Netflix had the largest percentage increase in spending on lobbying for Q1 of this year compared to 2021. Further, in a strategic effort to shed the stricter regulations that are placed on tech companies, Netflix opted to leave the Internet Association in 2019 (the lobbying association that represented Facebook and Google) and join the Motion Pictures Association, giving them an easier avenue to shape international laws and regulations.

Following the news that Netflix and other digital services would be required to collect GST despite not having a Canadian office, Netflix opted to open up its first corporate office in Toronto in 2021. Netflix’s longtime lack of a Canadian office may have been connected to a tax avoidance strategy, as well as to the fact that the company does not sell other goods or services such as advertising, and has held no contracts over $10,000 with the Canadian federal government. In any case, the opening of a Canadian office was one step in establishing a stronger presence in Canada.

A strong Canadian presence is useful as Netflix is actively lobbying the Canadian government against the regulatory requirements that would be placed upon it through a new Online Streaming Act. It gives its contributions to Canada’s economy, both digitally and through their physical footprint, as reasons why regulations committing it to Canadian content obligations are not necessary.

Who lobbies for Netflix in Canada?

Stéphane Cardin is the Director of Public Policy for Netflix Canada. Prior to joining Netflix, Cardin held multiple senior positions with provincial government agencies and other government-backed organizations. For 8 years, he served as the VP of Industry and Public Affairs for Canada Media Fund, and prior to that, he served 7 years as the Director of Tax Credits with the Société de Développement des Entreprises Culturelles (SODEC) in Quebec. He also had a brief stint (less than 1 year) with the Canadian Audiovisual Certification Office (CAVCO) as a Business Analyst.

After launching its video streaming services in Canada in 2010, Netflix arranged much of its lobbying through a variety of firms including Aird and Berlis LLP, Borden Ladner Gervais LLP, Proof Strategies (formerly Environics Communications) and more. Many of the lobbyists that Netflix has hired through these firms have held past positions with government agencies, such as Stephen Zolf (Treasury Board), Greg Maceachern (Treasury Board and Department of Fisheries and Oceans), and Christopher McCluskey (Natural Resources Canada, National Defence, and Public Safety Canada).

The table below reflects all of Netflix Canada’s registered lobbyists that have held federal public office.

NamePositionFirmActive/InactivePublic Office Held
Stephen ZolfConsultantAird & Berlis LLPActiveJunior Economist/Analyst, Treasury Board, Office of Regulatory Reform (1983-1984)
Greg MaceachernConsultantProof StrategiesActiveDirector of Communications, Treasury Board, Office of the President (2005-2006), Director, Parliamentary Affairs, Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Minister’s Office (2004-2005)
Christopher McCluskeyConsultantProof StrategiesActiveDirector of Communications, Natural Resources Canada, Office of the Minister of Natural Resources (2014-2015, 2012-2014), Chief of Staff (Acting), National Defence, Office of the Associate Minister of National Defence (2012-2012), Director of Communications and Issues Management, National Defence, Office of the Associate Minister of National Defence (2011-2012), Deputy Director of Communications, Public Safety Canada, Office of the Minister of Public Safety (2009-2011)
Leonard St-AubinConsultantLen St-Aubin ConsultingInactiveDirector General Telecommunications Policy, Industry Canada, Telecommunications Policy Branch (2006-2009), Minister Counsellor, Commercial & Economic, Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, Canadian Embassy, Berlin Germany (2002-2005), Senior Director, Industry Canada, Telecommunications Policy Branch (1999-2006), Director, Business & Regulatory Analysis, Industry Canada, Telecommunications Policy Branch (1995-1999), Senior Policy Analyst, Industry Canada, Telecommunications Policy Branch (1993-1995), Senior Policy Analyst, Federal Provincial Relations Office, Public Affairs (1992-1992), Chief, Trend Analysis/Policy Analyst, Broadcasting Policy Branch, Department of Communications (1986-1991), Chief, Testing Unit, Public Service Commission, Personnel Psychology Centre (1985-1986)
Louis-Charles RoyConsultantProof StrategiesInactiveSpecial Assistant, House of Commons, Leader of the Opposition (2009-2010)
Alex BushellConsultantEnvironics CommunicationsInactiveParliamentary Assistant, House of Commons, Glenn Thibeault MP (2009-2013)
Stephanie GlasConsultantGCI GroupInactiveIntern, Treasury Board Secretariat, Office of the President of the Treasury Board (2008-2008)
Jan SkoraConsultantJan Skora Consulting Services Inc.InactiveAdvisor, Industry Canada, Spectrum Information Technology and Telecommunications (2007-2007), Director General, Industry Canada, Radiocommunications and Broadcasting Regulatory Branch (1990-1994), Director, Department of Communications, Central Region (1985-1989), Regional Director, Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission, Regional Office (1980-1985), Broadcast Engineer, Department of Communications, Regional Office (1976-1980), Cable Television Engineer, Department of Communications, Cable Television Engineering (1974-1976)

What does Netflix lobby about in Canada?

From 2011 to 2022, Netflix has a total of 168 registered lobbying communications with officials at many federal government organizations, such as Canadian Heritage, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, Finance Canada, and Global Affairs Canada, to name a few.

Around 2015, the idea of a “Netflix tax” was gaining a lot of steam, and it would require streaming companies such as Netflix to pay contributions to the production of Canadian content. Around this same time, all the way until Heritage Minister Mélanie Joly’s term ended, completed Access to Information requests reveal that there was a tremendous amount of lobbying done by Netflix with Canadian Heritage. The forms of communication ranged from emails, sit-down meetings in Ottawa, encounters at conferences such as the Canadian Media Producers Association’s Prime Time conference (of which Netflix was a Platinum sponsor), the Banff Media Festival (another Netflix sponsored event) to arranged encounters at cultural events such as a screening of the television show Anne with an E, a CBC-Netflix co-production, at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa. Ultimately, there never was a “Netflix tax” imposed.

In May of 2022, Netflix’s Stéphane Cardin made a submission to the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage regarding Bill C-11. The argument being raised by Netflix is that their contributions to the Canadian economy, by way of investing in Canadian online content, establishing offices and production hubs in Toronto and Vancouver, and providing Canadian talent with break-out opportunities, should shield them from facing the same “programming expenditure requirements of Canadian broadcasting groups” and adhering to the “current definitions of Canadian content”.

The table below reflects the specific subject matters, details, and government institutions Netflix is actively lobbying. The table was created using information from the Registry of Lobbyists.

Subject MattersSubject Matter DetailsGovernment Institutions
Arts and Culture
Consumer Issues
Bill C-10 Section 17 (Provision of Information by the Commission)Canadian Heritage (PCH)
Arts and Culture
Consumer Issues
Canadian Heritage modernization of the Broadcasting Act; Bill C-11 An Act to enact the Consumer Privacy Protection Act and the Personal Information and Data Protection Tribunal Act and to make related and consequential amendments to other ActsCanadian Heritage (PCH)
Arts and Culture
Consumer Issues
Applicable regulations and policies related to the internet and new media. Informing review of Broadcasting Act and Telecommunications Act legislation and regulation.
Regulatory exemptions, legislation, regulation and/or policies affecting providers of content services via the Internet.
Global distribution of content in relation to cultural export policies.
Canadian Heritage (PCH)
Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC)
Finance Canada (FIN)
Global Affairs Canada (GAC)
House of Commons
Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada (ISED)
Prime Minister’s Office (PMO)
Senate of Canada

What government institutions does Netflix lobby in Canada?

Netflix has lobbied 8 government institutions to date. A complete list of institutions was created using information from the Lobbying Registry and is provided below.

  • Canadian Heritage (PCH)
  • Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC)
  • Finance Canada (FIN)
  • Global Affairs Canada (GAC)
  • House of Commons
  • Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada (ISED) and its predecessor Industry Canada
  • Prime Minister’s Office (PMO)
  • Senate of Canada