Quebec's political parties formed a common front on Tuesday to demand companies such as Netflix pay provincial sales tax.
All members of the legislature voted unanimously for a motion to "ensure the Quebec sales tax (TVQ) is imposed on all foreign companies that offer products and services online, notably in the cultural sector, as soon as possible."
The motion was in reaction to the federal government's recent agreement with Netflix that allows the online-streaming giant to forgo paying sales tax by investing $500 million on Canadian productions over the next five years.
Quebec Finance Minister Carlos Leitao said he supported the motion but added the province wouldn't take any steps on taxing Netflix before getting the details of the agreement from the federal government.
"Netflix's service is a taxable service," he said. "The issue is for the company to collaborate with the imposition of taxes. In order for that to happen, we need to know, very clearly, the position of the federal government."
Meanwhile, in Montreal, the president of Canada's largest French-language artist union left a meeting with the federal heritage minister saying a massive gulf exists between Ottawa and the artistic community.
Sophie Pregent of Union des Artistes said minister Melanie Joly didn't realize the furor her deal with Netflix would cause, especially among the country's artistic class.
Maybe she underestimated the furor in the industry, on the ground.Sophie Pregent, Union des Artistes
The minister negotiated a sweetheart deal for the U.S. web-streaming giant at the expense of Canada's cultural producers, Pregent told reporters.
"Maybe she underestimated the furor in the industry, on the ground," said Pregent. "I think she didn't see it coming.
"I think (Joly) genuinely thought the deal with Netflix would assuage our concerns but it did the opposite. The fire has spread all over."
Union des Artistes represents roughly 13,000 French-speaking artists across the country.
The issue is how to work together so that we have tools to protect our culture online.Melanie Joly
Artists say the federal government is giving Netflix an unwarranted subsidy by not forcing the company to pay taxes like it does in many other countries around the world.
Pregent said Canada should look to pressuring internet service companies if it can't get big online firms to pay taxes.
"Ultimately, if we don't have the legislation to act on the Netflixes of the world, let's go higher and see the internet service providers," she said.
Joly said she "hears" the concerns of the artists.
"The issue," Joly said, "is how to work together so that we have tools to protect our culture online."
Joly also dismissed the claim she has essentially given Netflix a tax break that Canadian-based production companies don't get.
She said the government has the power to hold Netflix accountable if it doesn't hold up its end of the deal.
Joly added she is waiting for a report by the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission about the new business models in the internet era.