Help create an independent Canadian publication of progressive ideas and analysis.

Canadian media is dominated by conservative opinion and status-quo columnists. We can build an independent, progressive alternative that elevates new ideas and voices.

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Open an opinion column on the websites of any of Canada’s largest media companies, and what are you likely to find?

Praise for Jason Kenney’s budget cuts and vitriol for “greedy public-sector unions.”

Calls for a two-tiered healthcare system where rich people can pay to jump the line, and care is rationed based on wealth rather than need.

And gloomy warnings about the “erosion of Christianity, the traditional family, and the cultural particularism such transformation requires.”

This is just a small sampling of what our establishment media produces every single week. And this isn’t the worst of it. Consider the Globe & Mail’s legitimization of far-right demagogues or Postmedia’s spreading of false information about refugees in the pages of its subsidiary, The Toronto Sun.

Yes, it’s true: Canada’s media is a deeply conservative institution. Its spectrum of acceptable opinion excludes most progressive thought and perspectives. On one end, established media tends to defend the status quo. Right-wing opinion, meanwhile, is broadcast far and wide via outlets funded by rich people and corporations. This is a toxic brew.

And it will not surprise you to learn that most of the opinions published in our media, which ought to reflect a broad spectrum of Canadian society, is in fact written by elderly white people, mainly men, with conservative views about the world. There is nothing wrong with publishing these people — though some of their contributions are questionable — but there is something deeply wrong with publishing only these people.

Not only does this warp our politics in harmful ways, it’s also extraordinarily boring! Who wants to read the same opinions, from the same people, over and over again? Never being challenged, never being stimulated, never being exposed to different perspectives and views. How dull.

We can do better. If we are to survive the crises we find ourselves in, of climate change and enormous wealth disparity, we must do better. Canada needs a truly progressive media — one that’s unafraid to confront power, challenge conventional wisdom, and publish perspectives the established media companies have shut out.

We need a media for the people — and we have a plan to build one. But we need you to be a part of it.

Consider this a pitch. We’re asking you to fund the launch of a new progressive media outlet. It’s going to live online to start, publishing in-depth, nuanced, and well-researched ideas. No click-bait or cheap partisan point-scoring. Just opinion and analysis that’s thoughtful, unconventional, challenging, sometimes provocative, and always from a progressive perspective.

We’re calling it Passage. And if you want to be a part of building this with us, read on to learn about our plan, or make a contribution to back this project and lock in your subscription.

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The Story So Far

I don’t think I’ll ever forget November 8, 2016. For months, we’d been told every day that Donald Trump had no shot of winning the election. All the pundits and columnists and pollsters said the same thing: he can’t win. I believed them. I think most people did. But they were wrong, and so were we.

My friend Geoff and I spent a long time after that day thinking about what happened, and why someone like Trump was able to win power. We came to the conclusion that there were deep, structural problems in our society that had led us to that point. We also realized that those problems weren’t confined to America — they existed across the developed world, including at home in Canada.

Unfortunately, we were not in a position to wave a wand and solve those problems. But we did see one problem that we could tackle: the rise of right-wing media on the Internet, and specifically through Facebook.

By now, many of us are aware of how online platforms like Facebook have driven the rise of right-wing politicians like Donald Trump in the United States, Viktor Orban in Hungary, or Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil. But at the time, this was less discussed. We knew we had to try to do something about this in Canada before it was too late.

Out of this was born North99: a way for us to try to counter the growing influence of right-wing online media with a progressive message. We created memes, shareable videos, and graphics designed to go viral.

Growing North99 took time. Early on we decided we would not align with any political party or take money from any corporations or other large, institutional donors. We wanted total independence. This was a good decision, because it has allowed us to grow with the support of thousands of regular Canadians chipping in a few bucks here and there and remain accountable to no one but them.

We have expanded quite a bit since we started two years ago. Our community voted on a progressive policy agenda, and we now advocate for those policies, sending thousands of letters and making calls to elected officials. We ran polls on those issues, pushing these ideas into mainstream discourse through outlets like the Toronto Star. We have begun pressuring politicians to give people clear answers about where they stand on key progressive issues with our Leadership Matters project. And we now consistently have the most reach of any progressive Facebook page in Canada, with millions of Canadians seeing our content each month. In the last election, we were able to go toe-to-toe against our right-wing, corporate-funded counterparts, hold our own, and contribute to the defeat of Andrew Scheer’s Conservatives.

But we know that we have more to do. There’s nothing wrong with memes and viral videos, but to achieve our mission of making Canada a more progressive place we have to do more.

To do that, we need to shape the political conversation in this country. And that’s why we’re launching Passage, a Canadian publication of progressive ideas and opinion.

Passage isn’t about the sort of memes and quick hits that play well on Facebook. It’s about finding compelling, thoughtful perspectives from people often excluded from Canada’s establishment media.

Writers you won’t read elsewhere. Opinions the establishment media won’t publish. Bold, progressive ideas argued thoughtfully and backed by truth. All published on a beautiful website that’s a pleasure to read — that’s our vision for Passage.

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What We’ll Do With Your Money

All of this, of course, takes money. And we aren’t interested in advertising or other forms of corporate funding. Passage must be funded by its readers: hopefully, that’s you!

We have done our budgets, and we expect we’ll need $30,000 to give this a real go and make sure we have enough to keep the lights on for the next year. With that funding, plus startup cash from North99, we will:

  • Hire a great Managing Editor. Geoff and I are capable marketers and can manage the operations of a business. We can even write a bit. But we are not strong enough editors to make Passage the high-quality publication we want it to be. So we are already in talks with some incredibly talented people to join our team as Managing Editor.
  • Publish 15-20 thoughtful works of progressive opinion & analysis per month. To begin, we are committed to publishing a minimum of 15 pieces of progressive opinion and analysis each month. We will deliver original and provocative ideas and perspectives on politics, economics, and culture. Over time, we will increase the volume of publication, but this will require more resources as we believe it’s important to…
  • Pay writers fairly. It goes without saying that we will need to commission work for Passage, and we are committed to paying writers a fair rate. A significant chunk of the budget will be used for this.
  • Create a beautiful website. Between the popups, banner ads, and other gizmos that interrupt constantly, reading on the Internet is often a painful experience. We want to stay as far away from that as possible by creating a beautiful website that is a pleasure to use.
  • Purchase back-end software and technology. Taking payments, hosting a website that loads quickly, managing subscriptions, sending emails — there are dozens of little tasks involved in running an operation like this that we use software tools to manage. All of these cost money.

You might be wondering what sort of topics you might read about it in Passage — what will you find here that you won’t get elsewhere. To give you a sense of what sort of subjects we’ll cover, here a few things we’d like to write about in our early days:

  • Dollars & Democracy: How Money Infects our Politics. Many of us believe that with limited corporate spending on election campaigns, Canada’s democracy isn’t influenced by money. That’s an American problem, we tell ourselves. This is far from the truth. We’ll look at some of the insidious ways wealth corrupts our democracy.
  • How The West Was Lost. Western Canada is now a Conservative stronghold, but this was not always the case. It used to be home to a left-wing populism that birthed the CCF and Tommy Douglas. How did Western Canada become a bastion of right-wing ideology — and how could its progressive traditions be restored?
  • Engine of the Green New Deal. Canada has supplied the world with energy for decades, a role that has created significant economic benefits. But what will we do now that the world is moving on from fossil fuels? We sketch out a role for Canada as a green energy powerhouse, helping transition not only our economy but the rest of the world to clean energy.
  • Bless The Post Office. Canada Post does its job of delivering mail and parcels without much fanfare. But the post office could be so much more. We look at how our publicly-owned postal service could be used to provide affordable services from banking to cell phone plans.

These are just a few of our ideas, but there’s plenty more topics to cover. I can’t promise that you’ll always agree with what you read in Passage, but I can promise that you will always find it challenging, thought-provoking, and well-argued.

The initial $30,000 crowdfunding budget will give us the resources we need to publish some of these pieces, build a readership, and bring on paid subscribers over the first months of the publication’s life. The goal of this is to become 100% self-sufficient within 6 months. Think of your contribution like jumpstarting a car — it’s the boost we need to get moving.

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What You’ll Get

Every dollar contributed will go directly into creating and launching Passage, which we will do by February 2020.

Once we go live, everyone who participated in the crowdfunding campaign will receive a set of fantastic rewards depending on how much they contributed.

Each of our seven donation tiers includes a free subscription to Passage which you can activate at any time. Many tiers include additional perks like a gift subscription, merch, and more. See below for details about all the rewards you can access:

Beyond what you personally receive, you’ll also be supporting the growth of an independent, progressive media in Canada — something we badly need.

Without new publications like Passage, Canadian media will continue to be dominated by established players and a right-wing alternative funded by rich people and corporations. Not only will progressive ideas continue to be excluded from our discourse, politics will continue to move further and further to the right.

Your donation will be a part of helping reverse the trend, launching a progressive alternative, and redirecting our politics in a more humane, just, and moral direction.

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Business Plan & Growth

Many people believe media is a dying industry and so launching a new publication may seem like an unusual move. This is far from the truth.

It’s true that certain forms of media are struggling — specifically those whose survival depended on advertising. All that money is now being sucked up by Facebook, Google, and other tech platforms.

It’s also true that many publications backed by venture capital investment have met a sorry end, largely because of the meddling and wildly exaggerated expectations of investors. Media will never produce the 10x returns that today’s investors have come to demand.

Fortunately, our model involves independence from both advertisers and investors — we are a non-profit that will depend only on you, our readers.

Like many small and mid-size publishers, our revenue will be driven by a “leaky paywall”. The first few articles you read will be free each month, and after that you’ll be asked to signup for a subscription to read unlimited articles. We think this is the most fair and sensible model: it gives readers a chance to try before they buy, and pay only when they get value from our work.

By the end of our first year of operations, we aim to have 1,500 paying subscribers. This will cover our costs and then some, allowing us to expand not only the volume of writing we publish, but also explore other content formats like podcasting and video.

Of course, anyone can promise anything, so why should you believe that we can actually do all these things?

The answer is because we have been doing just that for two years with North99. We launched North99 with $500 from our pocket, and never took a dime from anyone except regular Canadians giving a few bucks when they could. We set budgets, prioritized spending, and kept overhead to a minimum. By being rigorous and efficient, we were able to grow a financially sustainable organization that now employs 3 people.

To sum it up, our business model is fairly simple: we publish high-quality work people actually want to read, and eventually some of them pay us.

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The Future

Everything goes to plan and we are up and running with a widely-enjoyed, financially sustainable publication one year from now by the end of 2020 — what then?

Well, there’s a lot of work that has to go into making that first bit happen, but let’s assume all goes to plan. Our work will be far from finished. We want to continue expanding our audience, reaching more people, and ultimately advancing progressive ideas. Here are just a few things we’d like to explore more in the future:

Help launch progressive YouTubers. You may not spend much time on YouTube, but you know who does? Young people. And the place is absolutely crawling with far-right creeps indoctrinating kids with their sick ideology. We’d like to see what we can do about fixing that and helping progressive YouTubers reach more people.

Create podcasts or podcast-like things. There are tons of podcasts now. In Canada, we already have a few good ones on progressive politics. I don’t think we’d want to duplicate work others are doing, but there are interesting ways to use audio that are not being fully explored yet.

Publish books. This might be quite a ways down the road, but with a large audience and a great network of writers, Passage could become a book publisher, featuring talented progressive Canadian writers. It’s something we have thought about, but is still a vague notion rather than a concrete plan.

The point is that there is so much work to be done to create a viable and healthy progressive media ecosystem in Canada.

We saw creating North99 as the first step in fixing that. We did it, and now it’s time to start the next phase of our movement to build a progressive Canada: launching Passage.

With your help, by this time in February we will be up and running, publishing opinions you won’t read elsewhere by writers you can’t read elsewhere. It’ll be new, challenging, provocative, smart, and progressive. It’ll be hard work, but with your help we can get it done.

Thank you for your consideration.

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