From Mr. Lahey to Captain Kirk, N.S. film credit cut draws more fire
HALIFAX -- Members of Nova Scotia's film and television industry including actors from the Trailer Park Boys rallied outside the provincial legislature Wednesday amid chants of "Save our jobs" to protest a proposed cut to a film tax credit.
John Dunsworth, who stars in the TV comedy series as Jim Lahey, was one of many people from the province's entertainment sector to slam the move to slash the $24-million annual incentive by $18 million.
"How do we explain the decision that these people are making?" Dunsworth told a crowd, which at one point swelled to more than 2,000 people, according to Halifax police.
"It doesn't make any sense. It can't be just bad advice by the stupid Finance Department."
Anger has bubbled for days since the Nova Scotia government unveiled a budget last week that would cut the fund to $6 million as of July 1. Finance Minister Diana Whalen has said the province can't afford to keep it as it is.
Whalen has also pointed to an additional $6 million creative sector fund that would be established to defence the government's position, but that has done little to satisfy actors, directors and others who say the film tax credit should remain untouched.
Jonathan Torrens, who co-hosted Street Cents and also plays the character J-Roc in the Trailer Park Boys, called on the government to change course.
"We are here as taxpayers, we are here as voters and we are here as skilled labourers who want to stay in this place we love," Torrens told the demonstration.
Comedian Cathy Jones also spoke on a stage before supporters, some of whom were carrying placards reading "We support #NSFilmJobs" and "We want to stay."
"This film industry is massive and beautiful and to mess with it is a major mistake," Jones said.
The dispute has even caught the eye of William Shatner, who tweeted Wednesday, "Film industry in Nova Scotia is important. I am asking @StephenMcNeil & @dianawhalenNS to keep the Film Tax Credit."
Inside the legislature, Premier Stephen McNeil said he hasn't changed his stance on the cut.
"We only have so much money," McNeil said. "I'm prepared to change our view in the sense of how we divvy that money out and that's what we've said to the industry: 'If you have a different way, then let us know what that looks like."'
Members of the industry met Tuesday with Whalen and a second meeting is scheduled for Friday.
Industry group Screen Nova Scotia says the refundable tax credit generated $139 million in production spending in 2013-14, supporting 2,700 jobs.
That conflicts with a Finance Department analysis that says the value of production amounted to only $66.8 million in 2013-14, generating $39.4 million in salaries and wages.
Prior to the protest, a senior official in the department said the last comprehensive study on the overall impact of the film industry on the province's economy showed that it "broke even," with Nova Scotia getting as much money from revenues as it invested in the tax credit.
That study was completed in 2004, said Byron Rafuse, the associate deputy minister in the department.