N.S. film industry reps taking 'clear ask' to government Friday
Representatives of the Nova Scotia film industry are meeting again with Finance Minister Diana Whalen on Friday over changes to the province’s film tax credit, and they say they know what their goal is.
“We do have a very clear ask in mind for the government and I really hope that they'll entertain that and have an open mind,” said Marc Almon, chair of Screen Nova Scotia.
Whalen has said she’s optimistic the two sides can find common ground after the provincial budget she delivered on April 9 announced drastic changes to how much support the film industry gets from the provincial government.
The changes come into effect on July 1, and expenses that were once 100 per cent refundable will become 25 per cent refundable.
That means 12.5 per cent of labour costs would be covered.
The other 75 per cent, the non-refundable portion, could only be applied to corporate taxes owed.
Industry representatives say, with the way the industry is structured, that 75 per cent will no longer be applicable.
Still, the government argues the tax credit amounts to wage subsidy – one the province simply can’t afford.
“We're paying 50 to 65 per cent of the labour,” said Premier Stephen McNeil.
“Many people are confusing this with a traditional tax credit. It is an actual direct grant that they take to the bank,” he said.
Claiming the move eliminates what was once an effective tool to import money into the province, film industry representatives led a large protest outside the legislature on Wednesday.
The head of a Halifax-based think, however, believes the changes are necessary.
“It seems almost surreal that in a place like Nova Scotia, one of the poorest provinces in the country, we are subsidizing the salaries of people in private enterprise to the tune of 65 per cent,” said Marco Navarro-Genie of the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies.
Meanwhile, film industry workers in New Brunswick say they’re also worried about what impact the changes could bring.
Frank Savoie, an executive producer in Moncton, just brought two productions worth almost $2 million to Nova Scotia — which are due to be completed just before the changes kick in.
He says future film projects are at risk: He was set to open a second Halifax office, but as things stand, that’s not happening.
“The governments today are all saying the same thing: They want to create jobs, they want to bring in youth, bring back the youth, motivate youth, bring in technology, advance culture,” Savoie said.
“Film and television does all that and more, plus it makes serious money.”
The New Brunswick film industry is facing a similar situation as the one unfolding in Nova Scotia.
In December, the provincial government put a moratorium on funding to the industry while it reviews policies, but there have been no program cuts yet.
“In Nova Scotia, they've cut it, so are they going to have the moxie to backtrack? I sure hope so because it sure is a terrific industry,” Savoie said.
“For every dollar that they put in, if it's run properly and legislated properly, $4 comes back,” Savoie said.
The findings of New Brunswick’s review of its film industry funding are expected within the next few weeks.
With files from CTV Atlantic’s Jacqueline Foster and Jonathan MacInnis