Matt Toner: B.C. Liberals’ indifference to film industry will prove hard sell come election time

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By Matt Toner

If—unlike thousands of people across our province—you don’t work in the film, television, or video-game industries, you might have missed the gathering storm that broke over the weekend. But it’s worth your attention, because it speaks volumes as to exactly how our province has been governed since 2009.

At issue is an Arts and Culture Branch report that fed into the creation of the B.C. Jobs Plan: it’s thanks to sleuthing by the NDP’s Spencer Chandra Herbert that this document was dragged into the light.

There’s lots to be read there, but for my money (and yours), the killer quote is:

Government has taken a close look at the screen-based entertainment industry as a possible focus for the Jobs Plan, and has not found a compelling case for any additional emphasis on this sector.

That is to say, we’re not going to even try to create any new jobs in this industry. Which is staggering when you consider the undisputed positive impact of this sector, the active engagement of governments in Ontario and Quebec, and the mounting flood of creative talent heading away from Vancouver to all points of the compass.

With this issue, however, there is the extra layer of Orwellian tactics that have been ladled over the mix.

Upon hearing about the recommendations of the Arts and Culture Branch, many people took to Facebook to voice their concerns. But over the weekend, hundreds and hundreds of these critical comments were apparently purged from Christy Clark’s official page, voices of dissent silenced with the click of the mouse.

Or were they?

Well, no, because you really can’t pull that crap in this day and age. The lost comments were captured and posted (and reposted) throughout the weekend. And that’s when people started to get angry and that’s when the Save B.C. Film movement was born.

Save B.C. Film only started a few days ago, but it’s growing fast: since Saturday, its Facebook page has registered more than 3,200 “likes”. Or check out the @savebcfilm Twitter feed, which had hundreds of followers within 24 hours. And if you agree with what they’re saying, sign the online petition, which had 13,000 signatures in two days.

The government’s response? So far, barely a yawn.

Thankfully, it’s an election year and the B.C. Liberals are going to find that ongoing indifference is going to be a tough policy to sell to an angered industry. They’ve squandered our trust and I can’t imagine them making the effort to rebuild it.

Adrian Dix, on the other hand, clearly understands the importance of creativity and innovation as a path to our province’s future. And the way we get there is by taking a series of measured steps that engage the industry and the people working in it.

The NDP is ready to make a change, not only to save jobs in the creative sector, but to also create an atmosphere that fosters growth. If they weren’t, I wouldn’t be running on their ticket.

Matt Toner has run digital media startups in New York, Toronto, and Vancouver and is the B.C. NDP candidate for Vancouver-False Creek.

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NDPer

Jan 15, 2013 at 6:30pm

I am an NDPer and this is probably the only thing I have ever agreed with the Liberals on. Why should taxpayers be subsidizing the multi-billion dollar film industry for the sake of saving jobs? The industry uses its mobility to create a race to the bottom in tax breaks, and will never be satisfied. Find ways to create jobs that isn't subjecting the taxpayers to blackmail.

Deborah Valentine

Jan 15, 2013 at 7:03pm

Well said... I have never been an NDP supporter but my daughter and her husband work in this industry and I am so angry about the lack of response from the liberals they have lost me this time. I question why the liberals have spent $39,000,000. on Capilano film and media program to train young people to join the industry and basically we are training people to send them east because there aren't the jobs here. How can they talk about creating jobs and let this industry shrink.....Don't get me started on Christy wooing Bollywood here for their award show for $18,000,000. tax payer dollars.. That is nothing more than a vote grab .

DR

Jan 15, 2013 at 9:25pm

Question: why should any industry get tax breaks? Ontario offers them so BC should match them? Isn't that just a mad race to the bottom?

teamster

Jan 15, 2013 at 11:10pm

Tax breaks ? I pay $700 a week in taxes thats $2800 amonth !
working in film and Tv . Think about the trickle down affect of suppliers to Film and Tv. 1 Billon dollars spent in BC .
In return we spend our money in the BC economy .....

Louisa Phung

Jan 15, 2013 at 11:23pm

Firstly, if you have Facebook, please check out the Save BC Film page. A lot of questions can be answered there.
Secondly, there is a very seriously misconception. What the government does NOT do is subsidize the screen based industry. It does NOT give any tax money to foreign productions in order for it to be made here. It offers instead what is in essence a rebate.

Wayne Bennett (Production Manager) explains it best:
"I would like to take this opportunity to explain how the tax REBATE system works in our province. When a PRODUCTION comes to town and spends and amount of money on LABOUR, the provincial government REBATES 33% of that amount to that company. In addition, the Federal Government REBATES another 16% towards the amount of money that the Production Company spends on labour after you take off the BC REBATE. in other words:

$100 spent on labour
... -$33 REBATED FROM BC (33%)
----
$67 no rebate
- $10.72 REBATED FROM FED (16%)
_____
$56.28 TOTAL COST TO PRODUCTION

Other than additional amounts offered to shows who have visual FX (17.% REBATE) and are able to shoot outside of the zone, our Province does not offer anything else.

In other locales, the percentage is an ALL SPEND, anywhere from 25 to 30%. So not only labour getting the rebate, so are all purchases and rentals that happen in the state or province. This becomes a HUGE amount of money that has to be committed and therefore paid for by the taxpayer!

We as an industry has been lobbying the Provincial Government for over 2 years to get a match to Ontario and Quebec with no success and we continue to ask.

At this point, many of our clients have indicated that if we can narrow the gap, between us and the other jurisdictions that they would return to us, so the ASK of the Government has to be realistic or we will be kicked out the door as soon as we walk in.

That is the economics of all of this and I hope that everyone can understand that while (we) think that matching is the way to go, it may not be the answer."

With the HST splitting back into the PST/GST, it's just that much harder for productions to choose Vancouver as a location to shoot at. 25,000 people work directly in film/tv. In Feb, about 1500 will be. We are not asking for a handout. WE WANT TO WORK. This BILLION dollar industry can disappear completely without the government's cooperation.

Film Guy

Jan 15, 2013 at 11:51pm

NDPer. do some research. we're not looking for subsidizing, we're looking for the the same tax incentives that Ontario and Quebec have. The two things are completely different.

anti-HST

Jan 16, 2013 at 12:02am

Here's an uncomfortable fact: A large percentage of film workers in BC are working for minimum wage. These are the people who work 15 hour days without proper lunch breaks. You've all seen those people downtown. They're the ones in the orange vests.

Do you really deserve these tax breaks, SaveBCFilm?? Are we supposed to forget that you were the same people pushing the HST a couple of years ago? The tax that increased my family's grocery bill?

It seems pretty obvious that you don't care about us -- it seems obvious that you don't even care about many of your own workers -- so the question I have for you is this:

Why should WE care about YOU?

Burnaby Green

Jan 16, 2013 at 12:48am

It's a bit ironic that the NDP wants to be the film industry's savior when they effectively killed the HST which is one of the reasons for the exodus of productions from BC.

TMcT

Jan 16, 2013 at 1:18am

Why tax breaks?

Our film industry was built; our infrastructure developed and our people trained and experienced when the exchange rate made doing business here much cheaper for US companies. Now it's not cheaper, so they need another incentive to move productions from their backyard to here, where they put a great deal of money into our economy.

It's not a race to the bottom. It's a race to a level where it becomes worth their while to ship their business up here. And it is worth it to us.

Apple68

Jan 16, 2013 at 9:22am

You must have been sucking on an exhaust pipe to make the statement to state that the NDP is ready to make a change to save jobs and foster growth....you obviously werent around when they destroyed our economy. After promising not to raise taxes during the 1991 election campaign, the NDP raised taxes by nearly $2 billion in their first two years. By 1994, B.C. had the highest marginal income tax rates in North America.

As a result, per capita Real Disposable Income dropped every year between 1991 and 1996 and was never regained during their term.

But yeah, let's go right back to those days...they sound so much fun, especially now that I have kids and a mortgage.

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