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

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.

Comments (28) Add New Comment
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.
Rating: -2
Deborah Valentine
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 .
Rating: +33
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?
Rating: +16
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 .....
Rating: +16
Louisa Phung
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%)

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.
Rating: +20
Film Guy
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.
Rating: +25
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?

Rating: +14
Burnaby Green
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.
Rating: +12
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.
Rating: +20
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 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.
Rating: -12
When globalized companies can consider cost (instead of expertise) in where to take their jobs everyone except the heads of these companies loses. The BC Film question is a difficult one, but how about how about working harder to develop a local film industry. None of these problems are going to be solved until CEO's are universally persuaded (or forced) to be committed to reducing income inequality.
Rating: +8
Barney Fife
Let's be honest here, Gordonocchio and the BC Fiberals said right before the last election that the "HST was not even on the radar", and then rammed it to us immediately afterward. Guess what?... We're all STILL paying for it.
Rating: +5
New Horizons
Christy needs all you Film/TV employees up north to help clean up the pipeline spills when they happen!

Or you can work in the Bollywood industry (her personal preference) ... your choice.
Rating: +18

The BC Film Industry is asking for equal tax credits, not subsidies.....the difference is:

A subsidy takes money from one person by force and gives it to another person. A tax credit means the government takes less money by force from a person who has earned it. Big difference.
To take a tax credit you have to have income to offset it. a subsidy is basically a blank check written to company X just for doing job Y. a credit just reduces your tax liability. A subsidy is like a welfare check you get for no reason.


BC's Subsidies to Oil and Gas:

BC government is granting $327 million of subsidies, this year, to the oil and gas industry.

To be precise, the British Columbia government funnels money to the oil and gas industry in two main ways:
1. By granting 'infrastructure credits' (that are applied to the cost of building things like new roads in the middle of nowhere, or pipelines). Normally a company would have to pay for these things in full as part of the capital cost of their project(s).
2. By reducing normal royalty rates (a royalty rate is the percentage of profit that the public receives in return for allowing a company to access resources) in circumstances where getting at the resource is too costly to justify the effort of the company (e.g. during summer, or for particularly difficult-to-access oil or gas reserves).

Essentially, in circumstances where companies can't afford to build projects on their own, our government waves various forms of financial assistance in front of them to entice them onwards.

Since 2002, the government has introduced royalty rates for marginal and ultra-marginal natural gas, royalty credits for deep gas exploration, summer drilling and infrastructure development. The coal bed methane royalty recognizes the unique development and production costs of this resource. All these new changes to the royalty regime will ensure that British Columbia’s fiscal regime remains competitive with other jurisdictions, encourage development of natural resources, and in turn increase direct revenue to the Province. These will also create jobs in the oil and gas sector and help revitalize the provincial economy.


Forestry is a powerful industry in BC, every year the logging companies make billions of dollars in profit by clear cutting old-growth forests, but In B.C.
Rating: +8
the timber industry enjoys a $2.5 billion per year subsidy. The industry is cyclical, and profits rise and fall depending on various factors, including the strength of the US housing market and the value of the Canadian dollar, but it consistently makes a profit. They don't bear the costs of soil degradation, ecosystem havoc, carbon deficits, or the loss of the boreal forest. Even in the "bad" years, the industry has done well.

In 2006, profits were down from a year earlier, but wood and paper companies still took a $3.3 billion profit.


• BC Hydro’s Power Smart plan for the industrial sector is not very effective (a large percentage of the estimated cost-effective potential will not be realized) nor necessarily efficient. It certainly is not equitable. Two recent load displacement projects make clear that subsidized Power Smart projects can impose significant costs on ratepayers. Based on the market value of the electricity saved, the net loss to ratepayers will be at least $6.8 million for the Weyerhaeuser project and $11.1 million for the Canfor project. The net loss could be as much as $13.2 million for the Weyerhaeuser project and $25.0 million for the Canfor project given the possibility that some of the purchased savings might have been realized without any subsidy. Power Smart subsidies benefit recipients, but at the direct expense of all other ratepayers.
Rating: +17
David W
You can hate on the NDP, rich CEOs, or HST all you want, but this is a cut and dry case of a Billion dollar industry in our Province or not. We don't subsidize jack, it's a Tax break. The production still pays Tax. All of the Laborers still pay Taxes (full rate), the rental houses still pay tax (full rate), the Police Officers hired onto productions still pay Taxes (full rate), Actors still pay Taxes, Extras Still pay Taxes, everyone working on these productions are Paying Taxes. And it adds up to a hell of a lot of revenue for this province. That all goes away when the Productions go elsewhere, period.
Rating: +10
? How does the HST increase a grocery bill? there was no GST in the first place.

And the HST is important for the film industry. They were paying non-recoverable PST on things like prop rental. Even if we increase the subsidy to film and digital, ON and QC will still have an advantage because of their VAT-style HST/QST.
Rating: +12
There is far too much Corporate Welfare for Oil & Gas etc.

Large Corporate Studios will shop around for the lowest cost jurisdiction BC can not compete on low cost vs Provinces and States whose Economies are far larger and therefore their ability to give larger rebates far beyond BC.

BC cannot afford Rebates of 33% + and not compete with its public check book vs Ontario & California etc since those Provincial and State economies are far larger and can afford to give even more than BC can ever do.

If BC gives 50% Rebates Ontario can give 55% and so on, BC can not compete on Rebate give-aways its simply not a large enough Economy vs Ontario or other larger Provinces and States.

We need to find other ways to be competitive other than giving Rebates away or invest in other Industries and Training where we get better returns and better higher paying jobs.

Its simply not Economically sustainable to give rebates of 43+%.
Rating: +4
@Pro-HST: You sound just like a film worker! Are you a Production Manager?

Just like a film industry worker to claim that the HST didn't increase living costs for everyone else. Just like a film industry worker to expect the entire world to revolve around them while giving nothing back.

Ontario and Quebec also treat their Production Assistants like human beings. Vancouver cannot say the same thing. That's why "pro-HST" attacked the HST argument but said nothing about the Production Assistants.

The reason it was ignored was because it's the truth. It's an irrefutable and disgusting truth. The BC film industry thrives on the backs of minimum wage workers. No lunch breaks. 15 hour days. They exploit these people and throw them away.

It's the elephant in the room. The real reason why none of you deserve to have jobs.
Rating: -3
Actually, I think Production Assistants also have to pay 5 dollar fees for each day they work, as well as 2% gross wages to their union. So that would mean they actually work for less than minimum wage. They're also expected to have cars and drive all over hell's half acre. Oh yeah and cell phones too. Dont know how anyone could do that job without going into debt.
Rating: +14


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