B.C. budget offers no aid to digital media sector

NDP arts and culture critic Spencer Herbert calls the provincial government’s lack of support for B.C.’s digital-media sector “pretty disappointing and shortsighted”.

With video-game companies laying off workers and closing down studios in Vancouver, the industry had been looking for help—but didn’t find any—in Finance Minister Colin Hansen’s budget.

“It’s not a huge workforce, but the amount of money it brings into the province is astronomical,” Herbert told the Straight today (February 17) by phone. “I’m concerned it’s going to disappear.”

The Vancouver-Burrard MLA noted that the industry, represented by New Media B.C., had presented a variety of options to the provincial government during the consultations leading up to the budget.

Now, Herbert said he fears the digital-media sector will go the way of the forest industry if it doesn’t get the right support soon.

“If we’re trying to build a knowledge-based economy, the new-media sector is leading the way,” he said.

Ida Chong, B.C.’s minister of small business, technology, and economic development, previously told the Straight that the province already supports digital media through its New Media Venture Capital Program.

But Herbert said the program, which offers tax credits to investors, runs out of money too quickly each year and doesn’t really support innovation.

Herbert said he couldn’t commit his party to supporting tax credits for labour costs, like those provided to new-media companies by the Quebec government, but he said the province can’t afford to do nothing for the industry.

“If we lose the cluster of digital-media companies, it’s gone forever,” he said.

Yesterday’s throne speech, delivered by Lieutenant-Governor Steven Point on behalf of the Liberal government, may have given some the impression that the industry was due to receive some support in the budget.

“Our software, wireless and new media technology companies will be anchors for ongoing investment in clean, creative growth,” the speech said.

Today, Hansen didn’t mention new media in his budget speech.

UPDATE (February 18):

Kenton Low, president of New Media B.C., told the Straight he is disappointed that the budget doesn’t include economic incentives for his industry, but he’s hopeful support will be forthcoming.

Low said today (February 18) that Ministry of Finance staff have told him the provincial government needed to address bigger priorities with this budget, and help for the digital-media sector will have to wait until after the May election.

“The good news is there has been no door that has been closed on the industry,” Low said.



Reader via e-mail

Feb 19, 2009 at 11:38am

I was disappointed to read MLA Spencer Herbert’s comments about the Government of British Columbia’s ongoing support for our digital media industry (B.C. budget offers no aid to digital media sector, Feb. 17, 2009).

If Mr. Herbert had taken the time to ask me, I could have informed him of all the support our government has provided the new media sector. On top of the New Media Venture Capital budget Mr. Herbert mentioned, New Media companies can access resources from the B.C. Renaissance Capital Fund and the Equity Capital Tax Credit Fund.

The new World Centre for Digital Media was built with $40.5 million in funding from the Province. Located at the Great Northern Way Campus in Vancouver, the Centre builds on our province’s strong academic reputation in the fields of digital and film animation, interactive design, mobile applications and game development – creating a digital media hub.

In addition the province has supported the participation of B.C.-based video game companies at G-Star 2008, Korea’s largest video game trade show, and at the Tokyo Game Show, as part of British Columbia’s Asia-Pacific Initiative.

There is no question this year’s budget has been one of the most difficult in recent memory, but our government stands by our decision to protect vital programs in health care, education and social services, while providing an economic stimulus package including $14 billion towards infrastructure spending.

Ida Chong, FCGA
Minister of Small Business, Technology and Economic Development


Feb 19, 2009 at 2:50pm

Dear Editor,

It's nice to see the Minister respond to my, and the digital media industries concern. I am well aware of the programs that the Minister has outlined. I appreciate her sharing of information about what the government has done in the past.
Unfortunately as myself, and many industry members have stated this industry is losing hundreds of jobs and threatened right now. The programs of the past have not stopped the losses of jobs, and have not decreased the concern that we will lose this vital industry to other provinces, or states who are agressively seeking to bring these businesses to their communities.


Spencer Herbert
Official Opposition Critic for Arts and Culture
Vancouver Burrard