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”.
“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.