Editor’s note: The following commentary was written in response to Maureen Bader: Hollywood wins big in B.C. corporate welfare lottery.
By Peter Leitch
British Columbia’s film and television industry has been one of the leading economic growth stories for the province over the last 20 years. Rising from $211 million in spending in 1992 to $1.3 billion in 2009, B.C. has emerged as third largest centre for production in North America and one of the global leaders in the production of digital entertainment. Convergence with new media and a growing cluster of highly specialized companies in visual effects, animation, and interactive gaming suggest that British Columbia is in an excellent position to capitalize further on the infrastructure that has been established here, with significant potential for future jobs and investment in this province.
Progressive government tax policy has helped create a competitive business environment that attracts private investment in B.C.’s comprehensive industry infrastructure. British Columbia is a leader in private-sector investment in the film industry in Canada, exceeding $1 billion invested in world-class studios, production companies, postproduction, visual effects and animation facilities, and specialized equipment and service companies.
Success in B.C.’s film and television production sector has been well documented in local media over the years, but about once a year for the last five years, film-industry tax credits come under editorial scrutiny, with their return on investment measured in the context of a 2005 film-industry study whose assumptions and conclusions have long been considered questionable.
In the meantime, B.C.’s tax policy on film production has been refined over the years, in an effort to keep British Columbia competitive, but by no means following the multitude of filming jurisdictions or offering the richest tax incentives available in North America for film production. When Ontario, B.C.’s biggest competitor for foreign and domestic production, introduced its unprecedented 25-percent “all spend” tax incentive in July 2009, the B.C. government did not “follow suit” but deliberated extensively before introducing changes to labour tax credits in February 2010 aimed at keeping B.C. competitive and encouraging investment in technology-based digital entertainment sectors.
B.C.’s motion-picture production industry has an important role to play in a diversified British Columbia economy. It is a technologically enabled, knowledge-based, environmentally conscious business sector that has demonstrated its ability to compete in world markets. The industry is currently undergoing a fundamental transformation but motion picture and digital entertainment will remain a pivotal source of economic growth. B.C. has the potential to increase employment, create wealth and become a global centre of production excellence. Our province cannot afford to cede these opportunities to other jurisdictions.
Peter Leitch is the chair of the Motion Picture Production Industry Association of British Columbia.