Motion from Vancouver mayor urges “national approach” to support film and television industry

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      Vancouver mayor Gregor Robertson has submitted a motion urging a "national approach" to level the playing field for the film and television industry across Canada.

      Robertson brought the motion forward today (January 29) for debate at the next council meeting, proposing that he write to Premier Christy Clark, NDP leader Adrian Dix, and Prime Minister Stephen Harper expressing concern for the film production sector. 

      “The City of Vancouver has a great working relationship with the film and TV industry…the fundamental problem here is a tax credit scheme that is not competitive with Ontario and Quebec, and that has to be changed by the provincial government ASAP or we’re going to lose thousands of jobs in Vancouver that are essential to our economy,” Robertson told reporters following city council today (January 29).

      “We’re talking about thousands of jobs at risk here, and that should have the provincial government on this 24/7 to ensure we don’t lose those jobs.”

      Bill Bennett, the B.C. minister responsible for film, told the Straight in a phone interview that he’s “on side” with the idea of a national strategy.

      “I think it’s a good idea, and I’ve already been talking about it, but the challenge to that idea is that if tax credits are more or less equal across the country, B.C. will get the work, and Ontario and Quebec know that,” he said.

      Bennett said the province has no plans to increase the $285 million in funding it provides in tax credits related to film production.

      “While it’s a great industry and I definitely want to keep the industry thriving in B.C., basically what the mayor is calling for is for all provincial taxpayers…to throw more money in to subsidize an industry that’s essentially based in-not completely, we make movies all over the province-but it’s essentially a Vancouver-based industry.”

      Mayor Robertson’s motion also calls for city manager Penny Ballem and the Vancouver Economic Commission to provide an update on the state of the film and TV industry in Vancouver, and on any actions the city can take to support the sector.

      About 3,000 members of the local motion picture production industry gathered in North Vancouver for a rally last week, calling for B.C. to increase tax incentives for film production. The province currently offers a 33 percent tax credit on local labour, while production companies in Ontario receive a 25 percent tax incentive on each dollar spent.

      B.C. has dropped to North America’s fourth largest film production centre, falling behind Ontario, according to 2011 statistics. Cheryl Nex, the vice-chair of the Motion Picture Production Industry Association of B.C., predicted at the rally last week that employment rates will be down at least 40 percent from last year in the first quarter of 2013.

      “We obviously need to compete with Ontario and Quebec with tax credits,” said Robertson. “Industry has signalled it doesn’t need to be exactly the same, because B.C. and Vancouver have a more favourable combination of talent and experience and location. So we need to see a competitive scheme that enables film and T.V. to continue to be produced here, and keeps us at the third biggest in North America.”

      Bennett said he’s not prepared to accept the projections of unemployment in the B.C. production sector until he sees the industry statistics from 2012. The minister noted he will make an announcement regarding B.C.’s creative industries this Thursday (January 31).

      “It’s an announcement relating to not just film but all of the creative industries, and to arts and culture generally in the province,” he said. “It’s not a hundred million dollars in tax credits, but I think it’ll be well-received.”

      Vancouver city council will consider Robertson’s motion at its next meeting on Tuesday, February 12.


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      Jan 30, 2013 at 7:49am

      Tax credits=race to the bottom. Tax increases (done cleverly and with limits)=race to the top.

      A Smith

      Jan 30, 2013 at 12:35pm

      Our PM behaves as if people are making too much money so I doubt he will take kindly to such a motion. However, I fully agree with our Mayor on this one. Why isn't it a "National Approach" already? These stats don't take the whole impact into consideration. The Film and TV industry hires more than those in the field. Plus I have never seen the stats to include the spouses and children of those in the industry. For example you have 35 (this number is way higher in reality) professionals working in Film and TV that moved here because this is where the work is, chances are their spouses and children came with them. You take those 35 away you are actually looking at 70+ people leaving. The impact this Tax Credit Scheme will have is way bigger than any projections made so far. So yeah, Go Mayor and Council get on with those letters asap!

      jason claridge

      Jan 30, 2013 at 1:53pm

      The apple pie analogy......
      Movie producers bring a whole fresh baked apple pie to British Columbia because we love apple pie and do a really good job of eating and sharing it.
      In return for bringing this whole pie into British Columbia, all they ask for is if they can have one tiny piece of the pie back to eat themselves.
      They leave us with over 90 percent of the pie to share with our friends, family as well as the government.
      If we don't give one little piece of the pie back, we have absolutely nothing to share!
      We are pieless!!

      Aaron D.

      Jan 30, 2013 at 2:40pm

      "I think it’s a good idea, and I’ve already been talking about it, but the challenge to that idea is that if tax credits are more or less equal across the country, B.C. will get the work, and Ontario and Quebec know that,”

      Bill Bennett, BC Liberal MLA for Kootenay East and the Minister of Community, Sport and Cultural Development.

      This is the BC Liberals admitting that if they were to fix our tax rebate system to be competitive, the work would come here to BC.

      Currently thousands are out of work as the governments lack of action on this crippling the BC Film Industry. If they do not act soon, BC's third largest contributing industry to our GDP will disappear withing 24 months. It will not return because the infrastructure required will have been re-purposed due to closure. BILLIONS of new money into our BC economy will vanish. Thousands will lose their careers, unable to work film elsewhere in Canada due to legislation preventing them from doing so. Legislation other provinces have put in to protect their workers.

      The question you should be asking yourselves are:

      1. Can BC afford to turn their backs on billions in revenue over a few hundred million in tax rebates?
      2. If these thousands (estimates of up to 25,000 direct jobs) of film workers (experienced in trades, business, marketing, consulting, accounting, etc etc.) are UNEMPLOYED this year... whose jobs will they be looking to take?
      3. What are the wide economic implications of eliminating even more billions thrown around in local business for services, goods, space use, permits, taxes, etc. etc.?
      4. How will 25,000 people out of work affect you personally?
      5. How will we continue to grow and develop essential services such as health and education if we eliminate our third biggest producer of GDP?

      BUT MOSTLY: Ask yourself this...

      If the BC Liberal Party KNOWS that BC and it's citizens will get the work with competitive tax credits... and they KNOW how much we gain from getting that work... and the KNOW how much we lose if we do not.... WHY ON GOD'S GREEN EARTH DO THEY CHOOSE NOT TO TAKE ACTION?!

      And lastly, how can you justify voting for a party that is bent on burning thousands of careers and billions of needed dollars to the ground DESPITE knowing that for it to happen, all we have to do is give back a little more of the taxes spent while filming here?


      Jan 30, 2013 at 4:48pm

      This is a race to the bottom. The risk here is that BC could win.

      If you live by price, you will die by price. What is the point of increasing the tax credit when BC cannot influence what Quebec or Ontario or any other jurisdiction does? BC can increase the tax credit all they want- another state or province can match it, and then we are back to begging for even more tax breaks, which will then be matched or exceeded by some new, cheaper location.

      My sympathies go out to those affected, but surely you should have been aware that the only reason the work was here was because the price was lower at the time than some other location.

      You might want to try doing something or offering something that no other jurisdiction can offer in the film industry, something unique.

      I don't see why my tax dollars should prop up an industry that cannot compete with other locations.

      jason claridge

      Jan 30, 2013 at 5:08pm

      They are not your tax dollars chumpdawg! The credit comes from the personal income tax that film workers pay to the government.
      If we make no money and therefore pay no taxes there is no credit collected by the film companies!
      Simple as that!

      Hollywood Sam

      Jan 30, 2013 at 7:13pm

      Lets talk tax breaks for specific industries here.

      Every logging road in BC used by Logging Companies was built with my tax dollars, not with Logging Co Money.

      The same is true for Oil and Gas Companies, my money built their access roads.

      There was a time when really, really rich folks could own a race horse and the cost of the horse was totally deductible by 120%. Giving a 20% grant to anyone who owned a race horse or part of one. Also the race horse was considered "Farming" by Revenue Canada and all tax breaks (Tax dodges) applied.

      BC Contributes 14% of all the money that goes into the Canadian Cable Fund (A Tax on your Cable bill) and yet only 3% of the money is spent on Canadian Production in BC.

      Quebec contributes 24% of the funds to the Cable Fund and they get 36% of the money.

      Yah, BC Tax Dollars Subsidize the Quebec Film and TV Industry.

      Would someone please tell me why the best Canadian TV Show ever shot in BC, "Intelligence" was canceled??

      It was a Grade A crime drama and do the Religious folks who back Steven Harper have control of Canadian Broadcasting???

      Cory Kinney

      Jan 30, 2013 at 7:24pm

      Despite there already being a federal tax credit for the film and television sector, what Mayor Robertson may be referencing is something not covered in this article. Currently, the majority of jobs in this sector are not transferrable from region to region because of provincial tax credit schemes. What this means is that a technician will usually not be hired in an out of province area because the producers in the other provinces cannot claim credits on the labour of non-residents. There were and are some exceptions to this rule in different areas, but for the most part, if you live in a province, you are restricted to working only there. By creating a national scheme, you eliminate the studios playing the provinces off each other and allow mobility to film workers where none currently exists. As you can imagine, the unions are quite territorial about out of area workers coming in and taking work away from their members and that is a natural side effect of such a national proposal. That would seem to be the far greater hurdle to overcome than rather than convincing politicians who may be anxious to limit the tax credit liability in their respective areas.

      The other areas where Mayor Robertson may want to look at are much closer to home and that is funding for BC Film, Telefilm West and the BC Arts Council. These are the organizations that promote homegrown productions that are not reliant upon fickle US studios. While not the lucrative, high paying jobs that exist with service production work from the US, they do something much more important; building a sustainable local industry that is not beholden to all of the forces that impact whether US productions are made here.


      Jan 30, 2013 at 7:51pm

      They are my tax dollars. The credits reduce the amount that film companies pay in tax, which must be compensated either by other taxes or an appropriate reduction in services.


      Jan 31, 2013 at 5:27pm

      When the industry dries up, there will be no more 'tax dollars' Chumpdawg.
      The Liberal government doesn't even need to match the tax credits of Ontario and Quebec necessarily, meeting half way even would go a long way to bridging the gap and keeping BC competitive.
      The fact that the government has gone on file saying they aren't going to do anything, to help an industry that is clearly struggling and losing ground to other provinces and jurisdictions, should raise red flags and alarms to every person in BC, and not just those of us who supports their families working in this industry.
      Time for a new voice in BC.