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.