A conspiracy theory about Adrian Dix and the B.C. film industry

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      Occasionally, the highest compliment a journalist can receive is to be called a conspiracy theorist.

      This epithet can actually suggest that the reporter or columnist is probing possibilities that the rest of the pack hasn't considered.

      In that spirit, I'm going to lay out some of my thoughts about B.C. NDP Leader Adrian Dix's approach to the B.C. film industry.

      This morning, I heard Dix say on The Bill Good Show that his recent trip to Hollywood was prepared months ago.

      It makes sense because an opposition politician probably can't fly into Los Angeles on short notice and obtain meetings with top executives at Disney, 20th Century Fox, and Warner Bros. This takes planning.

      According to Dix, it was a coincidence that his trip occurred just after thousands of film-industry workers and their families held a town-hall meeting at North Shore Studios. This was to press the B.C. government to save their jobs.

      A week earlier, the NDP candidate in Vancouver–False Creek, Matt Toner, wrote a commentary on Straight.com condemning the B.C. Liberal government for its "indifference" to the film industry.

      "Adrian Dix, on the other hand, clearly understands the importance of creativity and innovation as a path to our province’s future," Toner stated. "And the way we get there is by taking a series of measured steps that engage the industry and the people working in it."

      Toner, a digital-media producer and economist, surprised many by narrowly defeating Vancouver park commissioner Constance Barnes for the NDP nomination.

      Where's the conspiracy theory?

      Try this on for size:

      • The B.C. NDP decided a long time ago that it needed to boost its street cred on business issues.

      • The problem facing the B.C. NDP is that most industry leaders are strongly in the camp of the B.C. Liberals, particularly in the resource, retail, real estate, and financial-services sectors. There are no third-party endorsers for the NDP at the B.C. Mining Association, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, the Urban Development Institute, or the Canadian Bankers Association.

      • The film and digital-media industries, on the other hand, are not so firmly ensconsed in the B.C. Liberal universe. And the film industry, in particular, is highly unionized, making its workforce a natural ally of the B.C. NDP.

      • For years, people in these industries have been grumbling about how B.C. is losing film productions to Ontario, and how Quebec is undermining our video-game sector with generous tax breaks. This provided the B.C. NDP with an opportunity.

      • The B.C. NDP solution: nominate a candidate who can speak to these issues with some business credentials. And then hammer away on this up to the election to make the B.C. Liberals look like economic incompetents.

      • Because the film and digital-media industries both offer good visuals, a campaign around saving people's jobs would generate plenty of coverage on TV newscasts with massive audiences. Because these are largely urban-based industries, they're within easy reach of the major provincial media, who could be relied on to deliver a series of stories.

      • Book a trip to Hollywood for B.C. NDP Leader Adrian Dix. And get the producers and unions to raise hell with a huge rally just before the premier-in-waiting returns to Vancouver.

      Constance Barnes didn't fit into the script

      One obstacle on Dix's road to power, however, was Barnes. She had topped the polls for Vancouver park commissioner in two consecutive civic elections. This constituted a threat to the NDP's broad strategy of nominating Toner as a key NDP voice for the film and digital-media industries.

      Fortunately, one of Dix's strongest political allies, NDP fixer Neil Monckton, is the president of the Vancouver–False Creek NDP constituency association.

      In the end, Toner reportedly won the nomination by six votes, though feelings still remain bitter in the Barnes camp over the outcome.

      Barnes wasn't going to help Dix reinforce his credibility as an economic manager. So she was expendable, notwithstanding her father Emery's long service to the party as an MLA and speaker of the legislature.

      B.C. NDP sends economic messages to voters

      Dix has been doing other things to convey business savvy to the mainstream, such as ringing the bell at the Toronto Stock Exchange after Catalyst Paper Corporation emerged from bankruptcy protection. Stunts like this are generating positive coverage for him in the Vancouver Sun and other media outlets.

      Last year, former Port Moody mayor and businessman Joe Trasolini was elected to the legislature from Port Moody–Coquitlam. This also helped the B.C. NDP calm down its traditional opponents in the editorial offices of large newspapers.

      Earlier this month, the B.C. NDP went even further by nominating the former executive director of the Chilliwack Chamber of Commerce, Patti MacAhonic, as a candidate. She has ties to the pro-hunting and pro-fishing B.C. Wildlife Federation.

      I'm not suggesting that New Democrats don't care about film-industry jobs, because they do. But it's also likely that B.C. NDP organizers have worked hand-in-hand with the film unions and industry officials on the timing of this latest campaign.

      The B.C. Liberals tried striking back by announcing an $11-million expenditure to woo the Times of India Group's film awards. This may have backfired, however, after the B.C. NDP revealed that this event was created in advance of the B.C. election after the province failed to attract the International Indian Film Academy Awards.

      "They invented a whole new Bollywood awards show trademarked and sponsored solely by the B.C. government so they could hold this event in April," charged B.C. NDP arts and culture critic Spencer Chandra Herbert in a party news release.

      In the meantime, B.C. film workers are left wondering why the premier will spend $11 million on a Bollywood awards show while refusing to help preserve their jobs.

      And thanks to some shrewd long-term planning by the B.C. NDP, Dix is coming across as the only provincial political leader who gives a damn about them and the domestic film industry.

      It's very likely that the B.C. NDP will win the next election even as Toner loses in Vancouver–False Creek. If this occurs, you can be certain that Toner will be taken care of by the party in power.

      It's conceivable that by then, an NDP government might even be looking for a new head of the B.C. Film Commission.



      Burnaby Green

      Jan 25, 2013 at 6:01pm

      Do you think the BCNDP planned to damage the film industry with the organizing of the anti-HST petition? "The HST is a definite plus for the motion picture industry and it levels the playing field between B.C. and Ontario, since Ontario used to refund the PST," says Susan Croome, B.C. Film Commissioner. "It has been a tremendous help to put us in an equally competitive position." (quoted from the CBC)

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      Jan 25, 2013 at 6:31pm

      This crap isn't even worth lighting my backyard fire with. Worse than the National enquirer. A sad sight coming from one of the few progressive sites in this province.. You are flushing your credibility down the toilet by publishing this tripe.

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      Jan 25, 2013 at 7:25pm

      This is why people have little or no faith in politicians and the processes by which they are elected.Also why you can't tell what's going on behind the scenes by reading the local main stream media.Probably because they get 98% of their content from the same internet sources as every other MSM entity.The few reporters who actually work off of sources in "the loop"are usually too cozy with those sources to actually throw out any real dirt for fear that the source won't talk to them ever again.I can remember knowing the SC organizer for Vancouver East,who was a dyed in the wool drunk.This was way back in the 60's.He couldn't possibly have done very much work as he was at our house till 5 in the morning,drunk as a skunk.What he did do was open my eyes to just how dirty,corrupt and downright evil politicians can be.What happened to Constance Barnes is nothing new.Any political party that has an agenda,and they all have at least one.Will cut the legs out from under any politician that they suspect doesn't share their vision and will tow their line.You have to go along to get along.If you vote for the Liberals,you get the Clark manifesto and for the NDP,Dixs'.Vote for any other party,or an independent and you might get better or at least more independent representation but you won't get any legislation passed.What's needed is a total revamp of the political process.Not very likely in a system that is working far too well for the corporations and big business.Thus the NDP's courting of that sector to the exclusion of old line socialists like Constance Barnes.

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      Handol Kim

      Jan 25, 2013 at 7:55pm

      So really the only part of this that is a conspiracy theory is that the NDP needed to find a secret way to get Matt Toner the nomination and that Matt could end-up with a sweet patronage appointment if Dix wins. The rest is savvy politicking - getting, real, committed grass-roots support in an important but overlooked community and timing high-profile events to support the message.

      So, disclaimer - I've known Matt Toner since 1995 when we were young men starting-out our careers in the Department of Foreign Affairs. Since then we both left - me going into high-tech and Matt, well, Matt into a variety of areas: technology, gaming, theatre, film & TV - heck, there ain't a lot Matt Toner hasn't tried. He's never been a calculating money-grubbing kind of guy: prestige has never been a big motivator for him. He does things because he believes in them - and that's how his brain and heart work. Matt saw an issue, a real issue that people weren't addressing seriously, and he put his heart and soul into making sure people paid attention to it. He stepped-up for something he believed and challenged and upset an annointed NDP candidate with massive party cred. When Matt threw his hat in the ring, he was a huge underdog.

      It's easy to look back through the lens of hindsight and impute connectors, imaginary motivations and shady back-room deals without knowing anything about Matt Toner. I am no fan of the BC Provincial NDP and it kills me that Matt is running for them because I am tech corporate guy who aligns more with the Liberal view of the world, but because it's Matt, I know he's an independent thinker, passionate about the cause he believes in, and uniquely capable to execute.

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      Tyler Sigman

      Jan 25, 2013 at 9:07pm

      Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. The article is a thought provoking but completely wayward take on the events. I propose a much more likely (and true) scenario: Mr. Toner, passionate about BC's entertainment industry and seeing it crumble year by year, decided to get involved politically and fight the good fight. Fully expecting to lose, his message turned out to be the right message at the right time, and his hard-fought campaign secured *barely* enough votes to earn the nomination. The party was likely an interested observer up until the point that the nomination was won. No doubt they were as surprised at his victory as Ms. Barnes was. That unlikely victory is catching notice of the broader party (and the industry), and the message is spreading more widely with him as the catalyst. This is a good thing for those of us employed and engaged in Vancouver's digital entertainment scene. To suggest that Mr. Toner's candidacy was brought about by a bigger plan is getting things backwards. His efforts (and success) are resonating and creating both awareness and political capital in the way of a well-defined platform that others are realizing is important to many voters in BC. I'm not doubting that Mr. Toner *could* become a pawn in the larger political picture, but his place, and victory, was earned by a self-created opportunity.

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      Hans Dayal

      Jan 25, 2013 at 9:42pm

      There is no validity to this theory. The rally was a spontaneous expression by a group of disenfranchised folks at a traditionally quiet time of year I'm this industry. No calculation, it was a genuine event that harnessed social media and surprised everyone. And, incidentally, getting organized quickly is something film industry workers excel at.

      There are also many film industry workers - a fair number of them - that are Big-El BC Liberals, and it's not a case of the unions holding that much sway with their membership.

      The trip may have been timely but this is a case of political opportunism, which is completely justfiiable in the current climate. I hope the film industry and larger discussion about the value of cultural industries in BC don't get lost in the political battles that will unfold over the next few months.

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      Jan 26, 2013 at 12:09am

      If Ms Premier had done her job right, there would be no need for Dix to go to the USA trying to mend the fence with the film industry!
      Looks like one politician went for Bollywood, the other went to Hollywood.

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      Al Uglanica

      Jan 26, 2013 at 12:23am

      I've been working in the Film Industry for the last 25 years in the lower mainland.In the late 80's and early 90's work would come in stages and one would have to plan for terms of unemployment. The industry was still in the growing stages and our labour force was still in the proving stage of their skills and competence. The Film Industry then took off in the mid 90's with an abundance of work and projects. We had TV Series, MOW's,Mini Series and Features.We have some of the best crews in North America and our rates are competitive.Because of the value of the business,incentives were given to attract more work. We drew work to B.C. from California,Florida, New York and became the third largest film community in North America. Other provinces saw what a lucrative business the film industry was and increased their incentives to draw work to their provinces.It worked! Like any other business, the producers will go where they get the biggest bang for their buck. Ontario and Quebec are proof of this.Since the early 2000's, the film industry has generated over 14 billion dollars into the economy of B.C. When logging, fishing and mining were slowing, the film industry was thriving. Tens of thousands of people make their living directly from the creative industry (gaming,film, TV) and over 80,000 jobs are created for suppliers to this industry. Equipment rentals, vehicle rentals, studio rentals, hotels, restaurants, glass companies, literally hundreds of business's are dependent on a healthy, thriving film industry. Action must be taken to resurrect this industry and save these jobs. In reality over 100,000 jobs are stimulated by the creative industry and when Christy Clark and her liberal colleagues can't or won't recognize this, I dread to think of what will happen if this party who is so concerned about families and jobs gets back into power. We can look forward to more lost jobs and higher taxes to offset their ignorance.

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      Mark Lunn

      Jan 26, 2013 at 5:11am

      I call bullshit. I expected more from the Tyee and much much more from the Straight. the Town Hall meeting was a direct result of a grassroots movement started when Christy Clark deleted comments about her job plan not including the film and media sectors. It started quickly with no planning. As far as I am concerned, the Straight is no more progressive than the Vancouver Sun, or, dare I say it, Fox news.


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      Jan 26, 2013 at 8:04am

      @Burnaby Green, heck, you can even quote the Georgia Straight:

      "film-production companies—as well as suppliers of catering and lighting—that are currently paying seven-percent PST on rental equipment, props, costumes, and other goods will be able to recover the 12-percent HST after July 1. “That means that yes, they will be paying a higher rate of tax at 12 percent, but the full 12 percent will be fully recoverable by them on their GST returns, which means that effectively they’re not paying that tax,” he said."


      If the NDP give the film industry tax credits, what will they do about the HST?

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