B.C. film industry pushes for higher tax incentives
Members of the B.C. film industry are looking for a way to level the playing field after higher tax incentives in other provinces have pushed B.C. from centre stage and its “Hollywood North” reputation.
B.C.'s tax incentive program, one of the first of its kind created, offers a 33 per cent tax credit on local labour. But Ontario and Quebec have pushed ahead, offering a 25 per cent tax credit on all production spending, including labour, rentals and equipment.
Garin Josey, a board member of the Motion Picture Production Industry Association, says the gap is too big to ignore.
“It’s all about trying to stay competitive in an industry that’s becoming more and more competitive world wide,” said Josey. “We are competing against jurisdictions in the states as well as here in Canada.”
While Josey says B.C.'s labour-based incentive does ensure locals have employment when movies are produced in province, Ontario and Quebec's all-spend tax incentive system is much more attractive.
Josey said the MPPIA is currently in negotiations with the provincial government, but at a press conference on Wednesday, Premier Christy Clark said there are no additional tax credits for the film industry in the works.
Now, a grassroots movement is working to change that, and created a petition that has nearly 20,000 signatures. A newly created Twitter account, called saveBCfilm has been catching attention as well. The first tweet the account sent out Saturday quickly led to #savebcfilm trending in Vancouver that day.
Peter Leitch, president of North Shore Studios, is on board with change and said it’s a pretty serious situation, with a lot of people out of work.
“It’s probably one of the quietest periods that we've every experienced,” said Leitch, who agreed it has to do with the tax incentive difference. "That differential is just too great to sustain the level of jobs we've had here, so we're at risk of losing some great talent and some great infrastructure."
Sean Meade, a member of the Directors Guild of Canada, agrees that help is needed, and sent a letter to the government asking for help after reading the tweet on Saturday. Currently an unemployed assistant location manager, Meade said he just wants to get back to work.
“We’re also in really dire straights here. There are no major movies in town right now,” said Meade. “I’ve been out of work for two months. I was out of work for a good chunk of last year. All the shows are going back east.”
Josey said that with the PST rolling back in April, they will be facing further hardships he estimates will put B.C. at a 10 per cent lower tax incentive than Ontario.
“When the PST is reinstated they will not be able to collect the PST back from government. In the HST they were able to claim back the entire 12 per cent of the HST,” he said. “That’s puts us at a disadvantage right away.”
With files by CTV British Columbia’s Scott Hurst