B.C. NDP Leader Adrian Dix says he wouldn’t rule out boosting tax credits to help bolster the province’s ailing film-production sector.
“I think it would be wrong, given the stakes for British Columbia, to leave any option off the table,” Mr. Dix told reporters at Vancouver International Airport Thursday night as he returned home from two days of meetings in Los Angeles with a half-dozen producers and studio executives.
“We’re not ruling it out, but we’re going to have to judge all of the cost measures that we are proposing against one another and make difficult choices, but clearly this industry is important.”
Mr. Dix’s stand comes in a week when thousands gathered for a rally at the North Shore Studios, giving voice to concerns in the B.C. film and TV-production sector that B.C. is falling behind such rivals as Ontario in its share of production largely due to more appealing tax-credit packages in those jurisdictions.
The NDP leader’s position puts him at odds with Liberal Premier Christy Clark, who was wary this week about such a step and said Ontario was in a “race to the bottom” with tax credits more generous than B.C.
Ms. Clark said the current $285-million per year in tax credits was a generous-enough measure on the part of taxpayers.
B.C. Conservative Leader John Cummins has said he wouldn’t rule out a temporary hike in tax credits to provide help to the industry, which employs thousands in B.C.
Mr. Dix suggested Ms. Clark was running a perilous experiment with the impact of tax credits.
“The problem we face right now is that while waiting to find out whether the premier is right or wrong on that, we may lose thousands and thousands more jobs in the (B.C.) industry,” he said.
“I agree that such a competition may not be desirable, but I think if we’re going to bet on the premiers’ opinion about whether Ontario will continue or not (with tax credits) with our entire industry, I don’t think that would be desirable as well.”
However, Mr. Dix did not offer any specific policy commitments on Thursday on the production sector, suggesting “it’s important we get it right” and the NDP’s positions will be clear before the May. 14 provincial election. The NDP hold a substantial lead over the Liberals in the polls ahead of the election.
The B.C. NDP isn’t identifying the companies Mr. Dix met with, but he said they were interested in the political situation in B.C., and talking about their needs. Mr. Dix said he did not make any commitments in the event that the B.C. NDP is elected to power.
He said the NDP has been planning the trip since last October. Since the Liberals took office in 2001, four ministers have accompanied the B.C. Film Commissioner to Los Angeles to promote B.C. as a destination for filmmakers. The most recent visit was in 2011.
Not surprisingly, Mr. Dix was dismissive of the B.C. Liberal handling of the file to date, criticizing cuts in the budget of the B.C. film commission, and suggesting “our current government has been asleep at the switch.”
He added: “I live in hopes that they will pick up their game.”