New Democrat Party Leader Adrian Dix took centre stage on a set at Vancouver Film Studios to confidently announce he’s bringing the film and TV business back to British Columbia.
But the Liberal government said the promise of larger tax credits is simply a form of vote buying by the New Democrats with money that doesn’t exist.
Mr. Dix told a cheering crowd of industry workers on Tuesday that his government – if elected on May 14 – would increase film-labour tax credits by as much as 7 per cent, to a total of 40 per cent, for foreign and domestic production.
Numbers from the NDP indicate the increase would cost taxpayers about $45-million annually but provide $93-million in revenue in return.
“I think that we’re making a very strong case for change and this is part of it today,” Mr. Dix said.
He said there are few industries as loved by people in the community as the film industry.
“Today we are announcing to the world that British Columbia is back in the film and television business.”
The important precondition to his announcement would be winning the election, and Mr. Dix said that would be up to voters.
He said he is feeling “very pleased, very confident, very relaxed” about the NDP’s current situation in B.C.
Vancouver Film Studios president Pete Mitchell said the planned tax-credit increases couldn’t come at a better time.
“These changes, along with our other competitive advantages, will level the playing field, driving film and TV production to new heights,” Mr. Mitchell said in a news release.
“Plus, with this announcement coming in early April, we can expect new film and TV productions to be approved in time to shoot for 2013.”
But Liberal Cultural Development Minister Bill Bennett said the NDP has its numbers wrong and is making promises to film industry workers that can’t be kept.
“I’m positive that they have the cost wrong,” said Mr. Bennett, who pointed out he has seen a ministry report that indicates a 7-per-cent tax credit increase would cost closer to $75-million.
“Doing it this way, it relieves [the NDP] of having to explain where the money is going to come from, and they can offer, you know, ‘let’s offer $45-million, $75-million, pick a number, to buy some votes in the TV and film industry.’ It’s not sustainable.”
Mr. Bennett said he is a very strong supporter of the film industry but disagrees with Mr. Dix’s announcement because he thinks the NDP is being dishonest with film industry workers.
NDP arts and culture critic Spencer Chandra Herbert said that during a recent trip he and Mr. Dix took to Los Angeles, film industry officials expressed confusion about a lack of support from the B.C. Liberals.
“They actually were surprised that the Liberals seem to be mocking the film industry after former premier [Gordon] Campbell’s work to try to grow [the industry],” said Mr. Chandra Herbert.
“They didn’t get why Premier Clark decided it’s not an industry worth supporting.”
During his announcement, Mr. Dix quipped that the Liberal government was already in the TV business, spending millions on advertisements that attack the NDP.
Mr. Dix said he feels a tax credit increase would have an immediate, positive effect and allow B.C. to compete with industry in Ontario and Quebec, and that B.C.’s scenery and location give the province an advantage to draw film business in.
According to the Ontario Ministry of Finance, that province has a 35-per-cent tax credit for film industry labour expenses, which increases to 40 per cent for first-time producers up to $240,000.
In Quebec, the film labour tax credit is 25 per cent and increases to 45 per cent with digital special effects and computer animation, as indicated by numbers from the Quebec Film and Television Council.