A B.C. Liberal government push to get Ontario and Quebec to join in a “rational” program of film incentives has run into a roadblock with the Ontario culture minister, who says his government likes things the way they are.
Michael Chan said in an interview on Thursday that Ontario, which has in recent years surpassed B.C. in total production spending, has no interest in taking B.C. up on its proposal for a system that would include similar tax breaks.
“At the moment, we are quite comfortable with what we are doing today,” Mr. Chan said in an interview. “Film and TV are quite booming.”
He added: “The tax credit helps.”
He was responding to questions from The Globe and Mail about the B.C. proposal advanced by the Liberals in their platform for last month’s election as the B.C. film sector called for further film subsidies to generate more production.
The platform commits the re-elected Liberals to “work with the provinces of Ontario and Quebec to establish a rational film incentive policy across Canada to prevent unaffordable industry support systems.”
A mandate letter to Finance Minister Mike de Jong makes it clear that Premier Christy Clark has not given up on the idea. Among initiatives Mr. de Jong is supposed to complete in coming years is “work with the Ministers of Finance of Ontario and Quebec to secure an agreement on a competitive film industry tax credit regime.”
B.C’s tax credit for foreign productions is 33 per cent on labour. But Ontario and Quebec offer 25 per cent on all production costs.
Ms. Clark has said B.C. taxpayers are being generous enough with the status quo, which costs the province about $300-million per year.
In the February budget speech, Mr. de Jong acknowledged that the film industry might feel “overlooked” because of the absence of new tax breaks, but said the province could not afford them for now.
Under pressure from the sector, the B.C. government agreed before the election to create an independent, non-profit society to bolster film, television, digital media and other creative sectors. B.C. New Democrats campaigned on a promise to increase tax credits.
Mr. Chan, speaking for the Ontario government, said the Ontario film and TV sector is doing well with tax credits among the government supports.
He would not rule out any discussions, but said Ontario, like other jurisdictions including B.C., is “competing with the world” and has to act appropriately.
“In Ontario, we kind of put ourselves on guard in terms of monitoring the situation, and react to situations as appropriately as possible.”
He said tax credits were only one item in a “basket” of film-attraction efforts, including education for the sector.
In a statement, the Quebec film funding body SODEC said it was not considering any move to harmonize tax credits among provinces. Maka Kotto, the province’s cultural and communications minister, was not available for comment on Thursday.
Mr. de Jong did not respond to calls seeking comment by late Thursday.