Premier Christy Clark is ruling out an Ontario-style “race to the bottom” of tax breaks for the B.C. film industry, insisting her province’s taxpayers are being generous enough with the current $285-million per year.
“The comparison is often with Ontario, which is engaged in a race to the bottom to try and provide these tax credits,” Ms. Clark told reporters during a news conference to announce government support for a new campus for Emily Carr University.
“Two hundred and eighty five million dollars on the part of the citizens of the province to support the industry? I think citizens are being generous with that.”
Ms. Clark said any new measures would have to come with the Feb. 19 budget, which remains a work in progress.
Rival parties have been seeking advantage ahead of the May 14 provincial election by seizing on an issue that drew an estimated 4,000 film-industry workers and their supporters to a rally in North Vancouver this week.
Participants in the gathering at North Shore Studios demanded an overhaul of B.C.’s tax-incentive system.
On Wednesday, B.C. NDP Leader Adrian Dix and NDP culture critic Spencer Chandra Herbert were in Los Angeles to begin two days of meetings with studio executives, producers and filmmakers about what the party described in a statement as “current challenges” facing B.C.’s film and TV sector.
Neither was available for comment.
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.
In Vancouver, Ms. Clark challenged the NDP to release their specific policies for helping the sector. “I don’t think British Columbians can operate on a need-to-know basis when it comes to politics,” Ms. Clark said.
B.C. Conservative Leader John Cummins called for further consultation to figure out how to bolster the industry.
“We can stand by and say nothing and watch the movie and television industry disappear over the hill,” said Mr. Cummins. “The second option is you sit down and have a conversation with these guys to figure out what it’s going to take to make British Columbia the attractive place it once was. That’s the option I am suggesting is what we ought to be doing.”
Mr. Cummins said he has come to learn about the industry through his 43-year-old son, Martin, a Genie Award-winning actor who has appeared in Poltergeist: The Legacy, Smallville and The Killing.
“For me, it hits close to home. My kid’s been an actor here for over 25 years. That’s how he has earned his living. He’s got four of my grandkids to feed.”
Ms. Clark noted that her government has met with the film industry.
Peter Leitch, chairman of the Motion Picture Production Industry Association of B.C., said Wednesday he doesn’t disagree the government has been generous, but there’s a 10 per cent tax-break difference between B.C. and Ontario.
“We are saying we don’t want to match it. We just want to get closer,“ he said. “If we were at 5 per cent, we would be able to compete very well again because we have got all the infrastructure and great crews.”