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Saskatchewan film tax credit story of 2012

December 31, 2012

From a news standpoint in Regina, 2012 – the Year of the Dragon on the Chinese calendar – could be summed up as heads or tails.

Whether a new head coach for the Saskatchewan Roughriders, a new mayor, and a new stadium, or the demise of the Canadian Wheat Board monopoly and the departure of longtime mayor Pat Fiacco from city politics, the news of 2012 reflected a year of beginnings and endings.

When the province closed the door on Saskatchewan’s Film Employment Tax Credit, several film production companies chose to open a window elsewhere.

They included Verite Films, maker of Corner Gas and InSecurity, which left for Toronto; Partners In Motion moved its headquarters to Langley, B.C.; 291 Film Company relocated to Victoria; and Trilight Entertainment headed for Alberta.

The axing of the Saskatchewan film tax credit was chosen the top story for Regina and area in 2012 by readers of leaderpost.com, who cast nearly 700 votes.

Among those who posted a comment to our website for their top pick, one reader wrote, “Ideological destruction of the Film Industry by the Sask party coalition.” Another posted, “Death of the film industry,” with another adding, “makes me question the intelligence of this government.”

One Regina man, identifying himself as Geoffrey Park, wrote, “Im (sic) 35, broke, 3 kids and have to move now,,,did I mention I moved here from calgary alberta in 2005 to make a life here.” Park, who couldn’t be reached for further comment, worked in the film industry.

In March, the budget of the Saskatchewan Party government cut the $8-million program that aimed to encourage film and television production in this province. The film industry characterized the move as the death knell for motion picture production in Saskatchewan, since such tax credits are common in other provinces and countries.

Then-culture minister Bill Hutchinson told reporters it simply wasn’t “sustainable.”

The credit cost an estimated $100 million since its inception in 1998 under Roy Romanow’s NDP government. But industry representatives countered that the program generated $623 million in production work in that same period. Saskatchewan-born actors like Brent Butt and Kim Coates took to social media or joined rallies to show their support for the credit.

“What the government wants to do is essentially rape and kill an entire industry of incredibly talented people,” Coates told reporters during a rally outside the Legislative Building in May. “These tax incentives are used all over the world.”

The government had relented somewhat that month, by offering a new incentive. But while the old program, which ended in June, was a refundable tax credit (which the province likened to a grant), the new Film/TV and Digital Tax Credit offered a 25-per-cent non-refundable tax credit, reducing taxes paid in Saskatchewan. But a frustrated Ron Goetz, president of the Saskatchewan Media Production Industry Association, told a news conference, “The (new) program simply will not work.”

Premier Brad Wall was undeterred. “The industry’s pretty clear. They say unless we continue with what we think is a de facto grant, the tax credit the way it is, and all the other supports, (the) industry can’t compete,” he told the legislature. “At some point you decide, well, maybe that’s just not something that’s a priority for taxpayers.”

But it appears to have been a priority for those who voted for Regina’s top news story, capturing some 37 per cent of the vote.

In second place, at 29 per cent, was the plans for a new stadium becoming a reality. In July, Wall, then-mayor Fiacco, and Roger Brandvold, chair of the Saskatchewan Roughriders board of governors, announced the new $278-million facility, to be completed in 2017 on the Evraz Place grounds. Under a 30-year plan, the total funding requirements tally up to $675 million, with about $300 million coming from property taxes and related revenue.

At a distant third, with just under nine per cent of the votes, was the end of the Canadian Wheat Board monopoly. By one vote, it edged out Fiacco’s decision not to run in the civic election, and the election of Mayor Michael Fougere.

The remaining stories on the Leader-Post’s top 10 list (in descending order of votes) were: Overcrowding at Regina’s hospitals resulting in long wait times; The courts striking down the province’s essential services law, and the government’s introduction of new labour laws; Snowboarder Mark Mc-Morris winning gold at the X Games; Glencore taking over Viterra; Prince Charles and Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, visiting Regina; and Corey Chamblin making his debut as the Roughriders head coach.

Readers were also encouraged to post a comment if there was a story they felt should have made the list. Aileen Hebert asked, “What about housing?” At one per cent, Regina has the lowest rental vacancy rate among major Canadian centres, according to the annual Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. (CMHC) rental market report released in December.

And James Nicolson of Regina suggested the $12.3 million spent on the down-town City Square Plaza project, which sparked controversy because of the rising costs, delays in its opening, and confusion over the type of permitted traffic once it was opened.

Source: Leader Post

Posted in: Front Page, Industry News

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