Without swift incentives from the province, B.C.’s film and TV industry faces permanent losses.
That was the sense Tuesday as the industry — making a case for greater tax credits or PST exemption — held a town hall meeting in North Vancouver, asking how the sector might save itself.
“It has reached the point where people start to see the infrastructure dwindle, and that’s scary because you don’t get it back,” said Vicci Weller, executive director of the TNRD film commission.
Part of the problem is fallout from reverting back to the PST, which the industry always opposed because it feared just such a loss of competitive advantage.
Weller, who wasn’t at Tuesday’s town hall, pointed out that the industry grew to be a significant, $1.8-billion component of the B.C. economy. The argument is made that, because it is essentially a manufacturing industry, the sector should be exempt from the PST, she noted.
“It’s not the end of the world. What I’m hoping for is that we get a little more competitive with them.”
MLA Kevin Krueger, who worked with the industry to build competitiveness through tax credits when he was the minister responsible, noted that the industry is being penalized by the HST reversal.
While Ontario seems willing to pour more red ink into its books, the PST exemption may have merit in B.C., he suggested.
“I can’t speak for the government on that, but it seems to me it’s a credible argument, that it’s a manufacturing process,” Krueger said. “It’s pretty obvious, if the industry departs from B.C., there will be nothing to tax, anyway.”
Premier Christy Clark has rejected an appeal for richer tax credits here while opining that the Ontario and Quebec can’t afford to continue their 25-per-cent tax credit on all production costs. B.C. provides a 33-per-cent tax credit on labour costs only, but it can’t match the credits of its eastern competitors.
How much of B.C.’s industry will survive the talent drain to the east?
“The bigger problem is that, if Vancouver become unhealthy, we would become unhealthy,” Weller said. Production inquiries about the region have fallen off considerably and are limited to low-budget projects.
“The industry is starting to speak and we’ll see what happens,” she added.