“I will not forget their party for this…”

Lots of reader reacted to Stephen McNeil’s decision to kill Nova Scotia’s $130 million film industry. An embittered film industry worker writes:

I may not be one of the smartest, keenest, most creative—or even a young person, but before yesterday I had an established role in Nova Scotia, a way of practicing my profession and making a living. Thanks to MacNeil and Whalen, my options are more limited. I can spend less time living in NS and try to chase down contract work in somewhere like BC, or I can apply for a local job at Walmart.

I don’t believe they understand how the film and TV industry—carefully cultivated over 20 years—actually worked. They have apparently thrown out one of Ivany’s babies with the bathwater. It’s back to to lumber, paper mills, mining and fisheries for Nova Scotia. Let’s not cultivate anything new.

I will not forget them or their party for this.

A longtime resident of Cape Breton writes:

My daughter was home from Halifax last week and was over the moon happy as she had just gotten the news that she got her dream job. It’s an arts administration job for a dance company, for a year at 20 hours a week. It’s in her field and she was very impressed with the staff and board members that hired her. She’s figured out she can live on the salary and is looking for a service job to top the salary up. She’s so excited and I’m very proud and happy for her.

What does this have to do with the tax credit? Well, she loves the artistic energy of Halifax. She believes in it and wants to be part of it, and part of the larger effect across our region. She sees the tax credit as part of a whole fabric that builds the creative economy. And she sees staying here as part of that.

I watched what happened in Saskatchewan when that province dropped it’s film credit. Many areas of the arts community suffered.

It’s ironic I left Saskatchewan 40 years ago because everyone my age was leaving unless they had a place on the family farm, or were interested in potash farming. And at the time no one saw this as a problem.

Now we want our youth to stay, we say we value creativity and innovation, but we don’t understand the value of the arts.

A retired journalist:

I am trying to figure this out.

Hundreds of industries that have come to Nova Scotia to create jobs tied to government largess, creating work that often devastates natural resources and the environment. Before long these companies are all saying, “Could I have some more, sir, please some more?” Then when there isn’t enough “more,” they are so gone, the only way you know they were here is because they left their trash behind.

It’s a third world economic development tactic that is responsible for a good share of our collective 15 billion dollar debt.

Then comes along a chance to build a local industry that exports creative intellectual property. It works . The exports don’t need trains, planes, or shipping facilities that are a high-cost regional disadvantage. Films ship cheap anywhere in the world.

So there is a tax-based subsidy that makes this industry possible. It is an industry that would also draw tourists to see where parts of films such as “The Book Of Negroes” are made .

Here is the part I am having trouble with: You reduce that tax benefit to the point that you drive this cultural, environmentally positive, feel-good, promotional, local, exporting industry into the margins, or out of business.

Then you say you need to have the money to support care for chronic disease. That is a medical service, which costs money. It is being compared to an industrial revenue generator with huge potential and social benefits.

One of those benefits that is close to my heart is that as a parent, and a citizen, you have something else to say to the youth other than, “Go west young man, there is nothing for you here.“

I have been west. It has a lot to offer to the young.

A longtime Nova Scotia resident writes:

This move by the Liberals is sadly a continuation of a long-term practice of Provincial Governments. They talk of economic development and chase after “The Big Hit’ that will fix everything, usually throwing vast amounts of money away in the process.

It should be more then apparent by now that an real and sustainable economic growth for Nova Scotia will have to be based mainly on local opportunities and strengths. Creative people and industries are one of our strengths. The current government has shot itself in the head this time—not just the foot. Unfortunately it’s a wound we will all suffer from.

We haven’t heard from our curmudgeonly friend in Halifax recently, but he weighs in somewhat enigmatically on the tax credit:

The missing info here is how the NS film tax credit stacks up against what other jurisdictions are offering. It seems everyone else does offer something. [PD:  It was one of the richest in Canada. That’s how it drew $130 million in business away from more obvious film locales like BC and Ontario.]

It may also be part of MacNeil’s philosophy of “creating winning conditions” for business, as opposed to handing out subsidies. It will be an interesting experiment, especially when Liberal friends start expressing their preference for cash over “winning conditions.”

An Alberta reader:

In Alberta, because we have such a varied landscape—from mountains to prairies to the desert hills of southern Alberta—we are also attracting people in the film industry. The government recognizes this.

In one of the few smart moves they made, they gave large tax credits to maintain the film industry here. Then they donated a large studio on the former grounds of a military base to create a sound studio. This industry maintains many local artists, both film actors and technical crew….

They just have no idea what they’ve done. The film industry is very competitive. If somewhere else offers us a better deal, that’s where they’ll move to. What a completely shortsighted move on the governments part.

Former Finance Minister Graham Steele calls this the McNeil Government’s Yarmouth Ferry.

That leaves the one calamitous mistake. The McNeil government is making big changes to the film industry tax credit. Maybe the tax credit needs to be reconsidered, but the government is attacking it in a way that may kill the industry.

That’s real people with real jobs. At the very least, we should have expected careful planning and consultation.

This is not over.