Risley’s lament


John Risley, the 55th richest person in Canada with net assets of $1,388,872,703, thinks the part time gaffers, grips, extras, and assistant directors who labour in Nova Scotia’s film industry are getting too sweet a deal from the provincial government.

Billionaire Risley has been telling everyone who will listen that Premier Stephen McNeil, who campaigned on a promise to maintain the Nova Scotia Film Tax Credit until 2020, should break that promise, even though it will kill an industry that has attracted hundreds of creative young entrepreneurs to our province.

He made the statement six days after Ottawa gave the Nova Scotia Community College $1 million to help his company, Clearwater Seafoods, develop new mapping techniques that will better enable his scallop draggers to scour the ocean bottom for lucrative shellfish.

That’s how Risley made his $1.38 billion: By acquiring, from government, preferred access to massive public shellfish resources (along with sundry federal and provincial handouts). Clearwater is the largest holder of rights to fish Canadian scallops, lobster, clams, coldwater shrimp, and crab. The company owns exclusive rights to  all offshore lobster fished on the Atlantic coast, and to all Arctic surf clams. These are public resources that you and I can’t fish. But Risley’s bottom-destroying draggers can.

In return, Clearwater provides dead-end, low-wage, seasonal employment in fish plants that have come to rely on special immigration exemptions, issued by government, to import temporary third world workers willing to carry out the bone-chilling, soul-deadening labour that make them profitable.

Perhaps speaking from his $20 million Chester mansion, Risley urged McNeil to kill the province’s $130 million film industry, just as Saskatchewan did two years ago. Let the creative jobs go to Ontario, BC, and back to the USA. After all, he’s got fish plants begging for people to shell crab legs at $10.40 an hour.

On Tuesday, the CBC sat down with a group of accountants to get  an understanding of how film industry economics actually work, something Finance bureaucrats have been unable to explain.

Thank you for that, CBC. Now here’s another challenge for you: put some reporters to work compiling a comprehensive list of all the loans, grants, research funding, payroll rebates, and resource giveaways Risley and his companies received en route to making $1.38 billion.

Then let’s hear that lecture about rugged individualism one more time.