Press pause on the Film Tax Credit and culture changes.

When the Finance Minister floated her trial balloon three weeks ago, I felt certain that the government would just roll the Film Tax Credit (FTC) back to 35% like in Ontario. As Geoff D’eon said on CBC on budget day, ‘I thought we would take a haircut’.

Nova Scotia is not a big enough to dictate terms. We are not a market leader, we are a market follower and all this talk of a 75% ‘true tax credit’ is a nice statement but it simply won’t work. Movies of the week, major motion pictures, national serial television are not going to be filmed in Nova Scotia unless we have an FTC that is comparable to the rest of the production centres in Canada. A 12.5% tax credit might as well be zero. Either we are in the game or not.

Every time any government has made unilateral changes to creative policy it has blown up in their face, and it has damaged the sector. EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. What the Savage Liberals, the Hamm Tories and Dexter NDP all learned was that the sector is really complex and the only way to develop policy that works is to work hand in glove with the creative sector to develop that policy.

I am not just worried about the FTC. When I was President of Music Nova Scotia and we were negotiating the Music Sector Strategy, I was an adviser to the Culture Division staff working group, and with them met with representatives of every department and agency in Nova Scotia. When we met with NSBI and Economic Development it was depressing. There was no interest or understanding of the cultural sector. There was no evidence that NSBI would be willing to widen its mandate to support the culture sector, nor was there any expertise there to deliver.

Fast forward ten years and I have to wonder, will NSBI be willing to learn and collaborate with the industry to develop programs or will it be like the FTC discussion where ‘solutions’ will be dictated? The idea of putting all of our culture industry funding eggs in the NSBI basket has caused me sleepless nights because I am afraid NSBI will drop the basket.

Why are the creative industries important? The 2012 Creative Nova Scotia Leadership Council report showed us that the creative industries are not a frill, are not optional it is an integral part of the economy. There are almost 15,000 cultural workers and over 3500 artists, and about 50% of these do not live in Halifax. These are huge numbers of people for whom some or all of their income comes from the creative industries.

Arts, culture, information sector is almost 3.5% of private sector GDP in Nova Scotia and if that doesn’t sound like much, that is bigger that agriculture, forestry, fishing, utilities, oil and gas, admin and support, accommodation and food and recreation. Arts and culture is the 8th largest contributor to private sector GDP out of 15 sectors measured.

On top of the numbers, our strength as a cultural sector is one of the things that can and does make Nova Scotia an attractive centre for business of all kinds, it is one of our biggest competitive advantages nationally and internationally.

The few comments I’ve made have brought out immediate attacks from Liberal partisans who seem determined to paint any complaint as an NDP orchestrated attack. For the record – I am not a member of any political party, not that it should matter.

What I am is someone who has worked for 25 years in the creative industries. What I can tell anyone who wants to listen and learn is like any industry sudden massive regulatory and tax change is damaging and hurts any business.

Let’s take a breath, think about this, press pause and work collaboratively to make sure we protect this vital sector. It is not too late to reconsider this decision.