POLITICS

Nova Scotia finance minister firm in her belief that film tax credit is too rich

04/13/2015 02:33 EDT | Updated 06/19/2015 11:59 EDT
HALIFAX - Nova Scotia's finance minister took a hard line Monday ahead of a meeting with representatives from the film and TV industry, saying the government's decision to virtually eliminate a key film tax credit was the right move because the province can't afford it anymore.

Diana Whalen has scheduled a two-hour meeting for Tuesday morning at the Finance Department with Marc Almon, chairman of Screen Nova Scotia.

The provincial government has faced stiff opposition from industry members who have publicly complained that the change to the refundable tax credit will effectively kill the industry.

Whalen said the government wants the industry to survive, but she insisted that the credit is costing the province too much.

"There is no tax credit or subsidy available to any other industry that is this generous," she told reporters.

"I'm hearing from people who are talking about the fact that Nova Scotia doesn't have enough money to have the richest tax credit in the country for film."

Still, Whalen said the meeting will be useful.

"It's important that we go in with every intention of listening to them and I hope that they're listening to us as well," she said. "We don't feel the door has slammed."

Almon said he remained hopeful going into the meeting, but he said the government should recognize that the film and TV industry is an asset not a burden.

"The province can't afford to lose 2,700 jobs, a whole bunch of young people and immigrants and a lot of entrepreneurs," he said in an interview. "I know the province in a tough spot and we want to try to help. At the same time, we need to survive and continue competing."

Screen Nova Scotia says the refundable tax credit cost the government $24 million in 2013-14, but it generated $139 million in spending on film and TV productions, supporting 2,700 jobs.

The government says its analysis of the program shows the value of production associated with the credit amounted to only $66.8 million in 2013-14, generating $39.4 million in salaries and wages.

The credit allows qualifying productions to claim up to 65 per cent of labour costs. Most other provinces have similar rebates in place. Nova Scotia and Manitoba offer the highest subsidies at 65 per cent.

The Nova Scotia government announced last week that the refundable credit would be cut by 75 per cent.

Whalen wouldn't comment on the public reaction to the budget measure, which has included the industry's vocal denunciations of the move through social media.

Tony Ince, the minister of culture and heritage, wouldn't comment when asked if he urged his cabinet colleagues to save the tax credit, which he said he benefited from when he worked as an actor and stunt man.

"I have had lots of emails and phone calls from people in the industry," Ince said. "I would suggest that most people in the public are quite concerned with this move."

Ince added that the existing tax credit couldn't be sustained.