POLITICS

Nova Scotia film industry hopeful about tax credit after meeting with government

04/14/2015 10:30 EDT | Updated 06/22/2015 09:59 EDT
HALIFAX - Nova Scotia's film industry maintained pressure Tuesday on the provincial government over a change to its film tax credit, although the sides emerged from a meeting with different interpretations over a potential compromise.

Key industry players expressed some optimism, describing a two-hour meeting with Finance Minister Diana Whalen and her officials as productive.

Screen Nova Scotia chairman Marc Almon said another meeting would be held with Whalen on Friday.

"At this point there has been no discussion about changes in numbers or anything like that," said Almon.

But Almon said he believes there was recognition that the proposed change to cut the refundable portion of the tax credit by 75 per cent is not workable.

"We still have some concerns, especially regarding the implementation date. So we need to continue talking about that."

Film producer Scott Simpson said the industry recognizes some change will happen but it wants input and believes middle ground can be found.

"It just requires collaboration. It requires consultation and it requires some time," said Simpson, who was part of a nine-member group at the meeting.

But Whalen later said she simply listened to the group's concerns before explaining the government's position.

"What I was acknowledging was that they have a problem with this," said Whalen.

Both sides are searching for some sort of common ground, she said.

But Premier Stephen McNeil said any change to the structure of the tax credit would have to be done within the pool of money made available in the budget.

That amount will see the credit cut from $24 million to $6 million in next year's budget, while film producers would also have access to an additional $6 million established in a fund for the creative sector.

"We've laid out a proposal we think works," MacNeil said. "If they have a proposal that fits within that fiscal reality for us, we'll certainly listen."

Tuesday's meeting came in the face of stiff opposition from the industry, which says the proposed change will effectively mean the end of significant film and television production in Nova Scotia.

Screen Nova Scotia says the refundable tax credit cost the government $24 million in 2013-14, but generated $139 million in production spending, supporting 2,700 jobs.

That conflicts with a government analysis, which shows the value of production amounted to only $66.8 million in 2013-14, generating $39.4 million in salaries and wages.

As it currently stands, the credit allows qualifying productions to claim up to 65 per cent of labour costs. There are similar rebates in most other provinces although Nova Scotia and Manitoba offer the highest subsidies at 65 per cent.

The proposed change is scheduled to come into effect July 1.

Members of the film and television industry planned to stage a protest at the legislature on Wednesday.