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Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Would Bill C-10 create the Ministry for Propaganda?

Programs_production_ihs_mfa_film__3 Joseph Brean with the National Post reported that in November 2003 then Deputy Prime Minister John Manley and Minister of Heritage Sheila Copps proposed that tax credits for Canadian film and video production should be issued only if the productions in question are not “contrary to public policy."

It took five years, but this Liberal idea to tie film and video production tax credits to public policy objectives has finally and regrettably found its way into proposed legislation. Bill C-10 is a Conservative omnibus bill that would deny tax credits to films offensive to the Heritage Minister.

As you might expect, the proposed legislation has raised an army of film celebrity critics who are calling the bill censorship.

Canadian actress and Oscar nominee Sarah Polley called the bill “dangerous and unacceptable."

Toronto-born filmmaker David Cronenberg said the legislation would be “an absolute catastrophe” for the film industry.

I know what you’re thinking. If celebrities are rallying against this Conservative bill, it’s probably a sound piece of legislation. Good instinct, vigilant reader, but this time the glitterati has it right.

National Post columnist George Jonas put it well when he wrote that...

Should Bill C-10 become law, a committee of Heritage Ministry’s smut-, hate- and violence-hunters could deny tax credits to a completed film, even one in which the government had invested up front. From that day, no fiscally responsible institution would feel comfortable offering interim financing to any film. Imagine a charity trying to raise funds with tax receipts that may or may not be valid.

But not only would this bill hurt the film industry, it’s hard to see how this proposed legislation would not lead to censorship.

For instance, it would seem reasonable that a film or video promoting marijuana use would be “contrary to public policy.” The last accounting of government spending I read showed that the Federal government spends about $500 million across departments on its anti-drug strategies, not including law enforcement. So, if the bill passes, would a tax credit be issued to the producers of Trailer Park Boys? This popular Canadian mockumentary television series focuses on characters who spend their time in and out of jail primarily for growing and selling marijuana. Is this TV series contrary to public policy? Of course. The government spends $500 million on anti-drug strategies and this popular TV show undermines these strategies by making light of marijuana use and trafficking.

But Heritage Minister Josée Verner denies that the legislation will lead to censorship (the government isn't actually banning the production of offensive films). She also argues that the government has a right to deny tax credits to offensive films because taxpayer money is involved.

While there are government subsidies for Canadian films, Bill C-10 has nothing to do with these subsidies. The legislation deals only with the tax credits film producers can use to offset income.  A tax credit is not a government subsidy. A tax credit is targeted tax relief. Here’s how it works: A private film producer, after making a private investment in a Canadian produced film, can apply for a tax credit for a relatively small percentage of the total investment amount in order to reduce his or her taxable income.

Is this a subsidy? Of course not. Not unless you believe all the wealth created by the film industry belongs to the government.

Bill C-10 turns the Heritage Minister into a censor (of sorts). This is a bad idea. If the government doesn't want to see tax dollars going to support offensive or politically incorrect films, they should scrap film industry subsidies and leave the tax credits in place.

Posted by Matthew Johnston on April 16, 2008 in Canadian Politics | Permalink


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Thanks for such an informed and balanced piece, Matthew. I've heard so many people supporting this bill with the usual "I don't want my tax dollars funding porn!" rhetoric. It's so important that people understand how this tax credit works, and that it actually offers an incentive to keep jobs in Canada.

Posted by: Michelle | 2008-04-16 6:27:11 AM

Great post. I'm glad to see more libertarians/conservatives coming out in opposition to this bill.

Posted by: Janet | 2008-04-16 8:04:22 AM

Cut all tax credits and grants to the entertainment industry.

Why should my tax dollars go to subsidize crappy Canadian tv and movies that no one watches. Let them compete on the open market like anyone else.

It saves me money and it eliminates whiners and professional socialists.

And sell the CBC. Sell it to Al Jazeera or Fox News, I don't care.


Posted by: Epsilon | 2008-04-16 1:03:15 PM

Why should my tax dollars go fraudulently to pay for the Harper CONs election expenses in the fraud scheme they pulled on Elections Canada to defraud Canadian taxpayers? Why has my tax money been given to Mulroney? Why is my tax money going to pay for someone's kids to play sports? Why is my tax money going to buy toys for Rick Hillier to play with? Why is my tax money going to finance Harper's numerous court battles to cover up the truth and hide the facts about war crimes and bribery from the Canadian people? Why are Canadian tax monies being used to pay bribes and buy MP's votes? Why why why??? LOL! Let's disband the military and get rid of the RCMP and CSIS--they create more problems and commit more crimes than they prevent or deter!

Posted by: ROGER | 2008-04-16 1:34:39 PM

Film makers are free to make films.

Taxpayers are free to grant filmakers the right to pay for their own filsm.

Posted by: set you free | 2008-04-16 1:43:30 PM

Epsilon and set you free, you said it better than I could have. I am in total agreement.

Posted by: Alain | 2008-04-16 2:55:16 PM

why are CONs using my tax money to send junk mail to Canadians who don't live in the ridings of the CON artist mailing MPs? It is another scam from the scumbags! Stop wasting tax money campaigning you corrupt sleazebags!

Posted by: ROGER | 2008-04-16 3:16:06 PM

Since I have serious doubts as to the legitimacy of most imposed income taxes, I have to believe that there is something inherently wrong with a democratic system that feels compelled to offer corporate welfare to ANY business on my dime. Such a system depends on the good judgement and impartiality of the government making decisions on whom they choose to offer such incentives. This is such an obvious partisan money trough, it would require more integrity than most democratic governments seem capable of offering. It is also odd to me that the 'arts' and movie industry welfare in partictular, is given consideration when such entities as our vaunted educational and health care systems are sinking fast. Last time I checked, business, and the film industry IS a business, should be measured by its ability to fail or succeed on its commercial merits, not on its ability to siphon partisan dollars from my over-taxed pockets. CBC...need I say more!

Posted by: crusader10 | 2008-04-16 7:00:18 PM

Every day businesses invest and win but the majority lose. Why should the government using the taxpayer's money pick winners and losers? Canadian producers are not entitled to such largess, no matter how good the product is. I realize that tax credits are an incentive. If you truly believe in the product, invest in it without relying on others to pick up the tax shortfall created by your vanity project. Tax credits are also beyond the pale.

Posted by: DML | 2008-04-16 8:42:11 PM

Every day businesses invest and win but the majority lose. Why should the government using the taxpayer's money pick winners and losers?

Posted by: DML | 16-Apr-08 8:42:11 PM

They do it every day. Be it due to grants like in the case of the movie industry (or tax breaks) or be it due to subsidies or tax break (manufacturing in Ontario / Oil Industry in Alberta) or general tax write offs on "business expenses.

Seriously, the Government is giving welfare on one level or the other to pretty much ANY business in Canada.

Posted by: Snowrunner | 2008-04-16 10:21:39 PM

Imagine all the creative work that the middle and right wing could add to the Canadian Atistic scene. Why are these artists being locked out? Why wont the left practice what they preach and be tolerant to different ideas? Its because they are not tolerant and open to other ideas.Its a political lobby that should not be permitted to hoard 100% of our Arts money. Other voices would like to be heard and if the Arts community cant understand this...They are not as artistic as they claim to be.

Posted by: JMS | 2008-04-17 9:21:50 AM

Can anybody give any information on these films that this bill threatens. OK maybe thats asking to much..how about simply a name or two. Still nothing right. All the leftys band together to defend this ghost called the Canadian artistic scene.
Share the lobby money with the rest of the Canadian political scene. If your work is so important and nesessary you should have no problem getting your rich friends to sweeten the pot on your behalf. Like all cream it will rise to the top.

Posted by: JMS | 2008-04-17 9:59:25 AM

Yes I know that Im some high school educated blue collar lout of a man who has no right to even have a opinion on what the keepers of Canadiana do in their secret garden. Shame on me and my lofty goals :(

Posted by: JMS | 2008-04-17 10:25:15 AM

"Can anybody give any information on these films that this bill threatens. OK maybe thats asking to much..how about simply a name or two. Still nothing right. All the leftys band together to defend this ghost called the Canadian artistic scene."

Actually that's the problem with the Bill as I understand it: It does NOT provide clear guidelines, it has very muddy language that pretty much leaves the decision up to the Minister if he likes or not likes a movie enough to give it a tax credit.


Yes I know that Im some high school educated blue collar lout of a man who has no right to even have a opinion on what the keepers of Canadiana do in their secret garden. Shame on me and my lofty goals :(

Posted by: JMS | 17-Apr-08 10:25:15 AM

Bitter much?

Posted by: Snowrunner | 2008-04-17 10:32:47 AM

An finally who the heck is Sarra Polly anyway. This woman struts around like she is Queen of Canada and I dont even know who she is. Clearly now that Sarra Polly has made a gesture with her hand I will rethink my position on "Hand carved Butt Plugs from the Holy Land" :)

Posted by: JMS | 2008-04-17 10:40:52 AM



Posted by: Michelle | 2008-04-17 10:55:16 AM

Sarah Polley, Gordon Pinsent and Rebecca Jenkins are all very talented film makers whom I hope will find financing and support - but not from governments in Canada.
Yes, Snowy, I know that the practise of subsidizing businesses is wide spread but I would not make the sweeping overgeneralization that you did. The largest employers in Canada are small businesses and they are the ones who, for the most part, are not subsidized, but whose taxes pay to subsidize Canada's corporate welfare bums. I realise that last idea came from David Lewis the NDPer. Even he got some things right.

Posted by: DML | 2008-04-17 10:31:04 PM

Bottom line? America does not want Canada to have a film or culture industry--they want to shut down film production in Canada and want unfettered access to the markets here for their cultural products. Cultural products are America's most important exports.

So, Harper rides to the rescue with a plan to destroy Canada's culture industries and movie production. Anti-Canadianism is a cornerstone of Harper's agenda. Almost every country protect its cultural industries, except for third world countries. In the not too distant future, India will outsell Hollywood and Indians are in fact already active and deeply involved in Hollywood. I hope you Harpertoons like Bollywood movies, cuz you are gonna get it whether you like it or lump it, if your ideas are realized! Nice huh. LOL!

Posted by: ROGER | 2008-04-17 10:43:41 PM

There are many ways Canada and the Canadian and provincial governments can support our entertainment industries SHORT OF participating in financing of "entertainment product". Every now and then, a film gets made in English Canada that gets the media excited. Remember MEN WITH BROOMS? That dreadful piece of crap was heralded when it was released! "Are Canadian films finally attracting Canadians to the movies? one commentator asked on CFRB here in Toronto.

Actually, LOTS of Canadian films get made WITHOUT government support and actually MAKE money. Naturally, those films are made in French. Every now and then, the ROC needs to be reminded that its least favourite province aces the game while ango-Canada flounders like a fish out of water.

Filmed entertainment product should NEVER receive any kind of government support. That they have is one reason why "Canadian comedy" - like "Canadian culture" - is an oxymoron.

Posted by: Simon Fleischmann | 2008-04-18 2:13:19 PM

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