Made in Canada: Ontario

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Ontario has been the most aggressive Canadian province in wooing global media kingpins with generous production subsidies.

The province in July pledged to invest $226 million over 10 years to enable French interactive games maker Ubisoft to open a Toronto development studio, with 800 jobs. The province is also to pour $20.5 million into the Starz Animation Toronto 3D cartoon studio during the next five years, again to secure next-generation digital jobs.

And local investment helped Pinewood Shepperton take control of Filmport, the Toronto mega-studio, newly renamed Pinewood Toronto Studios.

No fiscal responsibility in hard times?

"Let's be clear, gaming is serious business," Ontario premier Dalton McGuinty said when unveiling the Ubisoft investment. "This isn't kids' stuff, and it isn't child's play. Ontario wants a bigger piece of the action, and it doesn't get much bigger than Ubisoft."

Ontario has also made its tax credits for foreign producers permanent and extended them to all local production expenditures. And the province poured another $100 million in tax relief to boost the local production of digital media product, including movie special effects, mobile content and video games.

The aim is to reverse a decline in foreign film and TV production in Ontario in recent years, brought on by the rising Canadian dollar, the WGA and SAG disputes in Hollywood, U.S. state tax breaks and global economic turmoil.

To get there, Ontario is projecting stability, in contrast to U.S. states where tax credit programs are under threat in hard times.

"Our tax credits are consistent and stable, and that means a lot when making decisions many months out," says Kristine Murphy, director of industry development at the Ontario Media Development Corp., which promotes the province in Los Angeles. "Other jurisdictions don't have our stability."

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