Canadian artists blast tax measure

Sarah Polley likens bill to censorship

OTTAWA -- Canadian actor-director Sarah Polley on Thursday slammed Bill C-10, controversial tax legislation now before the Canadian Parliament, for its potential threat to creative expression.

"We are shocked at this blatant attempt to censor our work," Polley told Senate hearings into legislation that proposes to deny tax credits to domestic film and TV shows deemed offensive by the federal heritage minister.

The Oscar-nominated actress said that some of Canada's best-known filmmakers, such as Atom Egoyan and David Cronenberg, are known for their dark films and argued that it would be wrong to deny taxpayer support to potentially controversial artistic works.

"When you tell artists to use private money, it is essentially telling us to leave the country should we want to make any work that in the end could be deemed controversial," Polley said, underlining the Canadian film industry's dependence on taxpayer support.

Fellow Canadian actress Wendy Crewson ("24") said government support for indigenous product is essential if Canadians are to tell their own stories.

"The creative community in this country is fragile. We fight to have our voice heard over the roar of American pop culture on our screens, large and small," she told the all-party Senate committee.

The Writers Guild of Canada used its turn at the stand to question why Bill C-10 would apply to homegrown film and TV shows receiving tax credits, while Hollywood movies filming here would get a free pass.

"Like the (U.S.) service productions, the purpose of the tax credits for Canadian works is also to encourage work in Canada. It is not related to content," WGC executive director Maureen Parker said.

Parker insisted that existing guidelines for tax credits, whether for Canadian or foreign shoots, are based on labor costs and budgets spent locally, and that no scripts or content are reviewed by government bureaucrats that dole out the tax breaks.

The WGC boss said it makes "no sense" to potentially limit taxpayer support for indigenous product, while U.S. producers continue to tap tax credits.

Bill C-10 proposes amendments to Canada's Income Tax Act, including one that would give the Canadian heritage minister the power to issue guidelines aimed at curbing tax credit eligibility for Canadian film or TV productions that are deemed "contrary to public policy."

While Canada's creative community argues the bill amounts to censorship, the federal government maintains the bill will close a loophole that allows films that breach criminal codes to apply for and receive tax credits.
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