Saskatechewan Tax Credit Extended Following Canadian Industry Outcry

Despite Hollywood calls to reverse course, the frugal province remains steadfast in its decision to phase out the production incentive by the end of 2014.

TORONTO - Word about rebounding Hollywood film and TV production in Canada obviously hasn't quite reached the hinterlands.

Saskatchewan has extended the application deadline for its film tax credit by three months to June 30, 2012. But in the face of an industry outcry, the prairie province still plans to phase out its generous film tax break by the end of 2014. That’s left a host of Canadian film and TV players mystified, as Saskatchewan premier Brad Wall stands his ground on the decision to cancel the tax incentive, which was first announced last week.

“It seems politics and ideology are trumping economic sense,” ventured Norm Bolen after meeting with Wall earlier in the week. Bolen is president and CEO of the Canadian Media Production Association, which represents major indie producers.

The cost-cutting move, arriving in the face of impressive economic growth in the natural resource-rich Canadian province, also plays into the stereotype of Saskatchewanians as a bunch of rubes, as portrayed in recent sitcoms set in that province like CTV’s Corner Gas and CBC’s Little Mosque on the Prairie.

Hollywood actors Wes Bentley and Kim Coates earlier in the week added their voices to wider industry calls for Saskatchewan to reverse course and restore tax breaks for film and TV producers shooting locally. Others are openly questioning the impact that the Saskatchewan film tax credit cancellation may have on how the major Hollywood studios eyeing Canada as a stable and predictable foreign location.

“Our reputation is gold, or has been gold, and this may tarnish that somewhat. That’s a big deal,” said Ferne Downey, president of ACTRA National, representing Canadian performers.

Saskatchewan culture minister Bill Hutchinson on Tuesday in his announcement about the three-month extension for the film tax credit hinted at opportunities for alternative subsidies “for the development of a less transient, stronger industry base in Saskatchewan.” But no one can say with any certainty what the provincial government has in mind to replace the film tax credit, or whether alternative measures will have any value to foreign producers if they are not bankable.

“That’s why we have the stability of the tax credit, as it is,” Downey said.

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