Canada puts tax bill on hold


TORONTO -- The Canadian Parliament has pushed back a planned vote on a controversial tax bill that could open the way to government censorship of domestic film and TV shows.

Bill C-10, which proposes to grant the federal government authority to deny taxpayer support for domestic film and TV projects deemed excessively sexual and violent, on Monday was sent back to the Senate Banking Committee for review.

The Canadian film and TV industry first learned of Bill C-10 -- a proposed amendment to the federal Income Tax Act that would permit the Heritage minister to withhold tax credits for domestic film and TV projects deemed offensive according to unspecified guidelines -- as it was headed to the Senate floor for a third and final reading last week.

That revelation provoked an immediate charge of censorship from Canadian artists and producers, who believe it would result in a choking off of bank and distribution financing for homegrown projects.

"Producers are shocked by what they perceive to be a political agenda masquerading as public policy," Sandra Cunningham, chairwoman of the Canadian Film and Television Production Assn., said Monday.

Others warned that Bill C-10 could upend current financial models for Canadian film and TV production.

"Without the ability to have confidence in the tax credit piece of the financing puzzle, there will be fewer productions in Canada. The new guidelines could cost the Canadian economy thousands of jobs and hundreds of millions of production dollars each year," said Maureen Parker, executive director of the Writers Guild of Canada.

The WGC and other industry groups have sought to intervene before the Senate Banking Committee to offer their first public input into the proposed legislation.

An official with the federal Heritage department, which oversees domestic film and TV policy, said Friday that industry consultation will occur only after Bill C-10 comes into law.