Film Tax Credit Cut Raises Alarm Bells in Saskatchewan

ACTRA's Mike Burns: "There's no jurisdiction in Canada that doesn't have a film tax credit program. So why would producers come here?"

TORONTO - You’d think the earth stopped turning in Saskatchewan after that province axed tax breaks for local film and TV shoots.

"This will effectively kill the industry and have a chilling effect on employment and revenues for businesses that depend on the sector,” Robert King, chair of the Directors Guild of Canada’s Saskatchewan district council, said after the frugal province on Wednesday said it will scrap its film employment tax credit for cost savings.

“Eliminating the SFETC (tax credit) without introducing an alternate incentive jeopardizes over 15 years of hard work to build the province’s independent production sector into an international success story,” Norm Bolen, president and CEO of the Canadian Media Production Association, representing major indie producers, added.

Other local players showed signs of panic after Saskatchewan said it will no longer accept applications for a refundable 45% film tax credit, based on labor costs, from April 1, including from Hollywood producers.

"It's over," Mike Burns of ACTRA Saskatchewan, representing local performers, told Postmedia News on Thursday.

“There's no jurisdiction in Canada that doesn't have a film tax credit program. So why would producers come here?" he added.

But Joanne McDonald, general manager of Saskatchewan indie broadcaster SCN, while conceding challenges for local producers, pointed to future spending on local programmers from new owner Rogers Communications.

“Going forward, there may be fewer hours of local production. What we are going to see at SCN is a lot of opportunity with the sale to Rogers,” she predicted.

Scott Moore, president, broadcast, at Rogers Media, a division of Rogers Communications, said the broadcaster would not be impacted by the film tax credit cut because it is under no regulatory obligation to create a set number of series hours for SCN.

Instead, Rogers Media will need to commit 23 per cent of revenue generated by SCN to indie production.

That means Rogers Media will still expand its Citytv network into Saskatchewan, while likely commissioning fewer hours from local producers as a result of the tax credit changes.

“Our commitment to Saskatchewan is because we think it’s a great market. We want access to those eyeballs. We’re committed to spending a certain amount of our gross revenue to local production,” he said.